The GOP and the Trump campaign are running out of time — remember how in 2016 these months were crucial for turning the Trump campaign around, complete with the exit of Manafort, the arrival of Bannon, and all that mischief including Roger Stone.
Recent internal polls show Trump trailing Joe Biden in six swing states, a data point that augurs a landslide loss in November. “The swing state polls are horrific,” a prominent Republican briefed on the numbers told me. The White House’s COVID-19 outbreak is only the latest headline that reinforces the narrative that Trump can’t get control of the pandemic.
Seeking to change the trajectory of the race, Trump is now discussing a shake-up to his campaign leadership, three sources close to the White House told me. Two sources said Trump has told people he wants to install 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in a senior role. “Trump’s feeling is, ‘why are we losing everywhere?’ The president is sick of it,” another former West Wing official said.
Trump’s interest in Lewandowski has sparked conflict with Jared Kushner, two sources said. “There’s a battle over personnel,” a former West Wing official said. Kushner is strongly opposed to Lewandowski joining the campaign, sources said. Kushner led the effort to force out Lewandowski in 2016, and has since successfully kept Lewandowski on the outer edge of Trump’s orbit.
According to two sources, Kushner is trying to recruit Mike Pence’s former chief of staff Nick Ayers to take a senior campaign role. In 2018, Kushner recruited Ayers to replace John Kelly as Trump’s chief of staff. Ayers turned down the offer, and sources said he has no interest in joining the Trump campaign. One person close to Ayers told me he’s aligning himself with Nikki Haley to lead her potential 2024 campaign. “He views Haley as the right train to be on,” the source said.
According to a source briefed on the widely reported call, Parscale told Trump to blame the campaign’s struggle on Kushner. “Brad said, ‘Blame the people Jared brought in,’” the source said. (Parscale did not respond to a request for comment.)
As Trump debates who should lead his campaign, he’s also struggling to settle on a 2020 strategy.
- Some advisers are lobbying Trump to embrace the reopening. “They’re going to gamble on the economy and hope it works,” a former West Wing official said.
- But another camp is pushing the view that Trump should run on a blame-China message.
Trump tells me today he understands me better than I do myself… https://t.co/3yfOYy3kOu— Jordyn Phelps (@JordynPhelps) May 11, 2020