Trump claims campaign force evaporates with topple of scale

Donald Trump has insisted for weeks that he is in good shape to win a second term in November. But on Wednesday, the president acknowledged the problems he faces in reshaping his campaign leadership, removing manager Brad Parscale.

Trump announced in a Facebook post Wednesday night that Bill Stepien, the former deputy campaign manager, will now lead his reelection operation. Parscale, who has led the campaign since 2018, will continue to be Senior Advisor for Digital and Data.

President Trump meets with law enforcement officials

Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC on July 15.

Photographer: Anna Moneymaker / The New York Times / Bloomberg

The shakeup comes with Trump’s political stance hit by the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 137,000 people in the United States and sunk the economy, once it was the mainstay of the President’s case for reelection.

Trump has received low marks for his handling of the pandemic, as well as for his response to protests across the country over police brutality, which has caused his number of polls to plummet.

Multiple polls released Wednesday showed Trump lagged behind his November opponent Joe Biden in double digits, and one showed that in managing the economy, the area where he had previously led the Democratic candidate, was now also behind.

Previously: Trump campaign faces calculation after falling short in Tulsa

Trump announced hours later that Parscale was out. His son-in-law, senior adviser Jared Kushner, had delivered the news to Parscale, who was at the White House for Wednesday’s meetings, people familiar with the matter said.

President Trump campaigns in Iowa before democratic caucus

Photo credit: Tom Brenner / Getty Images

Stepien is an ally of Kushner, who is considered to be running the president’s political organization. Stepien was at the White House this week for multiple meetings, including with senior staff, as well as planning discussions about the Republican convention, according to the people.

“I am pleased to announce that Bill Stepien has been promoted to the position of Trump’s campaign manager,” Trump said in a statement. “Brad Parscale, who has been with me for a long time and has led our tremendous digital and data strategies, will continue in that role, while being a senior advisor to the campaign.”

In Stepien, Trump is turning to an experienced political operative to help straighten the ship. He previously served as political director of the White House and as senior adviser to former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Parscale, by contrast, had never carried out a major political campaign before being asked to run Trump’s 2020 operation.

Christie fired Stepien amid the Bridgegate scandal, but was never charged and denied his participation in the 2013 plan to close access roads to the George Washington Bridge to punish a political opponent.

Read more: Trump’s advantage over the economy fades as more voters now trust Biden

A change to the top of the Trump campaign was seen as inevitable after a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 20. Trump hoped to use the meeting to boost his campaign after months of coronavirus-related blockades. But only 6,200 people entered the 19,000-seat BOK Center, after Parscale boasted about 1 million registrations. Trump had repeated the enrollment figure during a Fox News interview.

Kushner began excluding Parscale from some decisions last month. He traded COOs without telling Parscale to follow Tulsa, installing Jeff DeWit and Michael Glassner, who had previously oversaw the protests.

The announcement of Parscale’s expulsion came the same day that Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt said he tested positive for Covid-19 after attending the rally.

The failed rally provided fodder for Parscale’s enemies, who accused him of using his position to enrich himself and build his profile, both no-nos in Trump’s world. Parscale has denied that he was abusing his position.

In the past few weeks, when his number of polls declined, Trump brought some of his 2016 campaign aides to his current staff, including Stepien and former spokesman Jason Miller, who is now a senior adviser. Stepien is a respected staff member who keeps a low profile, according to people familiar with the matter.

Previously: Trump leans toward self-pity with collapse of polls and worsening pandemic

“Stepien gives donors and agents the convenience of running the campaign at full speed,” said Republican strategist Bryan Lanza, who served as deputy communications director for the 2016 Trump campaign.

There have been deliberations on more additions, including a campaign chair, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

Trump shook up his campaign leadership multiple times during his first White House run, and downplayed the latest move as a sign that his chances of winning in 2020 have been reduced. “This should be easier,” he wrote in his announcement of Stepien’s hiring.

When asked at the White House on Tuesday if he considered himself an underdog, Trump said, “No, I don’t. I think we have a very good number of polls.”

But Trump received a dose of bad news in polls Wednesday.