Speed Reads

and he's not the only one

Trump advisers dish that campaign manager Bill Stepien seems convinced they're not going to win

Dismal polls and poor debate performances are predictably not playing well within President Trump's campaign — but campaign manager Bill Stepien is reportedly not doing much to change that.

Stepien's weekly pep talks encourage staffers to look away from "perennially horrible public polls" and find ways they can "win the week," staffers tell Axios. But behind the scenes, Stepien seems "darkly pessimistic," discouraging other staffers who talk to him, they tell Axios.

Stepien is reportedly fond of comparing the campaign to a plane flying through turbulence, saying "It's our job to safely land the plane." To some staffers, that sounds like Stepien is "deeply, perhaps irretrievably pessimistic about the state of the race," Axios reports. "It's not a great feeling when you get the sense the campaign manager doesn't deep down think we're going to win," one campaign source said. But even some advisers who are "paid to believe" in Trump's victory tell Axios that Stepien is right.

But Stepien countered that characterization to Axios, saying "our campaign data presents a clear pathway to 270 for the president that provides me more confidence than ever in President Trump's re-election." Insiders say it's more like "several" optional paths to victory — something that's indicative of hope for some, and of indecision for others. Those critics say Stepien has been afraid to make decisions that could upset Trump, leading to "half-assed" ad buys and other weak steps to shore up a victory, sources tell Axios.