Donald Trump’s campaign shake-up does not address key shortcomings against Joe Biden
Campaign manager Brad Parscale demoted as polling shows US president trails Democrat opponent in major swing states
The demotion of US President Donald Trump’s campaign chief Brad Parscale came as no shock to election observers, but it did surprise the departing manager, who was reportedly “unaware” until hours before the announcement on Wednesday night.
Mr Parscale was replaced with recently appointed deputy and long-time Republican political operator Bill Stepien 111 days before the vote.
It was a similar situation to the 2016 shake-up when Mr Trump brought in Steve Bannon as campaign manager 88 days before the vote.
But unlike Mr Bannon, whose strategy helped him to win that year, Mr Stepien is unlikely to bring major changes to the campaign and the incumbent is running on his own record against a more likable Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
The new manager, who is close to the president’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, became deputy in May.
Efforts since then to define Mr Biden and to rein in Mr Trump’s tweets have failed.
A Quinnipac poll released this week showed Mr Biden pulling ahead by 15 points on Mr Trump.
The race could narrow in the three and a half months left, but the Democrat has gained seven points on his rival since June.
While Mr Parscale’s demotion could bring tactical shifts in the strategy of attacking Mr Biden, it also appears to be tied to Mr Trump’s frustration with his former campaign manager.
Stories questioning Mr Parscale’s wealth and ties to a San Antonio company that received a $780,680 loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Programme, according to Mother Jones, became a distraction for the campaign.
The New York Times reported last month that Mr Trump berated and yelled at his former campaign chief because of the polling numbers.
But in successive polls it has been the economy, spread of Covid-19, race relations and leadership style that are shrinking his numbers, not campaign tactics.
Mr Stepien could bring a more conventional edge to the campaign, having been national director for John McCain's 2008 presidential bid and the New Hampshire political director for former president George W Bush in 2004.
This could mean more aggressive attacks against Mr Biden or his running mate, and more co-ordination with the Republican National Committee.
So far, Mr Biden is proving to be a more resilient candidate than the Trump campaign anticipated.
Attacks tying him to China and those questioning his cognitive ability have not had lasting effects on voters.
But the attacks could shift to his deputy, with Mr Biden pledging to pick a woman as candidate for vice president before his party’s convention on August 17.
Options who are being vetted include senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth, former national security adviser Susan Rice, and congresswomen Karen Bass and Val Demings.
Whoever wins could be more susceptible to Trump campaign attacks than Mr Biden, who has been in the public eye for five decades.
The US President is also hoping for faster recovery in economic numbers, and a slowdown in Covid-19 cases between now and November 3.
Both look difficult as more than 3.5 million people have been infected in the US and the death toll is approaching 138,000.
Updated: July 17, 2020 12:38 AM