US President Donald Trump’s long awaited campaign shake-up has rearranged some big job titles but has not affected its most influential figure – Jared Kushner.
Rarely seen in the campaign’s Washington headquarters, the senior adviser was fittingly absent when campaign manager Brad Parscale surrendered his title to one-time deputy Bill Stepien.
Facing strong electoral headwinds, it was the president who demoted Mr Parscale and elevated Mr Stepien.
Mr Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, is expected to remain the driving force behind a political operation built to respond to Mr Trump’s instincts and give him another four years in office.
But the president’s demotion of Mr Parscale indicates a willingness to shake things up as coronavirus blocks him from holding his trademark rallies and he faces polls showing him significantly trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Some Republican Party officials and outside allies have been encouraging Mr Trump to listen to a broader array of political advice.
That process began when he first elevated Mr Stepien to senior adviser and returned Jason Miller to the campaign last month.
Mr Parscale, for his part, was once the hand-picked choice of Mr Kushner but the president’s son-in-law was among those who have soured on him in recent weeks.
Despite the deficits, the Trump campaign began its new chapter with typical bravado on Thursday.
“We have a better team, better voter information, a better ground game, better fundraising, and most importantly, a better candidate with a better record,” Mr Stepien said.
“With 109 days left, our goal is clear – to win each day we have left until election day.”
Mr Kushner has long been the driving force behind the campaign, which some Republicans felt had failed in recent months to negatively define Mr Biden.
The former vice-president has risen in the polls as he largely stayed out of sight and as Mr Trump’s own political standing spirraled during a pandemic that has killed nearly 140,000 Americans and put tens of millions out of work.
Nevertheless, Mr Miller praised Mr Kushner’s role.
“Jared is a very important voice within President Trump’s orbit,” he said.
“In addition to being a very smart and creative thinker, he is someone who always has President Trump’s back and looks out for him, not only as someone who is president of the United States, but as someone who is family.”
Some Republicans are worried Mr Kushner is spread too thin, however, with a West Wing portfolio that includes coronavirus, immigration, reinventing government and, for good measure, the Middle East.
Mr Kushner originally hired Mr Parscale to run the 2016 campaign’s digital operation.
Rather than parting ways completely, Mr Parscale will remain involved in the campaign, in part because of the difficulty the campaign would face in rebuilding its digital advertising operation so close to the November 3 election.
The president had begun to sour on him earlier this year as Mr Parscale attracted media attention that included focus on his glitzy lifestyle on the Florida coast.
His fate was sealed last month when he hyped a million ticket requests for the president’s comeback rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that ended up drawing just 6,000 people.
A furious Mr Trump was left staring at a sea of empty seats.
Now, with just six weeks left before early voting begins in some states, polls show the president is trailing Mr Biden in battleground states across the map.