Trump campaign, in strategy shift, makes push in early-voting states

US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

The Trump campaign is shifting its strategy to put more focus on early voting states, according to campaign officials — one of the most noticeable changes so far under new campaign manager Bill Stepien.

The campaign will start running fresh attack ads on Monday in key early voting states such as Michigan and North Carolina, said two Trump officials, with the assumption that more than half the ballots in 2020 will be cast before Election Day.

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“Votes start getting cast in a little over a month,” said a campaign official. “While the clock says 94, 95 days. This election is right on top of us.”

With Trump trailing in nearly every poll of battleground states this summer, the campaign has been searching for a reset. Trump announced earlier this month that he was replacing campaign manager Brad Parscale with Stepien, following several failed attempts to reverse his declining poll numbers.

Stepien, a longtime political operative with a more traditional focus on campaign operations than digital native Parscale, has emphasized to staffers that the race could be determined much sooner than the office countdown clock to Election Day indicates.

In some battleground states, such as Michigan and Minnesota, early voting starts as soon as September. There are 39 states that offer some form of early voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked one form of early voting, mail-in ballots, claiming it would lead to widespread election fraud, though there is no evidence to support his allegations. His campaign has sued several states to block voting by mail, and this week Trump suggested the date of the election should be moved to prevent widespread voting by mail.

The new ads that will start airing Monday are aimed at trying to define former vice president Joe Biden. In a tweet about the ads, Trump said Biden had been “brought even further LEFT than Crazy Bernie Sanders ever thought possible.”

“While many Americans might know Joe Biden’s name, they don’t know much about him,” said the campaign official, who declined to comment more on the content of the ads.

Trump’s campaign has virtually disappeared from the airwaves in recent days as it undertook a strategic review after the Parscale’s replacement with Stepien.

The president’s campaign spent virtually nothing on television or radio ads on Wednesday and Thursday, according to data from Advertising Analytics. Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s campaign spent $3.9 million over those two days, and has another almost $6 million booked through the end of August.

Since taking over, Stepien has added several additional staffers to the campaign’s leadership structure, including Justin Clark as deputy campaign manager, Nick Trainer as director of battleground strategy, and Matt Morgan as campaign counsel.

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