Donald Trump's campaign is shaking up its team in must-win Florida, where the race appears neck-and-neck despite Hillary Clinton mounting a much more robust voter mobilization effort and the Trump campaign often butting heads with other Republican groups in the state.
Susie Wiles, a lobbyist and veteran political consultant who ran Rick Scott's first gubernatorial campaign in 2010 and had recently been handling communications from New York, has been shifted to oversee Trump's Florida campaign. She replaces Karen Giorno, who had been leading the Florida team since before he won the primary in March but is now moving to New York to be chairman of the Donald Trump Coalitions, overseeing outreach to groups including women, veterans and evangelicals.
The Trump campaign cast the sudden staff changes as a promotion for Giorno, who is fiercely loyal to the Republican nominee and is said to be a favorite of his. But the hard-charging Giorno also has had an antagonistic relationship with other key players working to deliver Florida's 29 electoral votes to the GOP, including the Republican National Committee, Florida GOP and Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate campaign. Trump's Florida campaign just started opening field offices this week, a month before voting by mail starts and more than a month after the campaign said it would. The Clinton campaign has 51 offices.
Wiles, who last year agreed to serve as Trump's Florida co-chairman, had expected as recently as last week to spend much of the next two months working out of Trump Tower focused on the campaign's communications in battleground states. Instead, she will be in Florida, which Trump needs to win to be the next president.
"Florida is my home. It's full of people that are very enthused about Donald Trump and the Republican ticket, and I'm honored to be leading a team that's been doing good work for over a year," she said.
Giorno said in a statement emailed from the campaign, "I'm excited to be Mr. Trump's chairman of coalitions, and being based in the New York City campaign headquarters. From this position I can better serve Mr. Trump by organizing my national contacts and expertise to ensure we mobilize these crucial voting blocs. This is a great honor."
Wiles, a lobbyist with Ballard Partners, said she is not especially concerned about Clinton's enormous advantage in field offices, given the grass roots energy for Trump, who is scheduled to campaign in Pensacola on Friday.
"My first goal is to work with the RNC to get as many offices open as we need," she said.
A Sept. 4-6 automated poll of likely Florida voters by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found Trump leading Clinton 44 percent to 43 percent, within the poll's margin of error. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson had 5 percent support and Green Party candidate Jill Stein and independent candidate Evan McMullin were each at 1 percent.
Contact Adam C. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @adamsmithtimes.