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Cruz forces still question Donald Trump’s conservative cred

Donald Trump still faces an uphill battle to bring Republican party leaders around to his side before the general election. Judy Woodruff talks to Sen. Ted Cruz’s former delegate operations director Ken Cuccinelli and Corey Stewart, the Trump campaign’s Virginia state chairman, for more on Trump’s chances of unifying the party behind his candidacy.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now back to the presidential campaign.

    Donald Trump may be the presumptive Republican nominee, but he still has considerable work to do to bring essential elements of the GOP and the conservative movement on board to support him.

    To explore that, we are joined now by two Republicans, Ken Cuccinelli, who until last week served as delegate operations director for the Ted Cruz campaign, and Corey Stewart, Virginia state campaign chair for Donald Trump.

    And, gentlemen, we welcome you both to the program.

    Ken Cuccinelli, let me start with you.

    You worked your heart out for Ted Cruz. He dropped out. He is now today saying he's ruling out a third-party bid. Where does this leave you?

  • KENNETH CUCCINELLI, Former Delegate Operations Director, Cruz Campaign:

    Well, you know, we were 15-1, but you have to go undefeated to be the nominee. And it's disappointing.

    Sometimes, I wonder if I'm watching my country commit political suicide. But, you know, there is five months until the election, and we will see how things go at the convention and we will see where things go between now and November.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, he didn't entirely today, we noticed, rule out getting back in the race. Do you think that's a possibility?

  • KENNETH CUCCINELLI:

    Not — not realistically, no. I think that was more along the lines of a statement of, if an asteroid hits New York City and Donald Trump is dead, then I will get back in the race.

    But, short of that, no, this race is — we have hit the point where Trump is going to hit the 1,237 mark and get over the majority needed to be the nominee, and so that's what I expect is going to happen. We still have other things to do. There's always a debate about the platform. What does it — on an ideal day, what does it mean to be a Republican?

    And we also want to recover — and I think this is an area where Cruz and Trump delegates may have a lot in common — we want to recover these rules back from the establishment and return them much more to the grassroots than they have been structured today and than they have been for decades.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Yes, and I do want to ask you about that in a moment.

    But, Corey Stewart, let me turn to you. What do you say? You have been supporting Donald Trump for months now. What do you say to conservatives who are still struggling with whether or not Donald Trump is really a conservative who believes what they do?

  • COREY STEWART, Virginia State Chairman, Trump Campaign:

    Well, he is a conservative. We stand by a conservative platform at the convention.

    If the Cruz supporters would like to strengthen it, we will support that. In fact, there are some parts of the platform we would like to make stronger, especially on illegal immigration. And I think where there could be some disagreement is perhaps on international trade. We don't feel that the TPP, or the TTIP, or some of the past international trade agreements have been fair to American workers and American small businesses.

    But, overall, I think we are going to have a lot of agreement with other conservatives in the party.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, it's interesting you point those things out,, because, as you know, in the last few days, there has been a lot of attention on some of Mr. Trump's statements. People are saying, well, just how conservative is he, because he's come out with positions on trade, on issues like Social Security where — that really not I think what people view as part of the conservative orthodoxy?

    How do you — how are you, yourself, how comfortable are you when you hear him, say, take positions where aren't necessarily where maybe you thought conservatives were?

  • COREY STEWART:

    Well, I think there is a question, well, what is conservative?

    I mean, Donald Trump, he is pro-life. He's conservative on the social issues. He's conservative on taxation. He's conservative on releasing, you know — on deregulation and making it easier for small business people. So, I mean, but, look, if we attack some of these agreements, TTIP and TPP, that are hollowing out the manufacturing sector in America…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    These are some of the agreements the Obama administration has worked on.

  • COREY STEWART:

    Right, some of the international trade agreements that are really hurting American workers.

    And what is — I don't consider that conservative or liberal. It's just common sense. We need to protect our own workers and our own businesses.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Ken Cuccinelli, how conservative is Donald Trump?

  • KENNETH CUCCINELLI:

    Well, I mean, I appreciate Corey's comments, but I don't think it's really accurate to characterize him as a conservative.

    This is someone who has spoken about higher taxes and higher minimum wage being enforced from the federal level. And maybe he is supportive today of socially conservative positions, but it's hard to have a lot of faith in that, given the history.

    And so it's one of those things where actions are going to speak louder than some words, and that's going to take some time to see and to develop, and as the campaign progresses. So we will — you know, a lot of us are just hanging back, not casting judgment on him as a nominee at this point.

    But, as I told Corey Lewandowski when I talked to him this weekend, is, we really want the see overlap on positions and on beliefs and some credibility put behind those positions, that we can rely on them. This is a — to put it in Trump-ese, this is the deal. You want me to vote for you, and that comes first. And what I get is the positions when you're president. That comes second.

    And so there's no taking my vote back in November. So, in addition to taking conservative positions, not just calling things conservative and declaring it to be so, actual movement conservative positions, then you have got to back it up.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Right.

  • KENNETH CUCCINELLI:

    And one good way to back it up is with personnel who you say is going to implement any particular given policy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And I should say, Corey Lewandowski being the campaign manager.

  • COREY STEWART:

    The other Corey.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The other Corey in all this.

  • KENNETH CUCCINELLI:

    Yes, yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But, Corey Stewart, what about the points that we just heard from Ken Cuccinelli, that Mr. Trump has made statements about higher taxes on the wealthy, on raising the minimum wage? I mean, are those positions you think he's going to stay with?

  • COREY STEWART:

    Well, I think what you're going the find is, Donald Trump is going to be a lot more conservative than the Republican Party has been in the past.

    Take illegal immigration. The party has said for years and years that they're for a secure border, but no presidential candidate has — on the Republican side has taken such a strong position on both internal enforcement of our immigration laws and on the border.

    And the reason he's doing that and the reason he's doing so well among blue-collar workers — and he's tied with Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, something no Republican candidate has done in recent history — is because he's doing this to protect American workers and American jobs.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, you're saying that it's OK if he takes some of these other positions when it comes to minimum wage, when it comes to higher taxes on the wealthy, because he's expanding the pie, so to speak, of the voters he can attract to vote for him in the Republican Party?

  • COREY STEWART:

    Well, I think the important thing to recognize is that he is anti-tax. He's going to keep taxes low on business. He understands, as a businessperson, that for business will thrive in America, one, you have got to protect it from unfair trade practices from China and elsewhere.

    Two, you have got to have low taxation. You have got to have low regulation. He's for all of those things. And he's also for protecting American jobs.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, if that's the case, Ken Cuccinelli, is that a package that you can — a deal, I should say, that you can live with?

  • KENNETH CUCCINELLI:

    Yes, if all of those things hold up, I think that's going the make a lot of conservatives a lot more comfortable.

    I think the challenge is that a lot of us in the last 10 months feel like those positions have waxed and waned and come and gone and changed today and been different tomorrow. And we're going to want to see some consistency through the battle now with Hillary Clinton without moving those positions, along the lines of what you heard Corey just describe.

    That kind of consistency is one way that he can start to make conservatives comfortable pulling the lever for Donald Trump.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, Corey Stewart, do you expect Donald Trump will be consistent on these things?

  • COREY STEWART:

    Absolutely. He is.

    If you go back to interviews of Donald Trump from back in the 1980s, he's been talking about a stronger border. He's been talking about being better to business and protecting American workers since the 1980s. He's as constant as the Northern Star on these issues.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I want to…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Ken Cuccinelli, you — you're laughing now. Why?

  • KENNETH CUCCINELLI:

    Look, I appreciate what Corey Stewart has to say, but consistency has not been a hallmark when it comes to policy of Donald Trump.

    I mean, take taxes. Take minimum wage. Take abortion. Take gay marriage. It's a long and varying list. And even immigration, where he made his first mark in the presidential campaign, is not — he is not today — and I basically appreciate where I think he is today — in the same place where he has been in the past.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And is this just quickly, just quickly, Ken Cuccinelli, something you plan to argue at the convention rules committee?

  • KENNETH CUCCINELLI:

    No. No.

    I think that Corey's point about platform and strengthening the party position on illegal immigration is one there will be a lot of agreement on. But let's face it. The platform is a statement of ideals and principles. Will they be acted on? And I think in the area of…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, I need to…

  • KENNETH CUCCINELLI:

    … illegal immigration, I have the most confidence in Donald Trump. It's the other areas where I wonder more.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Yes, I just — literally two words on whether — it looks like you're going to come to some agreement at the convention.

  • COREY STEWART:

    We are. We're going to have an agreement.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    OK.

  • COREY STEWART:

    There's going to be a strong conservative coalition coming together in November to defeat Hillary.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All right.

    Corey Stewart, Ken Cuccinelli, thank you both.

  • KENNETH CUCCINELLI:

    Good to be with you.

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