On Wednesday night, the president announced on Facebook that his embattled campaign manager, Brad Parscale, would step back from the head role in the reelection effort to run “digital and data strategies,” and that Republican political operative Bill Stepien would take over.
Parscale has been slipping out of the president’s favor for months now: In April, Trump reportedly threatened to sue his campaign manager after he showed his boss polling in which he trailed Joe Biden in several swing states. The conflict was resolved, briefly, after Parscale showed Trump data that was friendlier to his impression of the race.
Parscale’s fatal error came in June, when the campaign planned to “reboot” with a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that resulted in a half-empty stadium and an apparent coronavirus outbreak among attendees. Following the rally, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner — who handpicked Parscale for the job — was reportedly “pissed” at him over his failure to realize the president’s expectations.
Parscale will be demoted to running the campaign’s digital efforts, returning to his 2016 role when he built out Trump’s online apparatus and invested heavily (and successfully) in Facebook advertising. Stepien, meanwhile, is being promoted from his prior role as the president’s deputy campaign manager. Before joining the Trump campaign in 2016, he served as the national field director for both Rudy Giuliani and John McCain in 2008 and the campaign manager for Chris Christie’s successful gubernatorial bid in 2009. Following Trump’s election, he served as the White House political director, and aided in the effort to coax New Jersey Democratic representative Jeff Van Drew into joining the GOP during Trump’s impeachment.
Stepien’s first challenge may be getting the president to face the reality of the challenge ahead: In the announcement, Trump said that his path to reelection “should be a lot easier” than 2016, despite a drastically different situation in the swing states that gave Trump his Electoral College win — not to mention the prospect of competitive races in Republican strongholds like Texas and Georgia.