Trump Fires Campaign Manager Again

The President does not like his poll numbers.

President Donald J. Trump boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Friday, July 10, 2020, en route to Miami International Airport in Miami
Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

Donald Trump is falling further behind Democrat Joe Biden in his bid for re-election, so he’s doing what he always does: blame someone else.

CNN (“Trump shakes up campaign leadership as he struggles in latest polls“):

President Donald Trump shook up his campaign leadership on Wednesday, announcing he was promoting Bill Stepien to be his campaign manager and demoting Brad Parscale, who had been serving in that role.

The announcement comes on the same day that two national polls showed the President trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by double digits.

Parscale’s future had been in serious doubt for weeks. In addition to the President’s lagging poll numbers Trump was furious after a much-hyped return to the campaign trail fell flat at the end of June. A planned rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, fell well short of expectations after Parscale predicted massive crowds, not only inside the 19,000-seat arena but outside as well.
In the weeks leading up the event, Parscale predicted as many as 100,000 people would show up to support the President. Instead a meager crowd of just over 6,000 came, the outdoor event was canceled and Trump was embarrassed — laying much of the blame on Parscale who personally offered up Tulsa as one of the locations for the President’s return to the trail.

Trump has repeatedly criticized Parscale in meetings over the turnout. Parscale was unaware that he was being demoted until a few hours before the Wednesday night announcement, a source familiar with the situation told CNN. But after a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Stepien on Tuesday, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, informed Parscale of the decision, according to a source familiar with the conversation.

“I am pleased to announce that Bill Stepien has been promoted to the role of Trump Campaign Manager,” Trump said in a Facebook post. “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. Both were heavily involved in our historic 2016 win, and I look forward to having a big and very important second win together. This one should be a lot easier as our poll numbers are rising fast, the economy is getting better, vaccines and therapeutics will soon be on the way, and Americans want safe streets and communities!”

A senior campaign adviser said Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and top advisers to both men have been discussing the Parscale move for a number of days. The adviser described the situation for Parscale as untenable. The Trump family had become annoyed in recent weeks at reports of how much money Parscale was making in his role, including stories about his ownership of a Ferrari. Parscale, the adviser said, had been advised to lay low and stay out of the limelight, advice he apparently did not take.

Maggie Haberman of the NYT (“Trump Replaces Brad Parscale as Campaign Manager, Elevating Bill Stepien“) adds:

The move comes as Mr. Trump’s advantages as an incumbent president have eroded in the face of a pandemic that has killed over 137,000 Americans and battered the nation’s economy — once Mr. Trump’s most powerful argument for re-election. The president has been heavily criticized for his handling of the coronavirus and the halting federal response to it, and Mr. Trump’s own public comments have deepened the hole in which he finds himself in national and battleground state polling.

Several new polls released Wednesday showed Mr. Trump trailing the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., by double digits, and in one of them, 62 percent of respondents said they believed Mr. Trump was “hurting rather than helping” efforts to combat the pandemic.

But she really nails it well into the report:

Mr. Trump is often described as his own campaign manager, and his political operation, which is overseen by Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, has been tailored to his desires.

Trump’s campaign, like Trump himself, is unmanageable.

That worked to his advantage in 2016, when he vaulted past many seasoned politicians to win the Republican nomination while committing a boatload of gaffes, any of which would have doomed just about anyone else. And that same freewheeling style apparently convinced enough people in swing states desperate for a reboot that it was worth taking a chance on him.

The act seems to have worn thin.

Longtime Republican stalwart George Will gets it exactly right:

Because of his incontinent use of it, the rhetorical mustard that the president slathers on every subject has lost its tang. The entertainer has become a bore, and foretelling his defeat no longer involves peering into a distant future: Early voting begins in two states (South Dakota and Minnesota61 days from Sunday, which is 107 days before Election Day.

Never has a U.S. election come at such a moment of national mortification. In April 1970, President Richard M. Nixon told a national television audience that futility in Vietnam would make the United States appear to the world as “a pitiful, helpless giant.” Half a century later, America, for the first time in its history, is pitied.

Not even during the Civil War, when the country was blood-soaked by a conflict involving enormous issues, was it viewed with disdainful condescension as it now is, and not without reason: Last Sunday, Germany (population 80.2 million) had 159 new cases of covid-19; Florida (population 21.5 million) had 15,300.

Under the most frivolous person ever to hold any great nation’s highest office, this nation is in a downward spiral. This spiral has not reached its nadir, but at least it has reached a point where worse is helpful, and worse can be confidently expected.

There’s not a whole lot for Bill Stepien to work with here.

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FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    In some states, early voting starts in just a couple of weeks. There’s not a whole lot for Stepien to work with, and not much time to do it.

    5
  2. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Stepien was installed as deputy in the first place thanks to Kushner’s insistence. I wouldn’t have much surprise if we learned that Kushner also orchestrated this move. Clear cut case of the incompetent leading the unleadable, with predictable results.

    In any case, I agree with Neil. It’s too little, too late.

    8
  3. James Joyner says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    In some states, early voting starts in just a couple of weeks.

    Which ones? The earliest I’m seeing are the ones Will points to, South Dakota and Minnesota, both of which start two months from today.

    1
  4. Jen says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Oh, that’s delightful. I’ll bet that Kushner’s involvement in this is a feeble attempt to poke at Chris Christie for prosecuting his father. [Side note: Stepien was fired by Chris Christie in the Bridgegate scandal.]

    Our country is awash with people in leadership positions with some severe Daddy Issues.

    8
  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Another day ending in “Y.”

    1
  6. Kathy says:

    There’s this coworker who’s a Cowboys fan, and I tease him every year at the draft, asking whom Dallas picked out of the top business schools to replace the owner.

    Trump needs to replace himself if he wants better numbers in the polls.

    8
  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Joyner:

    My bad, i misread they started two weeks from today.

    2
  8. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kathy:

    Yes, what needs to be replaced is the candidate. Fortunately that won’t be happening and we will be moving on from this R nightmare in 6 months.

    What’s the over and under that on inauguration day 2021, the US will have buried 300,000 of its citizens due to Covid-19?

    6
  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    ByeDon is up by 15 nationally…and leading most, if not all, swing states.
    AND THE BIG EVENTS HAVEN’T HAPPENED YET!!!
    He hasn’t named a VP…the National Convention hasn’t happened…the Debates haven’t been held.
    Warren may already be baked into the cake…but I still think her announcement will give ByeDon a bump.
    So Trump is re-arranging the deck chairs…which is more like Jared looking to place blame for the flailing campaign on anyone but himself.

    2
  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    The campaign is no longer about winning, it’s about keeping Trump from losing what little is left of his mind before election day. Job #1 for Stepian won’t be crafting a message, it will be finding ways for Trump to go to rallies to hear the cheers.

    Trump can’t learn or adapt, this is his act, it’s all he’s got. Now, like all the talk show hosts working from home under Covid, he’s doing his act without a live audience. The Culties needs their leader, and he needs their adulation. The search is on for a governor and mayor sufficiently indifferent to the deaths of their constituents to let Trump shuffle around on stage vomiting up his word salad for the pleasure of howling imbeciles.

    11
  11. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “Stepien was installed as deputy in the first place thanks to Kushner’s insistence.”

    Which seems odd, since Kushner hates Christie and Stepien is one of Christie’s lead scumbags, deeply involved in the bridge closing.

    1
  12. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    It will be harder and harder to find those governors and mayors.

    2
  13. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    Which seems odd, since Kushner hates Christie and Stepien is one of Christie’s lead scumbags, deeply involved in the bridge closing.

    Not so much. Stepien was thrown under the bus by Christie during that debacle. They both enjoy a decidedly cool relationship with Christie, which is one of the things that they have in common. Kushner was responsible for bring Stepien into the 2016 campaign in the first place, and has been a consistent advocate for him ever since – not the least because Kushner regards him as being loyal to Kushner. Installing him as deputy in this campaign was Jared ensuring he’d retain effective control if/when Parscale got tossed out of the back door.

    6
  14. gVOR08 says:

    @HarvardLaw92: So Stepian is Jared’s creature. I’ll stop worrying that Stepian might be better at campaigning than Parscale.

    7
  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @gVOR08:

    On technical points, he is. He has a long history in NJ politics and is an expert with regard to data and metrics. I’d personally say that he’s better at targeted messaging and flipping culpability. Trump’s 2016 campaign was literally the first (and only) campaign Parscale has ever worked on that I can find any evidence of. Prior to that he dealt in website design.

    I don’t think it makes any difference in the outcome, obviously, but given the two, I’d have hired Stepien before I’d ever have considered hiring Parscale.

    He’s definitely Jared’s creature though. It’s telling that Trump didn’t tell Parscale he was effectively fired. Kushner did …

    5
  16. Jen says:

    @gVOR08: Don’t write Stepien off. He has more direct experience than anyone else Trump has had in that position. His campaign work and Republican contacts go back a ways. I recognized quite a few names in his Wikipedia entry (campaigning is a small world); he likely has a deep Rolodex (proverbial now, I suppose). That said, Trump’s not going to listen to him any more than he’s listened to anyone else.

    ETA: I see HarvardLaw & I are on the same page here. 🙂

    3
  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    It doesn’t matter how good the doctor is if the patient can’t or won’t take his medicine.

    4
  18. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jen:

    That said, Trump’s not going to listen to him any more than he’s listened to anyone else.

    Indeed. I alluded to that above – the incompetent (Kushner) attempting to lead the unleadable (Trump). It was never going to end well.

    3
  19. inhumans99 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Okay, two things…Politico had an article up yesterday that the White House dreads trying to mollify President Trump if he cannot constantly attend rallies, and two, there are articles all over Politico (and even some good articles on the MSNBC site) that point out how easy if would be for Trump to change focus and say and do the right things to cruise to re-election.

    I was reading these articles and going yup, our Biden enthusiasm could easily be crushed if Trump listens to certain folks in his orbit and rallies the base as only he can and the next thing you know articles would soon pop up talking about Trump’s impending victory.

    It is kind-of surreal how easy it would be for Trump to say and do the right things to get himself back in the game, with the surreal part being how stubborn he is at not listening to folks who are giving him rock-solid advice. Hint, the advisors cringe every time Trump opens his mouth to stoke a cultural/race war between his base and the rest of us.

    The advisors do not even like it when he just fixates on calling Biden Sleepy Joe (I noticed that this nickname never stuck in the minds of anyone but the base, and even then it has not taken off like the lock her up chant from which Trump got a ton of mileage out of that chant) and constantly asking where Hunter Biden is or similar stuff like that.

    They note that there is so much out there that he could try to use against Biden and yet he sticks to calling him Sleepy Joe and ranting about Hunter Biden (someone he trusts must have told Trump focusing on Hunter Biden would earn him his next victory, that person should be fired due to how this is so obviously not the case, and now Hunter lives rent free in Trumps head when he should be fixated on other events/people in his orbit).

    Honestly, it really is odd how stubborn Trump is…his 2016 shtick is not working, lots of folks he talks to are telling him this even know he could end up yelling at them and he just keeps on repeating the same word salad at all of his Rose Garden meetin…I mean Rose Garden rallies.

    Sure, there is some early voting going on but it really is several months out and I will not count him out of the game just yet but tick tock dude, he needs to pivot asap.

    1
  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @inhumans99:
    I don’t think Trump could save himself even if he listened to advice. But we’ll never know because he won’t. People seldom act out of character, old people even less often, and stupid old men almost never. He doesn’t have the intelligence, and he doesn’t have the tools. He has only the same skill set he brought in 2016, he’s learned nothing. He can’t adapt.

    7
  21. gVOR08 says:

    There are leaks that Trump’s message on COVID is going to be that we just have to live with it. And there are surrogates already pushing that message. It would be so easy to make that – we have to live with it AND that means masks and distancing and don’t go to bars and Fauci will be speaking for us weekly and I’m changing the convention to online and we won’t be doing rallies. I don’t think he’ll do it, but it would be so easy.

    A few Trump voters would get whiplash, but most would understand Trump’s always been at war with the Eastasia virus.

    6
  22. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @inhumans99:
    @Michael Reynolds:

    …how easy if would be for Trump to change focus and say and do the right things to cruise to re-election.

    My biggest fear about Trump is that he would do what he campaigned on doing…tax cuts for the middle class, great health care, infrastructure, etc. But he was fundamentally incapable of doing it. We basically got a guy that rubber stamped every Republican wet dream, because he was too fuqing lazy, and too fuqing stupid, to do anything else.
    So sure, he could do the right things about COVID…and even though it’s fairly simple…he’s too fuqing lazy, and too fuqing stupid, to do it.
    I mean…this isn’t even really difficult. Test. Contact trace. Wait for a treatment, or a vaccine.
    For chrissakes…Obama left him explicit instructions about what to do!!! Obama put his people thru a war game on what to do!!!
    And all of it could be delegated to any one of his idiot sycophants and/or learning challenged children.
    And if he had done this right out of the box we wouldn’t be here today.
    But again…he is lazy…and he is stupid.

    5
  23. Tony W says:

    Pascale (who is married) was also seen canoodling recently with Hope Hicks – arguably the easiest way to get fired by Mr. Trump.

    5
  24. NavyGuy1981 says:

    Everyone who follows the campaign knew this was coming. Focus, Focus, Focus. Stick to the issue

  25. JohnSF says:

    @inhumans99:
    Trump has a massive problem in strategy.

    To stand a chance of winning he needs to tack to centre, govern effectively, and moderate his tone. Pardon me while I LOL.
    Not nuking ACA in the middle of a pandemic and recession, for example.

    But, even if we set aside the utter unlikelihood of his doing so, his best strategy to mitigate defeat is to rev the Base (in both senses 🙂 )

    IMHO he (or Kushner?) calculates he must have a cowed, Trumpified Republican Party to stand any chance of evading the legal perils of loss of office.

    In a sense, I’m inclined to agree: I’d guess if Trump lost his grip on the Party base, McConnell would shank him the split millisecond he’s out of office.
    It looks like, in a great historical irony, Trump is going to end up burning down McConnell’s dreams.

    Palpatine unlikely to be in a good mood. 🙂

    1
  26. Barry says:

    @Sleeping Dog: “What’s the over and under that on inauguration day 2021, the US will have buried 300,000 of its citizens due to Covid-19?”

    I’ll take ‘over’, with the caveat that most will be deliberately hidden, and the final counts will take most of 2021:

    We are at 130K, running (IIRC) 900/day. With no increases, that would be 130000 (900*180) = 292,000. My money is on large increases, since numerous GOP Governors and governments work hard to keep it going.

    I can see AZ and FL and TX having massive spikes over the next two months, and that’s before schools open.

    3
  27. CSK says:

    @Tony W:
    Good Lord, that woman has ghastly taste in men: Corey Lewandowsky, Rob Porter, now Parscale. Can’t she find someone who’s unattached and halfway human?

    7
  28. Sleeping Dog says:

    @CSK:

    Back when I was young man and knew nothing about women, but believed I knew a lot, I had a serious crush on a woman, who while friendly was elusive. Her roommate who was my buddies GF at the time, pulled me aside to tell me that M liked me just fine, but that she didn’t date anyone who she didn’t find under a rock. Hope Hicks turns over rocks.

    1
  29. Tony W says:

    @CSK: I imagine she must have a good relationship with Katie Miller, otherwise I could see her heading for Stephen next.

    She’s that gross

    3
  30. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    More like boulders, in the case of Lewandowski and Porter.
    @Tony W:
    It wouldn’t surprise me if Miller were next on the list. He fulfills the two necessary qualifications: He’s married and he’s disgusting.

    2
  31. Jen says:

    Nah, it will be Jason Miller, not Stephen. He’s connected to the campaign, which seems to be where her attentions go.

    2
  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Certainly he’s not capable of accomplishing what he campaigned on, but part of that was the combination of what he campaigned on being either flat impossible (for example, it’s difficult to do MC tax reform when fully half of what we call middle class families have no Federal tax burden to begin with–which actually makes them *poor* but I won’t go there today, I stirred up enough trouble yesterday) or antithetical to the goals and aspirations of his *conservative* base (for example the right was opposed to rural electrification back in FDR’s time and has opposed healthcare reform since… well forever isn’t unfair). How’s he gonna accomplish healthcare and infrastructure reform even if he isn’t too lazy to do it?

    1
  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tony W: What is this thing Hope Hicks seems to have with *dating* married men? First Lewandowski and now this meatball. Probably others along the way that we don’t know/care about because paparazzi get tired of stalking her (low value target and all that).

    ETA: I see CSK beat me to it. And with better detail–undoubtedly reads more gossip than I do (Not a high bar to jump btw 😉 ).

    2
  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Sleeping Dog: @Tony W: @CSK: Even so, ya gotta turn over a whole lot of rocks to find this many newts and efts. 😛

    3
  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jen: Meh…it’s possible that he has too much baggage even for HH. On the other hand, he may have resolved his outstanding issues and is *good to go* as it were.

    2
  36. Kathy says:

    I’m 100% certain Trump can listen to and follow advice.

    For about 15 minutes. then he goes back to his original position, on which he’ll double down as often as necessary to, well, whatever he thinks he may accomplish.

    We saw just that after the Charlottesville fiasco.

    2
  37. Jen says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: There are some women who are attracted to guys that bring nothing but problems, baggage, and issues to the table. It’s baffling to me.

    2
  38. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Jason Miller is repulsive, isn’t he? Just Hope Hicks’s type.

    1
  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Can’t argue with that, sure enough. The fact of being physically repulsive in addition to being repulsive on other levels might disqualify him, though. The other guys so far were better looking than Miller is.

    On the other hand, the argument that each one represents a step down on, if you will, arm candy appeal makes an interesting counterpoint. Of course, I’m not saying that HH is superficial or anything, but… 😉

    1
  40. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    “Better-looking” than Jason Miller is a very, very easy standard to achieve. (He resembles a wombat, only not nearly as cute.) But I was thinking of his personal qualities when I described him as repulsive.

    I read an article once that described a scene involving Trump, Lewandowski, and Hicks. It might have taken place in the Oval Office. Trump said to Lewandowksi, indicating Hicks, “She’s the best piece of tail you’ll ever have.” Hicks apparently burst into tears and fled the room.

    Nice guy, Trump. Hicks seems to enjoy being treated like trash.

    2
  41. David S. says:

    Could you people stop talking about a woman who’s not even mentioned in the blog post?

    3
  42. Mister Bluster says:

    @David S.:..stop talking

    She your mama?

    2
  43. Blue Galangal says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    @Kathy:
    @Michael Reynolds: And he has dementia or some other brain issue. You can tell by the way he’s stringing words together now and clinging to the familiar words he recognizes. The decline in even the past two weeks is apparent. For example: Lou Saban vs. Nick Saban – because his brain can’t process/retain new information.