Trump replaces campaign manager amid sinking poll numbers

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President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 15, 2020, after stepping off Marine One. Trump is returning from Atlanta. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump shook up his campaign staff Wednesday amid sinking poll numbers less than four months before the election, replacing campaign manager Brad Parscale with veteran GOP operative Bill Stepien.

“I am pleased to announce that Bill Stepien has been promoted to the role of Trump Campaign Manager,” Trump said on Facebook. “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 Advisor to the campaign.”

Trump and Parscale’s relationship had been increasingly strained, with the president annoyed by the publicity Parscale had garnered in the role. But the final straw appeared to be a Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally last month that drew an unexpectedly low crowd of about 6,200 people after Parscale had bragged that more than a million people had requested tickets. The president was furious.

The shakeup injected familiar turmoil to Trump’s 2020 campaign, which had so far largely avoided the regular staff churn that dominated the president’s 2016 campaign and his White House. It comes as Trump has been struggling in his reelection campaign against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, with the nation facing health and economic crises during a pandemic that has killed more than 135,000 Americans.

The staff change was not expected to alter the day-to-day running of the campaign. News of the shuffle was delivered to Parscale on Wednesday afternoon by White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Parscale, a political novice, ran Trump’s digital advertising in 2016 and was credited with helping bring about his surprise victory that year. Stepien has been in politics for years, working for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and serving as Trump’s national field director in 2016.

Parscale had been increasingly sidelined in the weeks since the Tulsa rally and as the president's public and private poll numbers have taken a hit amid the pandemic. Speculation had been rampant about who might be promoted to lead the operation, with names like former Trump strategist Steve Bannon floated.

Parscale is a close ally of Kushner, who wields ultimate control over the campaign. A Florida resident, he had not been a regular presence of late in the campaign's Arlington, Virginia, headquarters, sparking some resentments among staffers.