WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump shook up his campaign staff Wednesday amid sinking poll numbers, replacing campaign manager Brad Parscale with veteran GOP operative Bill Stepien.
Trump and Parscale’s relationship had been strained since a Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally last month that drew an unexpectedly low crowd, infuriating the president. Trump has been struggling in his reelection campaign against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as the country faces health and economic crises during a pandemic that has killed more than 135,000 Americans.
Trump announced the move on Facebook late Wednesday. “I am pleased to announce that Bill Stepien has been promoted to the role of Trump Campaign Manager,” he 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 Advisor to the campaign.”
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. But the staff change was not expected to alter the day-to-day running of the campaign.
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 coronavirus 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 Trump son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who wields ultimate control over the campaign.
Trump has been pressed by allies in recent months to expand his political circle and more forcefully define his run against Biden. On Tuesday, he relented to weeks of lobbying by his political advisers, delivering a broadside against the former vice president from the Rose Garden and framing the November election as the starkest choice in the nation’s history.
Biden also shuffled his campaign team amid a disastrous stretch in his campaign, albeit much earlier in the cycle. For Biden, the moves marked genuine shakeups that expanded and changed how his campaign operated.
Biden elevated Anita Dunn, effectively displacing his first campaign manager, Greg Schultz, after a fourth-place Iowa finish and after he was already headed for a second embarrassing finish in New Hampshire. Dunn had joined Biden at the outset of his campaign after having served President Barack Obama as a top communications adviser.
With Dunn’s urging, Biden hired his current campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, in March after Dunn and others helped resurrect Biden in Nevada and South Carolina and put him on the path to the nomination. Schultz is now at the Democratic National Committee, helping lead the joint battleground strategy among the national party, the Biden campaign and state parties.
Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.