Top staff at Donald Trump's re-election campaign, including campaign manager Brad Parscale and White House campaign lead Jared Kushner — also the president's son-in-law — appear to be in the president's crosshairs following Saturday's ill-attended "comeback" rally in Tulsa, Okla.
Trump was left visibly shaken after less than 6,200 people showed up to watch him speak at the 19,000-seat BOK arena.
"Brad really sh*t the bed Saturday night," one Republican source told Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman. "You have to remember: Execution is 95% of presidential politics."
Parscale, a web developer from San Antonio with no political experience prior to helming digital operations for Trump's 2016 bid, over-hyped the rally on social media with boasts of 1 million RSVPs and a massive "data haul."
It was subsequently widely reported that a good chunk of those registrations — and their data — were fake, the product of a clandestine sting by users on the social media platform TikTok and fans of South Korean pop music (K-pop) conceived by a 51-year-old grandmother from Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Parscale pinned the blame on protesters and the press in a statement posted to the campaign's website.
"The fact is that a week's worth of the fake news media warning people away from the rally because of COVID and protestors, coupled with recent images of American cities on fire, had a real impact on people bringing their families and children to the rally," he wrote.
"Shocked" at the number of empty seats, The New York Times reported soon after the rally that Trump appeared to have temporarily relieved Parscale of hands-on command, passing the reins, for the time being, to Kushner.
Sherman on Monday reported that the empty sections in the arena so enraged Trump that he threatened not to go onstage. Parscale, the report said, had plans to step down.
"He knows he can't survive," Sherman reported.
However, senior campaign adviser Jason Miller told Sherman that Parscale was safe.
"Brad is the campaign manager, and he's the one in charge," Miller said.
Trump, however, is also considering whether to reduce Kushner's campaign role, sources told Vanity Fair. The president has reportedly grown increasingly frustrated at polls, which in recent weeks consistently show him trailing his presumptive Democratic opponent Joe Biden by double-digits.
However, Kushner — who married Trump's eldest daughter, Ivanka, and is the father of three of his grandchildren — seems uniquely inoculated to the president's famously tempestuous temper. In an interview which aired the day after the rally, former national security adviser John Bolton said Kushner was the most powerful person in the White House aside from Trump himself.
"It varied from time to time," Bolton said. "The sustained answer to that question . . . is Jared Kushner."
Sherman reported that Trump was mulling a number of replacements for Parscale, including Miller, as well as Corey Lewandowski, who has not gotten along with Kushner in the past.
However, Trump may view the top candidates as lightweights.
"Corey was great when it was just Trump and an airplane. But let's face it: He couldn't manage a 7-Eleven," one person close to Trump told Sherman. "The serious operation will be run by serious people."
In recent weeks, reports have put veteran election strategist Karl Rove with Trump in the White House. Rove's first visit was reportedly brokered by longtime friend Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who fears the divisive tone of Trump's campaigm could cost Republicans control of the Senate.
During the 2016 campaign, Rove reportedly called Trump a "complete idiot." The future president returned the burn by calling Rove a "dope" and a "dummy." The force that united them? Trump's disappointment with Parscale.