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Trump campaign switches North Carolina director amid controversy

The Trump campaign in North Carolina recently replaced the state director from Earl Phillip to Jason Simmons.

Jason Simmons, who worked as regional political director for the Romney campaign in 2012 and has also worked in the office of Gov. Pat McCrory, replaced Earl Phillip as North Carolina campaign director.

Jason Roberts, associate professor for the political science department at UNC, said in an email, “I do think Simmons has more experience running campaigns in N.C.”

Thomas Carsey, political science professor at UNC, said the Trump campaign is making these adjustments to change course and become more competitive.

“He’s not doing as well as he had hoped in the polls,” he said. “Campaigns that are succeeding rarely make changes; campaigns that are falling behind almost always do.”

Ferrel Guillory, professor at the School of Media and Journalism at UNC, said it is difficult to imagine Trump winning the presidency without winning the state of North Carolina.

“Obviously the Trump campaign felt that it needed to make some changes in a state Trump cannot afford to lose,” he said.

The change in North Carolina campaign leadership coincides with additional campaign changes made nationally, including naming Stephen K. Bannon, Breitbart News executive, as campaign CEO. He also named Kellyanne Conway, a Republican campaign strategist, as campaign manager.

“The shift in who’s running the Trump campaign in North Carolina parallels the shift in who’s running the Trump campaign nationally — and it’s another sign of the Trump campaign trying to catch up,” Guillory said.

The Republican candidate for president in 2012, Mitt Romney, narrowly beat out Barack Obama in North Carolina with a 50.4-48.4 margin, while the current Real Clear Politics Average has Hillary Clinton winning the state 42.5-39.5 over Trump in a four-way race.

The change also coincides with a lawsuit filed Aug. 10 against the Trump campaign and Phillip, the former state director. A former Donald Trump campaign staffer, Vincent Bordini, has accused the former director of pointing a gun at him inside a car in February.

“Clearly that’s not the kind of allegation you would want against one of your campaign staff members if you’re a candidate,” Carsey said. “It’s of course terrible if true, but distracting regardless of its truth.”

Conservative political strategist Carter Wrenn said changes are not unusual in campaigns such as Trump’s.

“Sometimes you get a campaign where you get the right people and they lock in and do a good job, and sometimes you have to change this and change that and keep working until you get the right team,” he said.


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