Here’s the Deal: A Memoir
By Kellyanne Conway
(Simon & Schuster: 512 pages, $18.79)
I met Kellyanne Conway by chance at a D.C. event less than a month ago. When I gave her my card, she responded, “Leonora is a beautiful name. My friends just named their baby Leonora.” My brief personal exchange exemplifies the Kellyanne Conway we find in the pages of her new book Here’s the Deal: A Memoir. Yes, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick Conway is a trailblazer. She is the first woman to spearhead a winning presidential campaign. Her work secured Donald Trump’s place in history as the 45th president of the United States. She also values family and friendship and credits her early childhood in Atco, New Jersey, where she was raised by four single women, with shaping her worldview. Moreover, she takes pride in her ability to make a connection with everyone she meets.
Here’s the Deal, at over 500 pages, is a cradle-to-post White House tale of the world’s most famous pollster, showcasing her evolution from blueberry pageant princess to senior counselor to the president of the United States. The book provides an inside look at the game plan which placed Trump, the ultimate outsider, in the Oval Office, leaving heiress apparent Hillary Clinton still wondering what happened six years later. Conway lets us eavesdrop on her conversations with Trump, the Trump family, the leadership team, the media, and Washington’s political elite. Every major milestone in the Trump administration’s history is addressed, from the Russian collusion delusion to COVID to January 6. Here’s the Deal is also a deeply personal book where Conway addresses head-on her frustration with her husband George’s decision to undermine and embarrass her publicly by engaging in a Twitter tug-of-war with Trump. Yet, Conway never succumbs to bitterness. She remains loud and proud of her role in Trump’s many accomplishments, including his successful stewardship of the economy, the appointment of three Supreme Court justices, and his championing of the pro-life agenda. She also discusses her professional and personal challenges with confidence, compassion, and her signature sense of humor.
Conway, who dismisses national polls as “popularity contests,” describes her strategy, which leveraged state polling data to microtarget undecided voters in blue and purple states. This data-driven approach, coupled with the Trump rallies, which each received an average of two to three days of “mostly objective press coverage,” proved to be the magic recipe for defeating Clinton with 304 electoral college votes to her 227, with narrow Trump victories in the traditional Democrat strongholds of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Here’s the Deal includes plenty of White House anecdotes to satisfy readers in search of palace intrigue. Conway is not shy about sharing her opinions about the key staff. She refers to Sarah Huckabee Sanders as the best press secretary and Mick Mulvaney as the best-suited to the chief of staff role. And while she is far too diplomatic to expressly identify the “worst” holders of these positions, it is pretty easy to ascertain who they are. Moreover, while Conway is very complimentary of adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump, her review of son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner is less than glowing. She labels Kushner as having too much power and a propensity for deliberately excluding her from strategic discussions, which frequently placed her in the difficult position of having to institute 11th-hour damage control measures.
Readers seeking juicy details about the Conway marriage will not be disappointed. The book, which is written in chronological order, not only provides the full history of George Conway’s anti-Trump tweets and the formation of the Lincoln Project, but it also includes the corresponding commentary from Conway. We witness her wondering out loud why her husband, with whom she shares four children, and who previously did not even use Twitter, would suddenly elect to engage in daily warfare on the platform with her boss, the president of the United States. We wince with her as Trump refers to George as the “husband from hell,” but we cannot help but admire her for not only maintaining her composure but also for finding humor in such a painful and public betrayal. And when Conway makes the very difficult decision to leave the administration in August of 2020 after her teenage daughter, Claudia, rebelled against both parents on TikTok and the media exploited the situation, we applaud her pursuit of “less drama and more mama.”
My favorite reminiscence from Conway’s memoir concerns her relationship with her father. When she was 12 years old, her father, who had abandoned her when she was 3 years old, reappeared and wanted to be part of her life. Conway decided to accept her father’s overture: “I said yes, got myself a father and a half brother, Scott, and learned the value of forgiveness, redemption, and second chances.”
Conway’s capacity for forgiveness is well-honed. Shortly after Here’s the Deal’s release, Trump issued a statement on Truth Social denying Conway’s claim that she “may have been the first person Trump trusted in his inner circle who told him that he had come up short” in terms of achieving the votes necessary to win the 2020 presidential election. “Kellyanne Conway never told me that she thought we lost the election,” Trump said. “If she had, I wouldn’t have dealt with her any longer — she would have been wrong — could go back to her crazy husband.” Instead of counter-punching, Conway took the high road by calling her former employer “a great girl boss.”
Here’s the Deal is a highly readable memoir of the first woman to manage a successful presidential campaign, but it is also an engrossing personal story of an individual who maintains her dignity while grappling with myriad professional and personal challenges under incredible public scrutiny.