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Beset by pandemic, Trump plots new way to reach voters — through landline telephones

Francesca Chambers, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

The campaign did not make Stepien available for comment.

RNC Political Director Chris Carr said in an interview that while he had the "utmost respect" for Parscale, "who brought a lot of strength with his digital background" and built a great team, political staff see Stepien as "one of their own" and welcomed his suggestions on how to make the field program better.

Parscale drew praise from his colleagues for the ambitious data operation he built for the campaign. The data the campaign collected on voters under his leadership has proven particularly valuable in the campaign during the pandemic, they said.

But Parscale was seen as lacking the necessary experience of managing a field program for a presidential campaign, and his official residency was in Florida, which meant he was away from Washington throughout the pandemic.

The coronavirus exacerbated the situation for Parscale. One former administration official said that while he had a good personal relationship with the Trump family, "He would only basically come up when he was meeting with a member of the family in the office."

Parscale was fired as campaign manager several weeks after Trump's last and only rally this summer in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Prior to the rally, Parscale said that more than 1 million people had requested tickets for a 19,000-seat arena; about 6,200 people showed up for Trump's speech.

 

But that was just the latest problem. The president is said to have grown frustrated with the attention that Parscale's tweets were getting and articles detailing how firms Parscale owned were profiting off the Trump campaign and Republican political committees. An attack ad produced by the anti-Trump group The Lincoln Project against Parscale and news stories drawing awareness to Facebook advertisements funded by the campaign that promoted Parscale's personal page also angered people close to Trump.

Several sources said the frustrations over the Facebook ads were unfair, because the campaign also tested out the promotion on the personal page of another staff member, senior adviser Katrina Pierson.

Campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh disputed that Parscale was an absentee campaign manager, was inaccessible to his employees and had failed at implementing a strong ground game. Parscale is still employed by the campaign, Murtaugh noted.

"The president has decided that he wants Bill Stepien steering the ship, but Brad's still manning the digital guns," Murtaugh said. "Running this campaign is who Bill is, and the president obviously trusts him to bring this home."

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