Brad Parscale has been replaced by President Trump as his campaign manager. Parscale has been demoted to leading digital and data strategies as a senior campaign adviser, with Bill Stepien taking the position of campaign manager.
Parscale leaves at a point when Trump’s aggregate national polling average is 8.6 percentage points below Joe Biden’s and trending downward, usually already below Biden, in every battleground state according to the public poll records available at Real Clear Politics.
Stepien is a former campaign manager for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and was White House political director during the Trump Presidential transition. He’s also been the national political director for the John McCain campaign and served as a state political director for the George W. Bush re-election campaign. He’s racked up more than two decades of experience in state-level politics prior to taking this latest position, and enters the fray with a deep understanding of metrics and polling analysis.
He is also unlikely to be despondent. Stepien worked on the Trump 2016 Presidential campaign, where Trump consistently polled two to three points below Hillary Clinton nationally and experienced a 7.4 point gap as late as August 8 and spiked again to a 7.1 gap in mid-October. A discrepancy of 8.6 points will be seen as daunting, but not impossible.
As a targeted but unindicted co-conspirator in the “Bridgegate” scandal and a familiar face in the White House, Stepien is also unlikely to be unmoved by any unethical or illegal activity he encounters.
There remain two significant points working against Stepien’s success.
The first is Brad Parscale. Trump is believed to value loyalty above all other traits. This does not necessarily mean that he rewards loyalty, only that he demands it over competence, intellect, wisdom, decency or any other trait. Between insider leaks and attacks from people he’s betrayed, Trump has a diminishing group of people he considers loyal. Parscale, so far, remains within that circle, and so Trump is loathe to cut him free. Retaining a person who was in a position of leadership and expecting them to serve well as a subordinate is a difficult maneuver to achieve, and rarely is significant internal friction avoided…. friction will be damaging to a struggling campaign.
Second is Trump himself. It is widely believed that Trump is effectively his own campaign manager, demanding certain activities (like rallies) and retaining control over his messaging, most notably via Twitter. If Trump is unwilling to hand control to his campaign manager, the person who holds the slot lacks the ability to properly do his job.
Stepien is likely merely the newest face who will absorb the blame for Trump’s incompetence. He will likely earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, possibly more than a million, for doing so.