President Trump announced Wednesday night that he is replacing campaign manager Brad Parscale with longtime political aide Bill Stepien as national and swing state polls show him falling further behind presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the presidential race amid a spreading pandemic that has devastated the economy.
The president wrote on social media that Parscale “who has been with me for a long time,” will stay as a senior adviser focusing on digital and data strategies. Parscale has been marginalized in the campaign for several weeks, officials said, with Trump angry about a botched rally in Oklahoma, where far fewer people attended than expected, and his lagging poll numbers.
Parscale did not respond to a request for comment.
Stepien was the field director for the 2016 campaign and has worked for the president since the election. He’s known for a low-key style in Trump world and his knowledge of battleground states. He was formerly a top aide to Gov. Chris Christie.
At 6-foot-8 with a dramatic red beard, Parscale cuts a brash figure and is given to statements such as comparing the Trump campaign to the Death Star, a superweapon in the Star Wars movies.
His strength from the start of the 2016 campaign, in addition to his digital know how, was his close relationship with Trump’s older children. His firm, Parscale Strategy, bills for the campaign salary of Lara Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the wife and girlfriend respectively of Trump’s two oldest sons, Eric and Donald.
Parscale’s standing with the president has been growing shakier since the spring, according to people close to the president who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal dynamics. The underwhelming rally in Tulsa, which failed to meet expectations Parscale had set for Trump, was broadly blamed on the campaign manager.
A senior Trump administration official said last week that Parscale “knows he screwed up” but that he maintained the trust of the Trump family.
The president, however, has been more vocal in his frustration with Parscale, and the campaign leadership had begun to shift, with Stepien and other advisers taking an increasing hand in strategy and messaging.
The president has regularly criticized Parscale in private meetings.
Stepien faces a difficult challenge as Parscale’s replacement working for a president who has regularly disregarded campaign advisers recommendations and has seen his approval numbers fall due to his handling of the coronavirus outbreak and racial unrest across the country.
Stepien is expected to conduct an analysis of the campaign and could make changes in the coming weeks, according to people close to the campaign.
This is not the first time Trump has fired a campaign managers. He had three different campaign managers in 2016 before hiring Kellyanne Conway in late summer, who finished the race with Trump and now serves as his counselor in the White House.
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