President Trump is replacing campaign manager Brad Parscale with veteran GOP operative Bill Stepien, as more and more polls show rival Joe Biden opening up a significant early lead in the race for the White House.
The move announced Wednesday night came days after an article in The Washington Post portrayed Parscale as self-promoting and aloof, noting that he featured prominently in an early Trump campaign ad -- and that staffers complained he often took calls by his swimming pool at home.
"I am pleased to announce that Bill Stepien has been promoted to the role of Trump Campaign Manager," Trump wrote on Facebook. "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."
Trump added: "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!"
Two top campaign officials clarified to Fox News that "there are not two campaign managers," and that Stepien will have total executive control.
A source within the campaign told Fox News late Wednesday that the announcement came as a surprise and that people were “shocked." A senior administration official, however, shot back: “They shouldn’t be. Had to happen.”
“This doesn’t surprise anyone who knows POTUS and how he wants his campaign run,” the official said.
A GOP operative close to the Trump campaign, meanwhile, told Fox News that “Bill [Stepien]'s MO is to keep under the radar and keep his head down and stay focused on the job. So if anything, all the attention he’s gotten probably makes him a little uncomfortable… he knows his role is to be the guy behind the guy.”
Contrasting Stepien with Parscale, the operative said: “I don’t think you’re going to see Bill Stepien going up on stage at a Trump rally and throwing out hats.”
Parscale ran Trump’s digital advertising in 2016 and was credited with helping bring about his surprise victory. Stepien has been in politics for years, working for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and serving as Trump’s national field director in 2016.
The shakeup follows a similar one less than a month ago, when Michael Glassner, organizer of the president’s rallies, was reassigned, and Jeff DeWit, who served as Arizona chairman of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, joined the 2020 staff as chief operating officer.
That change was in response to lower-than-expected crowd turnout at a rally in Tulsa, which embarrassed the president and put the campaign on the defensive. The Trump team noted that the rally attracted large numbers of television and online viewers, and that the coronavirus may have led many supporters to stay at home.
Nevertheless, the event raised questions as to whether enthusiasm for Trump's campaign has waned -- and polling data has fueled those concerns. A new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday -- which was conducted July 9-13 – shows Biden with 52 percent support among registered voters, with Trump at 37 percent support.
Biden’s lead is almost double the 8-point advantage he held in Quinnipiac’s previous survey, which was conducted in mid-June. And it tops 14-point leads Biden held over the president in CNN and New York Times/Siena College polls conducted last month.
The survey’s Wednesday release comes with less than four months to go until the November election. But Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy emphasized that while “there’s still 16 weeks until Election Day, ... this is a very unpleasant real time look at what the future could be for President Trump. There is no upside, no silver lining, no encouraging trend hidden somewhere in this survey for the president.”
The poll indicates Biden topping the president by a 59-35 percent on handling the pandemic, 57-38 percent on dealing with a crisis, and by a more than two-to one margin on addressing racial inequality.
The survey suggests the former vice president even edging Trump 50-45 percent on handling the economy, which has long be the president’s strongest issue.
The president’s overall approval rating stands at 36 percent, a drop of 6 points from Quinnipiac’s June poll. Trump’s approval on the economy was also underwater at 44-53 percent, and only 35 percent gave the president a thumbs up on the job he’s doing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden also shuffled his campaign team amid a disastrous stretch in his campaign, albeit much earlier in the cycle. For Biden, the moves marked genuine shakeups that expanded and changed how campaign operated.
Biden elevated Anita Dunn, effectively displacing his first campaign manager, Greg Schultz, after a fourth-place Iowa finish and after he was already headed for a second embarrassing finish in New Hampshire. Dunn had joined Biden at the outset of his campaign after having served President Barack Obama as a top communications adviser.
With Dunn’s urging, Biden hired his current campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, in March after Dunn and others helped resurrect Biden in Nevada and South Carolina and put him on the path to the nomination. Schultz is now at the Democratic National Committee, helping lead the joint battleground strategy among the national party, the Biden campaign and state parties.
Fox News' Kristen Fisher, Brooke Singman, Paul Steinhauser and The Associated Press contributed to this report.