Donald Trump is replacing his campaign manager Brad Parscale, the contentious figure leading the president’s re-election efforts for the last two years, in a major shakeup of campaign staff.
Parscale will be demoted to senior adviser, and Bill Stepien, the deputy campaign manager, will take over the top position. Trump made the announcement on Facebook on Wednesday evening, with Twitter temporarily unavailable due to a hacking.
Parscale has been under pressure since June after failing to materialize the hundreds of thousands of supporters at Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa that he initially touted. At the time, the president’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were reportedly “pissed” that Parscale had promised huge crowds after only 6,200 turned up.
The reshuffle comes as Trump lags behind in polls, trailing his Democratic opponent Joe Biden by 15-points in a Quinnipiac national poll released Wednesday. The Trump administration’s chaotic, ineffectual response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 137,000 Americans, and the plummeting of the national economy appear to have triggered a dip in his approval ratings.
Parscale, who has headed the campaign since February 2018, was recommended for the job by Kushner. He had no background in politics prior to joining the Trump campaign, and his tenure has been plagued with allegations that he is unduly profiting off the campaign. Even prior to joining the Trump 2020 effort, Parscale’s companies had earned nearly $40m from various Trump election committees, according to a HuffPost analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday evening, Trump wrote: “I am pleased to announce that Bill Stepien has been promoted to the role of Trump Campaign Manager. 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.”
Stepien, who was the campaign field director for Trump in 2016, was formerly a top aide to Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and a one-time presidential candidate.
Parscale’s grasp of social media, and the campaign’s misleading, clickbait campaigns on Facebook have made him a notorious figure. In a Washington Post interview, Parscale recalled that during the last election cycle, he told Kushner if Trump “wants to be the next president, he has got to harness Facebook. Give me the power, and I can help you win.”
Like Trump, Parscale has often exaggerated his qualifications and dramatized his life story. He has described himself as a “farm boy from Kansas”, when he actually grew up in the suburbs.
“He’s an over-promoted troll,” Charlie Sykes, the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind, told the Guardian in January.
Parscale, a fan of The Apprentice, told the Guardian’s David Smith in January: “I always just saw myself as kind of a CEO, as a business leader. I just wanted to be successful. I was always wanting to adapt but I knew I wanted more.”
Having earned the trust of Trump and his family, he has also recently drawn the president’s ire. Trump reportedly berated Parscale and threatened a lawsuit amid sinking poll numbers in April, according to CNN. Trump later denied that he had shouted at Parscale.
Trump has frequently tired of his campaign managers – he fired two campaign managers in 2016 before installing Kellyanne Conway, who now works as a White House counsellor.
When asked for comment on the staffing shakeup, the Trump campaign directed the Guardian to Trump’s Facebook statement. Parscale did not immediately respond to a request for comment.