THE MAN BE­HIND TRUMP 2020

How Brad Parscale shapes the U.S. pres­i­dent’s com­bat­ive pol­i­tics and the elec­tion cam­paign

Vancouver Sun - - WEEKEND REVIEW - MICHAEL KRANISH

Brad Parscale was rid­ing WASH­ING­TON on Air Force One a week be­fore the midterm elec­tions when his boss, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, had an idea about how to close out a cam­paign sea­son that had al­ready been laced with fear. The pres­i­dent wanted an ad de­pict­ing a mi­grant car­a­van and an im­mi­grant who had killed law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, ac­cord­ing to a per­son present.

Parscale, the man­ager of Trump’s 2020 re­elec­tion cam­paign, went to work, fine-tun­ing the script and video.

The next day in the Oval Of­fice, he pulled out his iPad and showed the pres­i­dent the spot: an omi­nous com­mer­cial fea­tur­ing crowds of migrants spilling across roads and a twice-de­ported im­mi­grant from Mex­ico boast­ing about killing two Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cers.

Trump loved it, ac­cord­ing to a per­son at the meet­ing, and Parscale signed off on a $1.5 mil­lion na­tional ad cam­paign.

Af­ter the ad was re­jected by CNN as “racist” and pulled from other tele­vi­sion net­works and Face­book, Parscale lashed out, tweet­ing, “The #Fak­e­News­Me­dia and #PaloAl­toMafia are try­ing to con­trol what you see and how you think.”

Such loy­alty has earned Parscale a rare spot in the pres­i­dent’s small in­ner cir­cle, ris­ing in promi­nence as one­time con­fi­dants such as Trump’s per­sonal at­tor­ney Michael Co­hen have fallen away.

The episode re­flects the cu­ri­ous rise of the 42-year-old Parscale, who met Trump by sell­ing dis­counted web­site ser­vices to the fam­ily busi­ness, served as dig­i­tal strate­gist on his 2016 cam­paign and now is the prime mover of Trump’s com­bat­ive and racially charged brand of pol­i­tics.

As the pres­i­dent has es­ca­lated his at­tacks on im­mi­grants — an ap­proach he is likely to carry into the 2020 race — Parscale has am­pli­fied them with gusto, pro­duc­ing in­flam­ma­tory ads and us­ing his own Twit­ter feed to echo the pres­i­dent’s mes­sages.

One week this fall, Parscale said, he spent 60 hours with the pres­i­dent at ral­lies and on Air Force One. The two dis­cussed po­lit­i­cal strat­egy and polls, bonded over their shared pas­sion of foot­ball and watched lots of tele­vi­sion — from Fox News to CNN to the cov­er­age of Tiger Woods’ vic­tory in a golf tour­na­ment.

“Brad is uniquely qual­i­fied in that he has the full faith of the fam­ily, which is some­thing I’ve rarely seen in Trump world since I’ve been part of it,” said Katie Walsh, who worked closely with Parscale as chief of staff for the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee and White House deputy chief of staff. “There is no day­light be­tween the pres­i­dent and Brad Parscale.”

Parscale has used his prox­im­ity to help shape the pres­i­dent’s dark tone as he cam­paigned for Re­pub­li­cans this fall. Among his in­flu­ences: he per­suaded Trump to adopt the more omi­nous-sound­ing “il­le­gal aliens” in place of “il­le­gal im­mi­grants,” ac­cord­ing to two cam­paign of­fi­cials.

White House of­fi­cials did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Parscale dismisses charges that he’s play­ing off racial fears. He said the mi­grant ad used “real footage of peo­ple try­ing to en­ter the United States il­le­gally” and re­flected the con­cerns of most Amer­i­cans.

“Since Pres­i­dent Trump has as­sumed of­fice, I have learned a great deal about the prob­lems on our bor­ders,” Parscale said.

Parscale is also us­ing his in­flu­ence to go af­ter the very plat­forms that he cred­its with help­ing Trump win in 2016. For months, he has been pub­licly ac­cus­ing Face­book and other so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies of seek­ing to ban pro-Trump voices, a charge the firms deny.

His flame-throw­ing ap­proach has alarmed some Re­pub­li­cans, who worry his mes­sage will alien­ate moder­ate vot­ers Trump will need in 2020, and sur­prised long­time friends, who don’t re­mem­ber him be­ing par­tic­u­larly driven by pol­i­tics or ide­ol­ogy.

Quintin Ma­son, who played bas­ket­ball with Parscale at Trin­ity Univer­sity in San An­to­nio and has re­mained a close friend, said he re­mem­bers Parscale used to de­scribe him­self as a lib­er­tar­ian. Ma­son, who is African-Amer­i­can, said that when he bought a house in 2007 in San An­to­nio, van­dals painted the “N-word” on his front door and garage. Parscale came to the house and painted over the mes­sage.

“Brad is the op­po­site of what we de­fine as a white su­prem­a­cist racist,” Ma­son said. “He was just as up­set about what hap­pened to my house as I was.

“It’s kind of weird to see that my friend is cam­paign man­ager for Don­ald Trump,” added Ma­son, a Demo­crat, who said he views Trump as “dan­ger­ous.”

Sit­ting in a win­dow­less base­ment of­fice of the RNC build­ing on Capi­tol Hill last month, Parscale was un­apolo­getic in dis­miss­ing the ves­tiges of the party his boss turned up­side down.

“I’m here be­cause I love his fam­ily and I wouldn’t have the life I have with­out him,” Parscale said dur­ing a two-hour in­ter­view.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Brad Parscale, right, re­elec­tion cam­paign man­ager for U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, speaks with sup­port­ers at a cam­paign rally, in Es­tero, Florida, in Oc­to­ber.

KEVIN DIETSCH-POOL/GETTY IMAGES

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump spent a lot of time with 2020 cam­paign man­ager Brad Parscale aboard Air Force One dur­ing the midterm cam­paign. Parscale is viewed as a trusted fam­ily re­tainer.

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