Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
Just over 100 days before the 2020 election, and with President Trump trailing in almost all national polls, he has shaken up his campaign team.
Trump announced Wednesday night that he was demoting longtime campaign manager Brad Parscale and replacing him with his deputy, Bill Stepien.
Parscale will remain with the campaign as a senior adviser, overseeing the digital and data operation that he created during Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“I am pleased to announce that Bill Stepien has been promoted to the role of Trump campaign manager,” Trump said. “Brad Parscale, who has been with me for a very long time and has led our tremendous digital and data strategies, will remain in that role, while being a senior adviser to the campaign. Both were heavily involved in our historic 2016 win, and I look forward to having a big and very important second win together.”
Trump made the announcement first on Facebook rather than his preferred platform Twitter because the latter was in the middle of shutting down a massive hack on its system and had prevented all verified accounts from posting messages.
The New York Times reported that Parscale was caught off-guard by the announcement on Wednesday evening, learning about his demotion only moments before Trump announced it publicly.
Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign used the shakeup as an opportunity to attack Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus crisis.
“Almost 140,000 Americans have lost their lives and millions more have lost their jobs because of Donald Trump’s failed leadership,” Andrew Bates, a campaign spokesman, said in a statement. “The Trump campaign’s game of musical chairs won’t fix this.”
The shake-up within the campaign at this relatively late stage is seen as an admission by Trump that he is trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Biden, and that Americans are increasingly critical of his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Multiple polls from Quinnipiac, CNBC, and the Democratic firm Navigator Research found that a majority of voters disapproved of Trump’s handling of the economy. Another poll, from NBC and the Wall Street Journal, however, found that 54% of voters approved Trump’s handling of the economy.
The Quinnipiac survey also found that 62% of registered voters say Trump is hurting efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, while 31% say he's helping.
But all of the polls showed Biden leading Trump overall, with the Quinnipiac poll putting the Democrat 15 points ahead, nearly double the margin he had in the same poll last month.
Parscale’s departure had been widely predicted following a disastrous rally in Tulsa last, for which he boasted there were nearly one million requests for tickets. In the end, just over 6,000 people attended the June 20 event.
Parscale had also reportedly angered Trump with his lavish spending, purchasing expensive cars and property in Florida. Stepien, who was previously a top political adviser to Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, maintains a very low profile and is seen as a veteran political operative.
Keeping Parscale employed by the campaign could have one other beneficial effect for the wider Trump family.
According to an investigation by HuffPost, Parscale’s company was secretly paying Lara Trump — wife of Eric Trump — and Kimberly Guilfoyle — girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. — $180,000 each a year.
The payments were being made through Parscale’s company, rather than directly by the campaign or the party, in order to avoid public reporting requirements, sources told HuffPost.
Cover: US President Donald J. Trump's Campaign Manager Brad Parscale is seen at a "Keep America Great Rally" at BB&T Center on November 26, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. mpi04/MediaPunch