Who is Brad Parscale?
Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency brought with it a host of new household names. Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon — to name just a few.
But not Brad Parscale, who flew under the radar throughout most of 2016 as the Trump campaign’s digital advertising and data guru. That relative anonymity began to unfurl on Tuesday with the announcement that Parscale will helm Trump’s 2020 re-election bid as campaign manager, but his appointment was little surprise to Trump campaign veterans and insiders.
Even Parscale’s title in 2016 as the campaign’s digital director undersold his influence within the organization and his impact on Trump’s stunning electoral victory.
Officially hired in June 2016, Parscale helmed the Trump campaign’s data analytics team. That operation came to dictate nearly every move the campaign made in the final months to Election Day, from Trump’s travel schedule to the campaign’s allocation of human and financial resources in key battleground states.
“Brad had a pretty complex understanding of how to look at numbers and data in real time and then be able to allocate resources based on what he was seeing real time,” a former senior Trump campaign official said.
In the final weeks, that meant moving resources into states like Michigan and Wisconsin that were expected to go blue in 2016 but ended up proving crucial to Trump’s upset victory.
“I was, like, ‘we can go in and get this,’ and I changed all the budgets around,” Parscale told CBS’s “60 Minutes” last year. “I took every nickel and dime I could out of anywhere else. And I moved it to Michigan and Wisconsin. And I started buying advertising, digital, TV.”
Beyond Trump’s travel to those states that left pundits scratching their heads in the weeks before the election, most of those moves — and the rationale behind them — remained out of the public eye.
Parscale did not immediately return a CNN request for comment.
The digital director worked directly under Jared Kushner, who was the final arbiter on many key campaign decisions despite not holding a formal title in his father-in-law’s campaign. Some within the campaign maintained that Kushner was the true campaign manager and Parscale his deputy.
While Kushner’s status inside the White House, where he serves as a senior adviser, has come under question amid uncertainty over his security clearance, the President’s pick of Parscale to helm the campaign makes clear Kushner remains a hugely influential voice.
“Brad was essential in bringing a disciplined technology and data-driven approach to how the 2016 campaign was run,” Kushner said in a statement provided by the Trump campaign. “His leadership and expertise will be (sic) help build a best-in-class campaign.”
Parscale’s role at the helm of the Trump campaign’s data analytics operation has also drawn the scrutiny of those investigating Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and allegations of collusion. The Trump campaign’s data analytics operation is being looked at by special counsel Robert Mueller, CNN reported in May 2017.
Parscale has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the Russian operation to influence the 2016 campaign in favor of Trump and against Hillary Clinton, and says he told the House Intelligence Committee last year as much when he appeared for an interview behind closed doors.
Parscale has also denied any knowledge of Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix’s attempts to reach WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign, while the firm was contracted by the Trump campaign and working closely with Parscale.
Parscale has remained an active force in Trumpworld since the campaign ended, taking on a key role with America First policies, a pro-Trump political organization. Parscale’s Florida-based firm, Parscale Strategy, has a contract with the Republican National Committee to, among other things, help grow its data base of small donors.
Parscale had never worked in politics before joining the Trump campaign in 2015. He knew the candidate and his family from working for the Trump Organization for several years designing websites and helping develop digital strategy for Trump businesses.
While Parscale developed a strong relationship with Trump, the data guru’s intense spending on digital media did not always sit well with the candidate. During the campaign, Trump angrily questioned Parscale about how he was spending campaign cash.
“I don’t believe in this mumbo-jumbo digital stuff,” Parscale recalled Trump screaming at him during the campaign.
“Trump’s just laying into me. I was crushed actually. It was the first time he had ever, just– I hadn’t even seen him yell at anyone, let alone me,” Parscale said in the “60 Minutes” interview.
That changed after Trump’s upset victory — one few in the President’s orbit saw coming — and Parscale said Trump “thanked me after the election, told me I did a great job.”