Another difficult moment he identified was when Mr. Trump questioned Senator John McCain’s legitimacy as a war hero. After Mr. Trump’s comments, Mr. Lewandowski said, he called his wife and told her he’d be coming home because the campaign was over. Mr. Lewandowski said he and other close advisors told Mr. Trump he would need to apologize, but Mr. Trump refused on the grounds that McCain hadn’t done enough for veterans.
“He has such a tenacity, such an ability to move people when he puts his mind to it,” Mr. Lewandowski said. “I think it’s hard for him to apologize because he’s so strong in what his beliefs are that he wants everyone to believe the way he does.”
The conference transitioned into Mr. Lewandowski addressing queries from the audience—a mix of Saint Anselm students, reporters, and older guests—about the challenges of mending the relationship between the press and President Trump, healing the divide in the Republican party, and delivering on campaign promises.
Rachel said she was intrigued by Mr. Lewandowski’s description of the campaign and of President Trump but didn’t experience any “groundbreaking” changes in opinion.
“He was very good at his job—he spoke very eloquently, and I could imagine that the Trump supporters in the audience took what he said at face value because they were hearing what they wanted to hear,” she added. “You wanted to believe him because he was so charismatic.”
Media Editor Angela Duong ’17 said she was interested in hearing from someone who was so devoted to Mr. Trump’s agenda, but she was disappointed when Mr. Lewandowski invoked the same examples he had used in the past. For instance, he cited the San Bernardino case, in which a woman with a K-1 visa killed several Americans aided by her husband, to justify President Trump’s Muslim ban, she explained.
“I was really hoping for him to share viewpoints that I couldn’t have gathered from watching the news,” she said. “I wished he had given us more clear-cut strategies he and Trump’s staff were working on to ‘make America great again.’”
Arts Editor Alia Rizvi ’18 said that what struck her the most was the sight of Mr. Lewandowski’s young son—who sat quietly in the front row with his mother during his his father’s talk—being greeted by Trump supporters afterward.
“I thought, ‘This kid is about 6 years old, and he’s looking at all of these people who are shaking his hand with the same respect as I have for my aunts and uncles,’” she said. “I was thinking that he would grow up to be a really solid person, but just think differently because his role models hold views that I don’t politically align with. It put a human face to a group I demonized before.”
Alia added that the content of the talk, along with Mr. Lewandowski’s attitude, changed her perception of Trump supporters.
“I [originally] saw them as united behind fear and some hatred of others, but Corey represented a kind of Trump follower that was very loyal and idealistic in a way that he had grown up to understand,” she said.
Projects Editor Vishnu Murale ’17 said he expected a political tirade but was pleasantly surprised by the personal experience Mr. Lewandowski shared—such as when, fresh out of graduate school, he wrote to every member of Congress who had received less than 55 percent of the vote in the last three elections, and offered to run their campaigns.
“Lewandowski is certainly an interesting fellow, and I have respect for his work ethic and what he was able to accomplish,” he said. “His stories were personal and grounded the idea that though he may hold different views, he’s still a human being.”
Managing Editor Andrew Kellogg-Peeler ’17 expressed that though his own political views didn’t change, he gained a deeper understanding of what drew supporters to Mr. Trump.
“This intelligent guy who had grown up in a single-mother home in Lowell was talking with such a passion and affection for Trump,” Andrew said. “It really hit home for me the ability Trump has, which many have dismissed as a sham, for making people feel special and wanted.”
Vanguard Faculty Advisor Allison Kornet said she found it interesting that Mr. Lewandowski, a clear “numbers guy” and experienced campaign staffer, had an attachment to Mr. Trump that sounded more emotional than rational.
“Several times he seemed almost star struck when describing his experience with Trump. He seemed to think, ‘I’m in the presence of someone more successful and powerful than myself,’ and I don’t know if you speak truth to power when you have that stance,” she said. “He seemed like a grateful recruit, loyal to the end.”
Mr. Lewandowski himself emphasized that he was the first Trump supporter, despite what he said he has heard others claim.
“I was there at the beginning,” he said. “I turned the lights on.”