On the menu today: President Trump demotes his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, which should dispel the persistent belief that all of the polls are wildly wrong and that Trump’s reelection effort is going fine; something really odd is going on with the Washington football team besides the name change; and the motivation of the Lincoln Project is not hard to discern.
Parscale Gets Demoted . . . Which Should End the ‘Trump Is Really Way Ahead’ Spin
Not long ago, I heard from a reader who had heard from a guy who had heard from a guy who shared what was allegedly the hush-hush inside scoop from one of the big political organizations attempting to swing the 2020 election. This assessment was wildly different from the conventional wisdom; so spectacularly different that you may wonder if the use of LSD was involved. Among the conclusions were that the Trump campaign had perfected the art of micro-targeting the remaining small percentage of undecided voters in swing states, that just about everything Trump said and did, was specifically designed to win over those voters — including his tweets — and that Trump was on course to win reelection in a massive landslide.
It will probably not surprise you that I was skeptical of this assessment. Who knows, maybe if you follow the thread of guys who heard from guys all the way back, it would lead back to the generous self-assessment of Brad Parscale, Trump campaign manager. Parscale was always something of an odd selection for the job of running the entire reelection campaign. His career had been in website development until Trump ran for president, and he had done more corporate work than political work. He was the digital director of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign; that was the only campaign he had ever worked on at any level. Some political observers gave Parscale a lot of credit for Trump’s win in 2016, but others contended he had just been in the right place at the right time.
This cycle, the Trump campaign made some odd decisions, such as spending $325,000 to promote Parscale’s social-media pages. Parscale declared that there had been more than 1 million requests for tickets to the Tulsa campaign rally. Even some Trump critics started to speculate that the president was being conned by his own campaign manager.
Yesterday, Trump announced that Bill Stepien, a longtime aide, would be his new reelection campaign manager and that his outgoing campaign manager, Parscale, would remain a senior adviser to the campaign focused on digital and data strategies.
I think we can take this as affirmation that the Trump campaign does not believe that it is on track to win in a landslide, and that all of the public polling is wildly wrong.
Are there “secret Trump voters” out there, Americans who are certain to vote for him but unwilling to say so to a pollster? Sure. I don’t know how many there are, and what percentage of the electorate they are. If they’re not close to ten percent, Trump’s in deep trouble. The available polling shows Trump down by a lot in states he won last time around — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida. When you say this, Trump supporters scoff that their man won states he was trailing last time, which is true — but he didn’t jump ten points on Election Day. Pollsters have attempted to correct their errors in sampling from the 2016 cycle. It’s worth noting that Nate Silver crunched the numbers and concluded, “the 2017-19 cycle was one of the most accurate on record for polling.”
Beyond that, it’s extremely easy to envision a political environment where everyone outside of Trump’s MAGA-hat wearing loyal supporters are just tired of this presidency. The economy took an unprecedented hit, and while there’s been some rebound, there’s a long way to go. The pandemic is still going on, worsening, and the White House seems much more interested in trying to trash Anthony Fauci behind the scenes than listen to his assessments. At the southern border, 235 miles of security fencing have been built or replaced in nearly four years, which sounds like a lot . . . until you realize this is a 1,933-mile border.
The president can’t articulate why he deserves a second term, blurted out a promise of a “road to citizenship” to DACA recipients, and appears to be in a deep funk of self-pity, complaining to anyone who will listen how unfair everyone is to him.
This presidency has accomplishments, but they’re on issues that aren’t at the forefront of Americans’ minds right now. It’s a better and safer world with the Islamic State smashed to pieces and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Qasem Soleimani six feet under. Conservatives will cheer Trump’s judicial selections, even if some recent decisions at the Supreme Court will frustrate them. Criminal-justice reform was the right policy, even if it didn’t solve every problem in the system. Right to Try legislation offered new hope to lots of Americans struggling with serious diseases.
The president doesn’t talk about these things much — in part because he’s almost always much more interested in what he saw on cable news recently.
The Other Big Mystery in Washington
Something really odd is going on in the Washington, D.C., sports world — and it’s not the retirement of the Redskins name, although it may relate to that development in some way.
A lot of reporters who cover the NFL and the Redskins in particular have written cryptic tweets in the past few days, hinting some “disappointing and sad” news will be emerging shortly, reflecting a “warped and toxic culture” in the organization. What’s really odd is that none of these reporters are saying what it is. Apparently, they know, but don’t want to scoop whoever has done the legwork and is going to break the story.
In the past few days, the football team formerly known as the Redskins fired the top two employees in their pro scouting department, with no additional comment. In a development that may or may not be related, the team’s longtime play-by-play radio announcer and team employee suddenly announced his retirement — and the team had no comment on that departure, either.
I have no idea what this unmentioned scandal is. But I am reminded of the creepy 2018 story about the Redskins organization taking their cheerleaders to Costa Rica in 2013 for a photo shoot and taking their passports from them upon arrival. At the time, I noted with surprise that the New York Times broke that story and not any Washington-based news organization. For those of you outside the nation’s capital, it is hard to overstate the obsessive coverage on the Redskins in Washington’s print, television, and radio media.
If there’s some horrific scandal in the Redskins organization that’s about to break . . . maybe Daniel Snyder’s decision on changing the team’s name was intended to create a distraction or generate goodwill before the you-know-what hits the fan?
The Lincoln Project: an Ingenious Way to Get Liberal Donors to Finance GOP Strategist Retirement Funds
David Harsanyi: “If you target moderates like Susan Collins and Cory Gardner — politicians who not only parted with Trump on issues but have quite un-Trumpian dispositions — you’re not working against Trumpism, you’re working against the GOP.”
I would note that most of the political consultants who make up the Lincoln Project have all been in the game for a long time. Even before the formation of the Lincoln Project, future Republican campaigns were likely to be wary of hiring outspoken anti-Trump consultants; why give any of your primary opponents a stick to hit you with? (And if you don’t think a campaign consultant’s views can become an issue in a GOP primary, think back to Scott Walker and Liz Mair.) GOP campaign consultants who reinvented themselves as anti-Trump cable-news talking heads were making a permanent transition; those bridges burned pretty brightly over the past few years.
Whether or not Trump wins reelection, future Republican campaigns are unlikely to be clamoring for the services of these outspoken anti-Trump voices. And if Trump loses in November 2020, every anti-Trump former GOP strategist will become just another talking head. With Trump off the stage, what makes them unique or interesting?
If you’re an ex-GOP consultant, getting up there in years and eyeing retirement . . . why not make one last big effort to extract as much money from the Democratic grassroots as possible?
ADDENDUM: Unsurprisingly, the GOP convention in Jacksonville is getting scaled back:
Admittance will be limited to only regular delegates for the first three days of the convention — or about 2,500 people. For the final day, when the president attends, delegates will get a guest, and alternate delegates can also attend — or 6,000 to 7,000 people.