Friday 23 March 2018

Digital guru leads Trump bid for re-election

At a White House luncheon, Melania Trump said children are the future and “they deserve a voice.” Photo: Reuters
At a White House luncheon, Melania Trump said children are the future and “they deserve a voice.” Photo: Reuters

Ben Riley-Smith

US President Donald Trump yesterday named Brad Parscale, a little-known digital guru credited with helping win him the White House, as campaign manager for his 2020 re-election bid.

Mr Parscale, a Texas-based web -expert, will lead "advanced planning" for the 2020 presidential vote and help with the 2018 midterm elections, according to the Trump campaign.

The decision to name a 42-year-old with limited political experience who lives 1,600 miles from Washington as the campaign's lead has raised eyebrows, but the bearded Mr Parscale's central role in the 2016 victory, his close ties to the Trump family and his first-hand knowledge of social media campaigning helps explain the choice.

Mr Parscale, a 6ft 8in former university basketball player, started working for the Trump organisation in 2011 when he was approached about creating a property website.

He went on to create the website for Mr Trump's presidential bid, taking an initial fee of $1,500 (€1,226) that would eventually become $94m (€77m) as Mr Parscale went on to lead the whole campaign's digital strategy.

By the end of that White House race, Mr Parscale, based in San Antonio, Texas, had 100 people reporting to him and oversaw the production of between 50,000 and 60,000 Facebook adverts every day.

His official campaign title was "digital director", but insiders reportedly said he effectively became a campaign manager, overseeing online campaigning and fundraising.

A BuzzFeed profile called Mr Parscale "the most influential Trump campaign adviser whose name you've never heard", while CBS News likened him to the "secret sauce, the magic wand person, the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain".

Mr Parscale has previously talked about how Mr Trump initially doubted the influence of "mumbo-jumbo digital stuff" but later came to see its importance.

His appointment suggests the US president will put social media at the heart of his re-election bid despite persistent controversy over Russia's online election meddling.

Mr Parscale has appeared fiercely loyal in interviews, telling 'The Texas Tribune' before the 2016 election: "Mr Trump has given me every opportunity in the world, and I would do anything I could to help him win.

"There is no rock I wouldn't turn over, and no time I wouldn't put in, to help him win."

Eric Trump, the president's middle son, said that Mr Parscale "has our family's complete trust and is the perfect person to be at the helm of the campaign".

In a separate development, Melania Trump cut ties with a key aide and close friend after it emerged that she had made millions from planning the presidential inauguration ceremony.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff had her contract with the first lady cancelled last week after records showed that her company had been paid $26m (€21m) to help plan Mr Trump's inauguration.

Ms Wolkoff (47) was Ms Trump's first hire in her new role and had been working as an unpaid senior adviser to the office of the first lady since Mr Trump's election.

Meanwhile, Ms Trump said she has been "heartened" to see children nationwide speaking out after the Florida shooting and trying to effect change.

She said that children are the future and "they deserve a voice".

At a White House luncheon, the first lady offered thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by "such a senseless act".

Students from the Florida school, who are preparing to return full-time to their classrooms today, founded a movement campaigning for gun control, which has seen them march on Washington DC.

Some even lay down on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to symbolise the dead and urge Mr Trump to limit access to firearms.

Mrs Trump said, as a parent, "I cannot imagine the kind of grief a tragedy like that brings" but she has learned as first lady that tragedy often reveals the "strength and resilience" of the human spirit.

During brief remarks at a luncheon in the White House for partners of the nation's governors, she said: "I have been heartened to see children across this country using their voices to speak out and try to create change.

"They are our future and they deserve a voice."

The first lady accompanied the president days after the February 14 shooting when he met victims and first responders.

They have an 11-year-old son, Barron.

Irish Independent

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