Former Deputy Campaign Manager for Mitt Romney, Katie Packer, Interview

By Angela Hart

On March 17, 2016, second-year Communication, Culture, and Technology graduate student, Angela Hart spoke with Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service, IPPS, Fellow Katie Packer. Packer was the Deputy Campaign Manager for Romney in 2012 and created the first all-female run Republican consulting firm.

How is your discussion group, The Forces of Women in the Political Arena, going?

It is going really good; this week we talked about advertising and how advertising has changed over the last several decades in order to message more aggressively towards women. We had a really interesting one on Tuesday.

You are currently leading an anti-Trump campaign and you said, “(we) wanted to prevent Donald Trump from hijacking our great party.” I read that you mailed envelopes to certain individuals in Iowa, what progress have you made to-date, if any?

Well, I think one of the most significant things we did was in Iowa which is where we just started about two weeks before Iowa and the idea behind the campaign in Iowa was to demonstrate that ‘he is not Teflon’ that if a campaign is actually mounted against him, he can lose. I would like to quote the line from Predator where Arnold Schwarzenegger says, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” We have to show that Donald Trump has vulnerabilities and a soft under belly; he was going into Iowa with about a ten point lead. He, ultimately, did not win Iowa so I think we were pretty successful in Iowa in ‘shining a spot light’ on Trump and showing that he was not a conservative, he does not have the kind of principles that Republicans have said mattered to them for the last several decades. Ever since then our goal was really to just keep his support from growing. We understand that there is a chunk of the electorate that sort of likes his style, does not really care what he says, there is almost nothing he can say that is going to peel them away but we just never wanted it to get to a point where Republicans would start to view him as a legitimate front runner and a legitimate standard there for the party until we got to the point where we could get the field narrowed down to a small number of candidates. I think we are there now. I do think there is an opportunity for one of these other candidates to start to solidity some work. I do not think Trump is on path to get twelve hundred and thirty-seven delegates so I think that has been a success for our effort.

From what I read, your SuperPAC has connections to Rubio and has spent nearly four point four million dollars against Trump. Has your strategy changed after his more recent victories and the fact that Rubio has now dropped out?

We actually do not have a specific connection to Rubio.

Really?

I happen to be somebody that really liked Marco and Marco was very involved but we have other people who were Jeb supporters, who were Cruz supporters, so the people that have been involved in our principles PAC come from all across the Republican spectrum but what we all agree on is that Donald Trump is not a Republican and would not be a legitimate choice for the party so we have worked together to just provide information about Trump but we never had, as a PAC, we never had any specific loyalty or connection to Marco Rubio.

I do want to just go back and reference the line you cited from Predator. Do you really view Donald Trump in that way?

Ah, I think he was viewed that way because very early on he was able to sort of monopolize the media coverage and created this sort of narrative around him that he could not be stopped, that he was immune to any kind of prosecution. So it was very important for us to show that he is human; he can bleed, he can lose races, he talks all the time about being a winner and everybody else being losers and we just thought it was very important to puncture that narrative and say, “No, he does not always win.” When people know the truth about him, he does lose.

What are your thoughts on Last Week Tonight’s attempt to disassociate Donald Trump from wealth calling him Donald Drumpf?

Yeah, I heard about that. I think Trump is obviously a good name; it is a powerful name and I think there are a lot of people whose families may or may not changed their name over the course of history. Donald Trump was not the reason that his name was changed so I think it is kind of something funny to poke fun at but I do not think that that is the thing that is going to stop him from becoming the Republican Party nominee.

Well, I thought the rhetoric involved was interesting to try and say “If you do not view him as Donald Trump, would you still like this man?” The notion behind their theme was fascinating to me as an academic.

Yeah, I think it is sort of interesting and I think there is a lot to be said for that and I think there are probably several master theses – it is just the power of celebrity in this country – and Donald Trump really is not running as a person, he is running as a character that he played on television and people are sort of accepting this guy that they see on television and that is not who Donald Trump is.

When people criticize or analyze Donald Trump, his supporters actually – the phrase is “lock down harder” on him. How do you create an anti-Trump campaign that has this obstacle in place?

Well, the important thing for us is, one, to point out to Republicans that he is not a conservative; he really is not even a Republican and so, first, to kind of ‘chip away’ at that notion that we have to rally around him because he is the front runner – well, no, we do not. He is not a Republican, he should not be our party’s standard there. Then, second, to go after the things that we think are sort of the premise of his candidacy; one, that he is a brilliant businessman; he really is not a brilliant businessman. I mean if you really look at his record – and not just the airplane with his name on it and his television show – here is a guy who inherited a lot of money from his dad and, accordingly to most financial experts, that if he simply just invested that in the stock market, he would be wealthier than he is today. The question of whether or not you can be a really wealthy person if you start with a whole lot of money, that is a different question of whether or not he is actually a successful businessman. Most people do not consider him to actually have created a lot new wealth from what he started with. The second is that he is somebody that tells it like it is; you know, there is nobody that lies as much as Donald Trump in politics today – and that is a pretty hard contest to win ‘the politician that tells the most untruths’. He is somebody that tells people what they want to hear and creates this fiction around it and it mostly turns out to be a big fraud and a big con and so those are the things that we are trying to expose and give information. If people see all that and at the end of the day they still decide to support him, then it is on them. We felt like it was important for us to at least tell the story.

You mentioned you wanted to ‘chip away’ at him not being a conservative. How do you do that?

He has been on all sides; part of the problem with Donald Trump is that he is such a target of rich environment – that it is really hard to just nail down a handful of things that are so heinous because there are about a hundred of them, in his case, and I do not know that that is one that people really hold him accountable for – we are hitting on a lot of things and that is not something that we are particularly focused on.

I visited your Burning Glass website. How do you break down the female Democrat demographic because in most instances people generalize women as a whole?

Well, we actually do not just treat women as one block. I think you will find, if you spend any time – we say, look, to say that women are a coalition group is insane – women are fifty-three percent of the electorate and you never hear about a coalition on a campaign. You know, “Men for Trump! Men for Jeb!” so it seems silly to say, “Women for, you know, anybody.” What we do when we work on campaigns is we take the demographics so we look at things like ‘age, educational background, how many kids they have’ you can break these down into such small sub-groups. A woman who is my age, who is forty-eight years old, who has never worked outside of the home, is married, has four kids that she home school’s is a very different kind of woman than me. I have been divorced, I do not have children, I have always worked outside of the home, we might share some of the same things as values but, you know, typically, the things that drive us are really different – and the way we take in information is really different – and even the time of day when you might communicate with us is really different. I might be harder to reach because I mostly watch television that I pre-recorded; my best friend from college, who I just described, she watches more daytime television because she just sort of has the TV on throughout the day as she is doing things at home. So even reaching us is really different and so we really try to drill down using a lot of different descriptors for people so we do not just treat a woman like a woman, we treat her like an individual.

You are the first person to mention the difference between daytime television and late-time television for women; usually, it is viewed as just a whole demographic so I find it fascinating.

Yeah, if you want to reach women, let us get them on daytime television. I am like, well, you are not going to reach me because I am not home during the day.

Have you come across any obstacles for reaching single-issue voters?

Well, you know, single-issue voters are not really somebody that you can broadly market a campaign to in terms of advertising; those are people that are more easily targeted with things like mail and phones and digital and sort of more direct voter contact. What we sort of focus mostly on is how can we, as Republicans, sell our candidates and sell our message to women that, previously, we sort of thought of as not attainable for us. We know they are out there but we have not really talked about how to reach them but there is this assumption that most women are pro-choice and so you have to talk to them about social issues. We have really drilled down on that and find that, really, about thirty percent of women are pro-choice and would never support a pro-life candidate. But thirty percent of women are pro-life and would never support a pro-choice candidate so there is about forty percent in there that are kind of like, “Well, you know, I am personally pro-life but I do not think we should tell women what to do and we should not be interfering between a woman and her doctor” – they have these sort of opinions about it but they are not the most important issue to them and so it is really just sort of not buying in to the Democrat propaganda, which is “this is all that women care about” and if they drive people on this issue, they will win but we try to do is say, “Okay, if that is an issue that is important to you, can we agree to disagree on that one and let us look at the other issues that might matter to you and see if we can find some kind of agreement” and I think where Republicans have done that – the case of Corey Gardner is a great example of that where they just pounded him on birth control and abortion – and he sort of changed the subject and said, “Hey, look, I am not so harmless but let me tell you what I am going to do about the environment, let me tell you what I am going to do about national security and border control.” He was able to reach women on a whole different set of issues.

Do you think any candidate in the 2016 election has effectively reached the female voters and, if so, how?

Well, it is a little bit different in a primary because in a Republican primary women do not behave like women; women tend to behave like Republicans – there is no indication that there is anything unique about the way women vote in a Republican primary – so it is very different from a Democrat primary. We do know that for the first time in as long as there has been polling, there is a significant gender gap in the Republican primary – very, very, unusual for that to happen – where women overwhelmingly are rejecting Trump compared to the other candidates. So that is something that has been interesting but I do think that once we get to the general election, you will find, you know, the Hillary Clinton campaign is really, really, aggressively targeting women. I think it will be a different situation if Trump is her opponent versus Cruz or Kasich; that is certainly something that on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has made a priority.

Do you find it difficult to be a female conservative in this day and age because there are so many negative connotations associated with the party at this point?

Well, I mean, if Trump is the nominee, I might have to sort of throw up my hands and say, “Maybe we just take the year off because trying to message to women might be a hurdle that we just cannot climb over.” But, you know, there are some challenges – there is definitely an old boys club in politics – but there is also a lot of opportunities that might not be coming my way if I were not a woman so I take the good with the bad.

In an interview, you mentioned that Democrats have become very good at flooding the zone with often misinformation about the Republican position on a woman’s reproductive rights. What information is most often misrepresented?

Well, I think that because Republicans have concerns about the government funding of Planned Parenthood, there are a lot of Republicans that are very troubled, particularly, by what they saw in those videos last year – a total, casual, disregard for humanity – that they saw is very troubling to them and so they are kind of concerned about the government funding something like that that they find to be very barbaric. And so the Democrats turn that into “Oh, Republicans do not want women to have access to birth control” and I think that there is a huge chasm between ‘I am concerned about the government funding Planned Parenthood because of some of the practices they engage in’ and ‘Republicans want to keep women barefoot and pregnant’ so I think that is one of those cases where I think they have inflamed an issue to be something that is not; it is sort of a false narrative and it has hurt Republicans and it is something we have to fight.

The Daily Show tends to be negative when it comes to the conservative party so I was fascinated with how you discussed the party in a more positive manner. Do you have any other thoughts on that?

Yeah, I think it is something. I mean we always have to fight the narrative in the media because there is sort of a – just a liberal – way of thinking. I do not know that it is an intentional bias but, you know, most of the people that are in journalism and are covering national politics have gone to liberal institutions and they live in places where the people they interact with tend to be more liberal so they just do not have an understanding of how a woman in a secretarial pool in Springfield, Missouri, might think.

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Angela Hart

Angela Hart is currently earning her master’s degree at Georgetown University in Communication, Culture, and Technology. Originally from Massachusetts, she graduated from Bentley University with a bachelor’s degree in Communications with minors in English and Law. She is involved with film studies, new media and politics, journalistic practices, and satires.