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RNC official discusses how Trump will steal the show at convention

RNC Deputy Communications Director Cassie Smedile discusses the week ahead for the Republican National Convention and format changes to the event during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: Joining us now is RNC Deputy Communications Director Cassie Smedile. Cassie, thank you so much for joining us.

CASSIE SMEDILE: Thanks for having me.

ANDY SERWER: So Donald Trump appears to be eight percentage points or so behind in the polls. And my question to you is, does that mean the president needs to change his message or just work harder at getting his message across?

CASSIE SMEDILE: Yeah, I think we see that this poll trend is about where things were in '16. This is now just turning the corner into the time when people and voters are really starting to tune in and pay attention. Certainly, they have had every right to have a few other things on their mind this year. So we're really getting into that homestretch, where people are really starting to focus on the decision they're going to make when they go into the polls.

But this also presents an opportunity for the president to really crystallize on the message that he has been sending about the best is yet to come, but so much good that we've already done together, so let's keep this going. And that's what you're going to hear a lot about this week, not only hearing from people you know, but also learning a lot of new names and new stories from people sharing their experience and how the policies of this administration have positively impacted them and their families. And then the president's also going to build on that by laying out the vision for the next four years.

KRISTIN MYERS: Cassie, I'm wondering if there's a concern, at least on the part of the Republican Party, over what might be a growing disenchantment with the president right now. Disapproval ratings have been increasing throughout the pandemic. And we are seeing Democratic voters that say that they're going to be voting for Biden increasingly say they are doing so strictly in opposition of the president. Does that at all worry you guys in the run-up to the general? And what are you guys going to be doing to entice some of those voters back to the fold?

CASSIE SMEDILE: Yeah, so in terms of support within our party, the president has always enjoyed well into the 90s, sometimes mid-90s or above. And then just last week there was a Rasmussen poll that had him at 51% approval overall, so a trend very much in the right direction. And then I would also note that we have welcomed in hundreds of thousands of people to our party and to our movement as volunteers, donors, large and small, over the past just couple of years, who say that they are either registered Democrats, or independents, or have never voted before.

When we were doing rallies routinely prior to the pandemic, it was not uncommon that one third of RSVPs were people who identified as Democrats or unaffiliated, and many of them were first-time voters. And that's a trend that we saw really start to take hold in '16, as President Trump was making that case to be the champion for the forgotten men and women of America. I think that still holds, that still resonates, and we've certainly seen that reflected in the hardworking men and women who have joined our movement to knock on a door, or make a phone call, or just gather some friends together to watch one-- one of the nights of the convention.

RICK NEWMAN: Hey, Cassie, Rick Newman here. Many analysts on all sides say President Trump needs to expand his appeal on his base, the well-known base, in order to win in November. How can we expect to hear him appeal to those voters this week?

CASSIE SMEDILE: Yeah, and I would just make one note that we very much have expanded the base from '16. The group of voters that we're looking at expecting to come out to vote for the president is not the same group that we saw in '16. It's much larger than that. And we know that, again, because they are people who have volunteered and people who have donated which, of course, is a very strong indicator of where they are.

But in terms of issues that can reach even more voters or either further cements the supporters that he already has, for sure the economy. We know perennially the economy is one of the top issues that forces people, that moves people to go out and vote. But right there with it is national security. And right now that's a domestic issue for us, law and order, people who see lawlessness in the streets of their towns that they once thought would always be safe, that they once thought would always be a place for their families to be able to go downtown to dine or to shop, and they're no-go zones right now because of the lawlessness, many of them in Democrat-run cities.

That's a big theme that's resonating with so many of our voters. And President Trump is absolutely on the right side, as saying we're going to stand with our police and public-- public safety officials, and we're also going to stand with those in the communities to make sure that they've got a safe place to raise their children and just simply go out to eat.

- Cassie, I'm curious what you say about the criticism that it's unclear, at this point, exactly what policies the Republican Party stands for. Republicans opted not to vote on a new party platform for 2020. And we've heard from some critics that that shows that Republicans are the party of President Trump right now, not necessarily conservative values. What do you say to that criticism that we're hearing?

CASSIE SMEDILE: Yeah, I think in terms of the platform, that was a decision based solely on COVID that they wanted to make sure that we had the requisite number of people there in person and that wasn't done by just a small number or small percentage of people making the argument for everyone. But there's real clarity on where this party is, where the president has been, certainly with the economy and how he has been a man of his word on long-held conservative beliefs about fairer trade deals, about bringing jobs back to the United States.

And then you want to talk about conservative values. Donald Trump has been the most pro-life president, certainly in my lifetime, and arguably in modern history, with actually attending the March for Life, actually standing up for the unborn. And then you also go and you look at how he has been a champion for the forgotten men and women of America. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act not only allowed you to keep more of your hard-earned money, but it created these opportunity zones, something I think we're going to hear about from Senator Tim Scott tonight.

Or these areas that were crossed off the list, counted out. People said what will be, will be, there never could be heard from again, and yet they're coming back. And the people believe that they have a leader in the White House, or in Congress, or in the Senate, of course, in the case of Senator Tim Scott, who says I believe in you. I believe that if we give you the tools, whether that's deregulation or letting you keep more of your hard-earned dollars, you will forge your American dream.

And that's going to be a good news story for all of us. And again, that's a lot of what we're going to hear about this week, this optimistic tone of together, we-- we made this happen. We made the strongest economy since World War II. We're bouncing back faster than anyone expected. And that is because President Trump laid the foundation to empower American workers to write their-- chart their path and create their American dream.

KRISTIN MYERS: So to that point, Cassie, we-- we actually heard a little bit earlier in the show Sean Spicer actually saying that the Republican Party has done a horrible job on the Black vote and has not done enough to engage Black voters. How much of that is weighing in on your calculations going forward, either throughout this week, but also in the run-up to the general to entice those Black voters who are overwhelmingly right now backing Biden over Trump?

CASSIE SMEDILE: Yeah, I didn't hear his comments. I imagine he was pointing towards the historical numbers in terms of how we do with the Black community. But I would just look at, for example, yes, I mentioned the opportunity zones, or people also like Alice Johnson, who I think we'll also hear from tonight, who was a woman that President Trump very famously pardoned and how she has been a great example for second chances, what happens when you give second chances to great Americans.

And then to put on top of that, just look at the slate of candidates that we've been able to recruit this year. We're very proud that we've expanded our numbers. We have a record number of women who are running as GOP candidates. We've got a very large number of Black candidates, far larger than we've seen, I would say, in at least the last decade. And we're going to hear from a lot of them tonight, including on our pre-primetime stream that we're doing through the GOP channels as well, in addition to the-- the campaign's work.

So people are going to see from this Republican Party and this Republican convention a lot of people that look like the people that they live next door to. They're going to hear a lot of stories that resonate with the lifes they're leading. It'll be very different picture from I think what we heard last week during the DNC, where they were downtrodden, practically apologetic for our country. And so many people said, that just doesn't jive with the world that I live in, the country that I live, and in the America that I'm very proud to be a citizen of.

ANDY SERWER: All right, Cassie Smedile, thank you so much for joining us.