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President Trump Replaces Campaign Manager

Jul 16, 2020
Originally published on July 16, 2020 10:09 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

There are less than four months to go before Election Day, and President Trump is replacing his campaign manager, Brad Parscale. He makes his move as Joe Biden is now leading in polls, both nationally and in key swing states. Biden is even competitive or leading in states that President Trump won easily last time. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith has been following this. Hey, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So has the campaign said why they're making this change?

KEITH: Well, President Trump didn't offer an explanation when he announced this over social media. But there was a sense this was actually a long time coming. Parscale is this outsized figure. He's tall. He's bearded. He's brash, sometimes too brash. He overestimated and then boasted about the size of the crowd that would show up for President Trump's rally last month in Tulsa. And all those empty seats were a huge embarrassment for the campaign and for the president. The campaign was also forced to cancel another rally in New Hampshire this last weekend.

Parscale had been campaign manager since 2008, which makes him, you know, like an endurance champion by the standards of the 2016 campaign. They went through three campaign managers that time before Election Day. And, you know, part of the problem for Parscale is that they just haven't been able to settle on a campaign message, haven't been able to settle on a theme that is working.

He tweeted back in May that they were firing up the Death Star, which was an allusion to "Star Wars," saying that they were going to go after Joe Biden, take him down, attack him on China because the campaign - their internal polling tells them that a defined Biden is somebody who Trump could beat. Well, it's been months and they haven't been able to define Biden and haven't been able to take him down. And they've spent millions of dollars on ads. There's been a little erosion in Biden's favorability, but it hasn't really done anything to help President Trump's standing.

KING: OK, so even if the campaign doesn't say much, we definitely have a sense now of what happened. Parscale is being replaced by a man named Bill Stepien. I'm not familiar with that name. Who is he?

KEITH: Well, he is not as public a figure as Parscale, certainly. He is an experienced political operative who has run successful campaigns before. He ran Chris Christie's campaign for governor in New Jersey. He worked on the 2016 Trump campaign and was the White House political director until the midterms, then he jumped over to the campaign. He's been a deputy campaign manager, did all the ballot access work for Trump's reelection. And no matter who has the title of campaign manager, there are two people who have a very important role in determining the course of the campaign. That would be Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and the president himself.

The other thing to note is that the campaign isn't fully getting rid of Parscale. He's not out the door, in part because he has so much control. He holds the keys to the digital operation, much of it run through his private company. And so he's staying on. It's going to be - he will be the digital director, which is basically the role he had last time.

KING: How much of a difference will having a new campaign manager make for President Trump at this point?

KEITH: You know, it's not really clear how much of a difference it can make because President Trump is the head of this campaign. He goes with his gut. And no one has proven able to sort of corral him or get him to do anything that he doesn't want to do. And polling indicates that at least a majority of the American public at the moment isn't buying what he's selling in this pandemic.

KING: NPR's Tamara Keith. Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.