President Trump shook up his campaign this week, naming former White House political director Bill Stepien as deputy campaign manager and elevating the campaign's political director for the Midwest, Stephanie Alexander, to campaign chief of staff.
Stepien "is viewed by Trump advisers as a competent tactician who can help the campaign appeal to alienated suburban voters," Gabriel Sherman reports at Vanity Fair, but his problem will be "that no amount of messaging or get-out-the-vote efforts can shade the reality that Trump's mishandling of the pandemic has plunged the country into a once-in-a-century economic crisis." Before the 2018 midterms, Sherman wrote, Stepien told him Americans "want to feel safe in the realm of national security, and they want to feel economically secure."
Trump is focused on the economic side of that equation, but at least 100,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus so far, and the rush to reopen public spaces without adequate testing or containment strategies makes a significant resurgence of the virus more likely in the fall. Trump is furious that COVID-19 has derailed what he viewed as his clear path to re-election, a Trump adviser told Sherman, paraphrasing Trump: "The intelligence community let me down!" The intelligence community warned Trump early and often about the coronavirus, according to several reports, and so did first lady Melania Trump, according to Sherman:
Even those closest to Trump have been privately worried the election is slipping away. According to a source, Melania Trump warned the president during their trip to India in February to take the virus response seriously. "He totally blew her off," the source said. Melania later told people that Trump "only hears what he wants to hear and surrounds himself with yes-people and family," the source added. [Vanity Fair]
Melania Trump's office did not respond when Vanity Fair asked for a comment. Read more at Vanity Fair.