Brad Parscale, who was the manager of Trump’s digital operations in the 2016 campaign, has been tapped to head up Trump’s 2020 effort. And that makes sense. Because Pascal was able to put his finger on the way that Trump won in 2016 with a preciseness that no other member of the team was willing to confess.
Brad Parscale: I understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Twitter is how he talked to the people. Facebook was going to be how he won.
Lesley Stahl: And Facebook IS how he won.
Brad Parscale: I think so. I think Donald Trump won, but I think Facebook was the method — it was the highway in which his car drove on.
Parscale understood from the beginning that Facebook’s tools allowed a kind of surgical precision in ad delivery that television couldn’t begin to match. It proved to be a way to address voters in areas that might be far from any big rally or media center.
Brad Parscale: Yeah. So Facebook now lets you get to places and places possibly that you would never go with TV ads. Now, I can find, you know, 15 people in the Florida Panhandle that I would never buy a TV commercial for. And, we took opportunities that I think the other side didn’t.
Facebook is also, of course, how Russia delivered hundreds of thousands of ads targeted to voters in key states. How Russia pushed false stories from pop-up ‘news sites’ to voters in critical regions. How Russia remotely managed marches in the United States. And how they created groups designed to generate fear and anger by pretending to be African Americans, immigrants, or Muslims and supporting every stereotype the right attributes to those groups.
But one thing Parscale isn’t saying in his interview is that the purpose of the ads he was running, and the stories the Russians were pushing, often were not meant to get those 15 voters out of their houses and to the polls. In fact, it was just the opposite.
Instead of expanding the electorate, Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official.
Both Bannon and Parscale understood that there was only one real path to a Trump victory, and it was one in which digital operations played a critical role: convincing Democratic voters to stay home. All they needed was a message that would let them divide Democrats. One that would let them get Democrats engaged in fighting against each other, and diminish their enthusiasm for getting out the vote for Hillary Clinton.
But they didn’t have to find that message—because it was delivered to them on a platter.
Trump’s operation used a multi-pronged approach to keep Democrats fuming at home. First there was an effort to keep those voters who had supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries angry about the outcome and convinced that there had been foul play in the selection of Clinton. For this, the information provided by Russia played a key role. Emails stolen from the DNC and from Democratic operatives weren’t just waved in front of the press by Trump, they were released strategically, in batches designed to keep this message alive. The exchange of notes between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks demonstrates at least one avenue through which the Trump campaign was not just using the stolen material, but working with those who were disseminating it in a fashion designed to do maximum harm to Clinton.
WikiLeaks was also working closely with the Trump campaign through Parscale and through Cambridge Analytica.
Key members of President Donald Trump’s campaign team scrambled Wednesday to distance themselves from the data mining and analysis company Cambridge Analytica, whose CEO reportedly reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the presidential campaign to offer help in finding Hillary Clinton’s “missing” emails. …
But there was another, equally vital component that went beyond the barrage of Russia-sourced material meant to keep the Democratic Party divided.
Another key component was the effort to suppress the reliably Democratic African-American vote. For that, they employed an animation that featured a yapping cartoon Hillary and in large letters: “Hillary Thinks African Americans are Super Predators.”
The animation will be delivered to certain African American voters through Facebook “dark posts”—nonpublic posts whose viewership the campaign controls so that, as Parscale puts it, “only the people we want to see it, see it.” The aim is to depress Clinton’s vote total. “We know because we’ve modeled this,” says the official. “It will dramatically affect her ability to turn these people out.”
So thousands of black voters saw ads that white voters never glimpsed. In fact, it’s impossible to know how many different ads were sent to how many different groups for the purpose of generating hate, division, and the message to sit out the election.
Not only did Parscale have the use of Facebook’s detailed tools to allow the Trump ampaign to target specific voters, but there was another document that gave even more vital information, because included in the stolen documents were the DNC voter turnout models. Models which a GOP consultant was nice enough to point out to the Russians.
More impressed after studying the voter-turnout models, Mr. Nevins told the hacker, “Basically if this was a war, this is the map to where all the troops are deployed.”
At another point, he told the hacker, “This is probably worth millions of dollars.”
Armed with Facebook’s voter targeting tools and detailed information on where Democrats expected to collect votes, Parscale was empowered to drop ads right into the laps of the most critical voters in the nation. Not to bring them into the polls, but to keep them away.
At the center of all these efforts: Brad Parscale. No one now knows more about how to feed poison into the nation’s veins to do the maximum harm with minimum dollars. Who better to head up Trump’s eternal campaign?