Nah, not really. I think Ed’s right that it was the debacle in Tulsa that sealed the deal, although Parscale may have been axed even if that rally had never taken place. Lately he’s been in the same position as a baseball manager whose team has dropped 10 games out of first place over the past month. It’s not his fault that his star player has been striking out every time he comes to the plate, but you can’t fire the player.
To shake things up, the skipper has to go.
Or rather, the nominal skipper. No one believes that Parscale was in charge of the campaign in any meaningful way.
“Jared Kushner was the campaign manager yesterday, is the campaign manager today and will be the campaign manager tomorrow. Brad (Parscale) took the bullet for Jared,” a source close to the White House tells me following Trump campaign shake-up.
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) July 16, 2020
A source told the Daily Beast that Parscale was effectively demoted weeks ago, with new campaign manager Bill Stepien and advisor Jason Miller taking the lead on strategy while Parscale shifted his focus to data, which is his wheelhouse. (“Difference [tonight] is that it’s now official in everyone’s titles.”) If so, that complicates the “reboot” narrative the White House is aiming for since the past few weeks under Stepien’s leadership haven’t produced any meaningful improvement in polling. The slugger’s still in a slump. Stepien can’t hit the ball for him:
Doug Deason, a Dallas investor and top Trump donor, said he had been anticipating the change for several days. “The need was there, the president recognized it, and pulled the trigger quickly,” he said.
Mr. Deason said he hoped Mr. Stepien would be able to better restrain Mr. Trump’s tweets by asking him to run them through a “fact checking team” before sending them. “I love most of his tweets, but some have been pretty far out there lately, and others make pointless attacks,” he said.
That’s not gonna happen, my man. I doubt Stepien will even try to ride herd on the president’s stream-of-consciousness. He might succeed for a week or two, just as John Kelly succeeded very early on as chief of staff in imposing discipline in the West Wing, but ultimately chaos will reign. Trump will always assert his will in the end.
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting tidbit, though, about when he began having doubts about his campaign-manager-turned-data-guy:
Two people involved in the campaign said the decision was inevitable. Mr. Parscale built his reputation on his data collection and lacked the deeper knowledge of running a national campaign. He also drew attention for his allocation of campaign resources and the income that he drew, affording him property and flashy cars, the people said.
Drawing some concerns from Mr. Trump was a May advertisement from the Lincoln Project, a bipartisan group working to defeat the president in November. The ad suggested that the campaign manager was getting rich off Mr. Trump. Mr. Parscale has denied the accusations.
Reporters have claimed for years that Trump resents when a deputy profits from their association, whether in terms of eclipsing him in media prestige (e.g., Steve Bannon) or in making bank (Parscale). What’s funny about the idea of the Lincoln Project ad getting under his skin is that that’s exactly what the LP intended to do. Some of their ads are pure psy ops aimed at irritating the president himself more so than moving voters. George Conway spoke openly about that to the Daily Beast not long ago, noting that Trump’s own campaign had taken to running ads in the deep-blue TV market of Washington, D.C. in the hope that the president himself would see them and be cheered by them. They spent good money for a morale booster for their audience of one. Well, thought Conway, if they’re willing to do that to build up Trump’s morale, we’re willing to do it to tear it down:
The Lincoln Project represents a limited constituency, given that President Trump has received exceedingly high approval numbers among Republicans in poll after poll. But the group and its D.C.-targeted messages have managed to get under the president’s skin. And according to George Conway, a Lincoln Project co-founder and the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, the group got the idea from the Trump campaign, and specifically from Brad Parscale, the former top Trump digital aide who now runs the president’s re-election effort.
“[H]is people had bought ads in the District of Columbia—which you don’t do in a presidential election! There are no persuadable voters in the District of Columbia,” Conway said in a May interview with The Daily Beast podcast The New Abnormal, co-hosted by his fellow Lincoln Project founder Rick Wilson.
“That stuck in my mind,” Conway recalled. “I was thinking, ‘Well, why can’t you just run an ad on the cable provider for the White House, so that some certain individual would see it?’”
I wonder if the group’s super-rich Democratic donors thought that was a good use of their money. Probably: When you hate Trump and have money to burn, a grand trolling of the president may be worth a few hundred thou. We already know from Trump’s own tweets that he’s keeping an eye on the Lincoln Project. What we didn’t know until today’s WSJ story is whether any shots they’ve taken at him have influenced his behavior. In light of Parscale’s demotion, the answer would appear to be yes.
We’re all inured to insane political developments by now but we should take a second for that. Drink in the idea of Kellyanne Conway’s husband, backed by megabucks liberals, running an attack ad against Trump’s campaign manager in the idle hope that it might sour the president on him — and having it work like a charm. If George Conway and Rick Wilson can swing a psy op as effectively as that, God only knows what, say, Chinese intelligence is capable of.
The LP should be careful what it wishes for, though. The Trump campaign under Parscale’s (nominal) management just had a disastrous six weeks. Now Stepien gets a crack at righting the ship. They ended up maneuvering POTUS into elevating a more competent aide.