Bill Stepien is President Donald Trump’s newest campaign manager, and he will be working closely with Brad Parscale, Trump’s former campaign manager, who will now be the campaign’s senior adviser, according to an announcement Trump made on Facebook.
Stepien was Trump’s deputy campaign manager before this promotion and he is credited with helping Trump in his 2016 presidential victory. Stepien has a history of aiding a number of high-profile candidates, and he is also much lower profile than Parscale has been, which Trump likes, according to the New York Times.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Stepien Has Handled the Campaigns of Multiple High-Profile Candidates
Stepien began his career by helping Anthony R. Bucco get elected to the state senate in 1997, NJ.com reported. He also worked on a 2000 campaign for Bob Frank’s senate candidacy, which failed. In 2003, Stepien helped guide Bill Baroni’s campaign to a seat in the state assembly. He was also the New Hampshire director of operations for former President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004.
He was also the field director for Rudy Guiliani and John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaigns. Before working for Trump, he had joined Chris Christie’s cabinet as a top adviser when Christie was the governor of New Jersey, Politico reported.
2. Stepien Was Implicated in Christie’s ‘Bridgegate’ Scandal
In his role with Christie, Stepien became well-known for helping Christie through “Bridgegate”, a scandal which it was alleged that Christie closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge in 2013 for political revenge.
Politico reported that David Wildstein, the mastermind who caused traffic jams according to transcripts from a criminal trial, said that Stepien knew about his plan before it was implemented. “Mr. Stepien asked about what story we were going to use, and I told Mr. Stepien we were going to use the cover of a traffic study,” Wildstein said. In that transcript, Stepien’s name came up nearly 700 times.
However, Stepien has vehemently denied any such knowledge or involvement. “Bill Stepien was not involved in the origination, the planning, the execution, the concealment of the lane closures. … And Mr. Stepien never lied to anyone about anything,” Stepien’s attorney Kevin Marino said in a statement, according to Business Insider.
3. Stepien Was Ousted Before He Could Join the Republican Governor’s Association
Who is Bill Stepien, you ask? He's the guy Trump will blame on Nov. 4th for his historic loss. pic.twitter.com/yxoqx9vrWw
— Eric Davies (@edavies) July 16, 2020
Before Stepien’s potential involvement in Bridgegate, Stepien was slated to join the Republican Governors Association.
RGA Executive Director Phil Cox noted Stepien’s success in Democratic states, saying in a statement, “With 36 governors’ races in 2014, Bill’s expertise and leadership will be critical to our efforts.”
However, after Bridgegate, Christie made an announcement, in which he said, “I was disturbed by the tone and behavior and attitude, callous indifference, that was displayed in emails by my former campaign manager,” according to The Observer. Stepien’s ascent to the association was pulled.
4. Stepien First Joined Trump’s Campaign in August of 2016
Stepien was a national field director for Trump’s 2016 campaign. A report in Politico credits Jared Kushner with bringing Stepien into the Trump campaign.
According to Courthouse News, Stepien was instrumental in helping Trump win the states of Michigan and Wisconsin, “part of the so-called Blue Wall that some say Hillary Clinton had taken for granted.”
In May of this year, Trump had already promoted Stepien from White House political director to deputy campaign manager. Before that, Stepien had accurately predicted the “blue wave” of the 2018 midterms – while also noting that Trump’s support is what saved the Republican Congressional candidates who kept their seats – according to another Politico piece.
According to the Washington Times, Stepien has bashed polls that have shown Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by a significant margin. He reportedly sent a memo stating that Biden’s candidacy “has a decided lack of enthusiastic support as compared to President Trump,” adding that media-sponsored polls are unreliable, saying that they are “based on cheaper, inferior methods and should rightly be viewed as flawed and non-predictive.”
5. Stepien Will Take On the Role Of Campaign Manager 111 Days From the Election
Notable distinction with Parscale that's different from previous shakeups – the Trump family, some of whom are close to Parscale, asked him to stay on. https://t.co/UmmpPry3D3
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) July 16, 2020
Political analysts speculate that the campaign shake-up comes after approval ratings for Trump have dipped incredibly low and news has arrived of a surge in coronavirus cases during a pandemic that has killed more than 135,000 Americans.
According to the New York Times, in recent months, Trump has brought back communications and political strategist Jason Miller and former campaign staff Hope Hicks and Susie Wiles to improve his outlook. Times reporter Maggie Haberman reported that Kushner strongly advised that Trump replace Parscale.
However, polling suggests that Stepien will be facing an uphill battle with Trump as an incumbent candidate compared to his opponent Joe Biden.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll released July 15, Trump trails Biden by 15 percentage points in registered voters’ preference. Quinnipiac Polling Analyst Tim Malloy said, “Yes, there’s still 16 weeks until Election Day, but 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.”
Biden led in double digits on handling a crisis, health care, coronavirus response and racial inequality; two-thirds said they considered him dishonest, 63% said he did not have good leadership skills and a 61% majority said they do not believe Trump cares about average Americans.