Donald Trump’s campaign officially launched in June 2019, although in truth every day of his presidency has had an eye on 3 November 2020. Brad Parscale was the campaign manager at first, although a disastrous rally at Tulsa in June 2020, when the touted audience of one million yielded a mere six thousand, proved fatal for him. He was kept on as a Senior Digital and Data Advisor to Trump which is a testament to his astute use of Facebook in 2016, with Politico recently reporting that the Trump campaign is this time around spending big on Google and YouTube. He stepped down from his post at the beginning of October after he was arrested by police in Fort Lauderdale following a dispute with his wife, Candice. He was subsequently submitted for psychiatric evaluation. Bill Stepien was Parscale’s replacement, another veteran of the 2016 campaign and a trusted figure in Trump’s White House. He was Director of Political Affairs for almost two years before Trump re-deployed him to focus on the 2020 election.
The key player – in the absence of any Steve Bannon-type figure – behind the Trump campaign, however, is doubtless son-in-law Jared Kushner. Married to fellow Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, Kushner is one of the few people Trump listens to. He is said to have acted immediately after the Tulsa fiasco by bringing in another 2016 campaigner Jeff DeWit as the new Chief Operating Officer. Family “loyalty” is important to Trump, and it is no surprise daughter-in-law Lara Trump is a Senior Advisor to the campaign.
Tim Murtaugh is the Director of Communications, but White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany is the one formulating the Trump message. She was brought into the White House from the re-election campaign where she has been a staunch defender of the President’s actions in the re-instigated daily press briefings. As a federal employee she does not play an official role in the campaign, yet an election campaign featuring an incumbent is little more than a referendum on the President, and McEnany is a crucial piece of the jigsaw for the Trump eulogy of the past four years.
The key player behind Trump is his son-in-law Jared Kushner – one of the few people he listens to
The Biden campaign is a very different animal. Where Trump was raring to get out to election rallies, Biden’s team has been carefully shielding him in his Delaware basement, seemingly happy to leave Trump’s campaign to unravel. Biden’s efforts on the campaign trail will have to be more pared down than a virus-free election, but this may suit his team who are carefully choreographing every last syllable, in contrast to the bombastic style of Trump.
Jennifer O’Malley Dillon was brought into the Biden team a week after Super Tuesday all but guaranteed Biden would receive the Democratic nomination. She previously worked with Biden on the 2012 Obama campaign, and led the charge for Beto O’Rourke for much of 2019. Greg Schultz was the man who was replaced at the top, and he now serves as a General Election Strategist and Senior Advisor. Schultz served as a senior advisor to Biden from late 2013 and was with the former Vice President from the start of his third attempt to reach the highest office in the land. Anita Dunn is another Senior Advisor to be aware of. Her Democratic credentials date back to President Jimmy Carter, with more recent experience in the Obama campaign and White House, and she is now a partner at strategic communications firm SKDKnickerbocker.
Kate Bedingfield is the campaign’s Communications Director. She is another Biden insider having worked for him in the last year of the Obama administration as his communications director. An essential part of Biden’s outreach will be in the digital sphere, for which Rob Flaherty is the key man, an experienced hand as deputy digital communications director from the Hillary for America campaign. Patrick Bonsignore (Director of Paid Media) is another important behind the scenes figure. Money really does talk in America, and he will be hoping to improve at galvanising support for Biden when compared to his identical role for Clinton four years ago.
Without doubt, though, spouse Dr Jill Biden is former VP Biden’s main force of nature on the campaign trail. You saw her at the virtual convention, huge ovation. She is in lockstep with the former VP on every decision and she is a powerhouse. Much more involved than Melania Trump, perhaps her closest parallel is Ivanka Trump, with competing visions of What Was and Hopes to Be and What Is and Will Be. Biden
It is not only strategists for whom elections are make or break. After a dismal performance in 2016, lots of attention is being paid to pollsters to see if their methodologies have been improved since 2016. Only time will tell, but psephologist Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com is an excellent resource for daily updates, forecasts, and polls of polls at state and national levels. Of equal repute and also worth visiting are Real Clear Politics (realclearpolitics.com) and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball (centerforpolitics.org/crystalball).
Pollsters currently give Biden a comfortable national lead, and tip him as favourite in the electoral college. But we heard this story with Hillary for America, and the race remains tight in key states like Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.