Stepien’s disclosure means that the two heads of the president’s political apparatus have now infected the coronavirus: RNC chairman Ronna McDaniel announced earlier on Friday that she was also infected. The news comes at a dangerous time for Trump. Polls show he has lagged former Vice President Joe Biden in a number of battlefield states and dwindling days to make up for lost ground.
After White House adviser Hope Hicks tested positive on Thursday, senior members of the re-election campaign were self-tested. Each of the others, including Clark, tested negative.
Stepien traveled to and from Cleveland for Tuesday̵
With Trump in hospital at Walter Reed Hospital from Friday afternoon, his advisors are rushing to reconsider their plans for the last month of the campaign. They canceled plans for a Friday rally in Florida and postponed the Saturday rallies in Wisconsin. They also moved a west coast swing through Nevada and Arizona next week.
While the president has relied on personal rallies even during the pandemic, his inner circle has begun to delve into conducting virtual events. They also plan to rely on a variety of surrogates for in-person events, including Vice President Mike Pence, Trump sons Don Jr. and Eric, and the President’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump. Everyone has tested negative for Covid-19.
Trump’s diagnosis has put his management of the coronavirus at the forefront of the campaign, which he has been vigorously trying to avoid. And it affected his political operation: the previous Friday, Stepien sent a memo to staff saying that everyone “Anyone exposed to someone who tests positive should begin self-quarantine immediately. “
“While we don’t believe that anyone with no symptoms needs to self-quarantine at this point, we must all continue to use the smart judgment and practices that the campaign has long promoted,” he added, including wearing masks and washing hands.
Stepien is expected to hold separate conference calls with campaign staff and grassroots executives on Saturday. Pence is expected to join one of the calls.
Stepien was named campaign manager in July, replacing Brad Parscale. As the president’s polls got cratered, Stepien raced to impose discipline on the massive organization, press staff to increase their hours, and impress them with the idea that every day matters. He restructured the organization, conducted a budget review and increased the reach of campaign officials in battlefield states.
Prior to joining the campaign in late 2018, Stepien was Political Director of the White House and forged a close relationship with the President and a colleague from New Jersey, Jared Kushner. He oversaw the field efforts for Trump’s 2016 general election campaign.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager and former senior White House official, separately announced on Friday evening that she had contracted the virus.