U.S. President Donald Trump shook up his re-election campaign Wednesday, replacing campaign manager Brad Parscale with one-time senior adviser Bill Stepien.
“I am pleased to announce that Bill Stepien has been promoted to the role of Trump Campaign Manager,” Trump said in a tweet.
“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 move comes amid widespread polling that shows Trump far behind presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden less than four months before November’s presidential election.
FiveThirtyEight’s national polling average shows Biden at 50.3 per cent, more than nine points ahead of Trump’s 41.2 per cent. Biden has been hovering above 50 per cent in the average for over a month, as Trump has continued to fall in the standings.
Earlier Wednesday, a Qinnipiac University national poll showed Biden’s lead over Trump as high as 15 points, nearly doubling the gap shown in the same poll from a month earlier.
Yet Trump repeated his longstanding claims that “our poll numbers are rising fast” in his announcement, promising the arrival of a coronavirus vaccine and an improving economy.
“I look forward to having a big and very important second win together,” he said of Stepien and Parscale.
Parscale has overseen a digital-first strategy for Trump’s re-election campaign, building on his experience as the digital director of the president’s 2016 bid for the White House. He won the top campaign job in February 2018.
Yet Parscale was reportedly a frequent target of Trump’s anger as his poll numbers began slipping in tandem with the growing coronavirus pandemic — along with the Trump administration’s lagging response to the crisis.
CNN reported that Trump “berated” Parscale in April and even threatened to sue him over the negative data he was receiving. Both Trump and Parscale denied the report.
That outburst reportedly came a day after Trump suggested at a coronavirus task force meeting that ingesting disinfectant could help cure the virus.
Parscale also oversold Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa last month by claiming over 100,000 tickets had been requested — not only selling out the 19,000-seat stadium but also requiring a second, outdoor rally for the crowd unable to go inside.
Instead, just over 6,000 people attended the indoor rally, prompting the outdoor speech to be cancelled.
Trump’s campaign has also fallen behind Biden’s in fundraising, raising $266 million between April 1 and June 30 compared to Biden’s $282 million over the same period.
Parscale and other Trump campaign spokespeople have pointed to their larger cash reserve of nearly $300 million, which has been collected ever since Trump was sworn into office. The Biden campaign has not yet released its updated cash-on-hand figure, though estimates have put it around $150 million.
—With files from the Associated Press and Reuters