IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Staff Shake-Ups Usually Spell Trouble for Presidential Campaigns

But, as evidenced by the list of (mostly) losing campaigns below, it’s clear that a major staff upheaval is usually a troubling sign.
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump on June 20, 2016 shook up his White House bid as he looks to a November showdown with Hillary Clinton, letting go his controversial campaign manager. Corey Lewandowski -- who had led the real estate mogul's campaign from the start and was credited with Trump's initial breakthrough in the primaries -- has recently been sidelined, with more experienced political operatives taking over in the run-up to November 8. Lewandowski courted controversy earlier this year over a March run-in with a reporter at a Trump rally. She accused him of roughly grabbing her, leaving bruises, but he denied that account. Florida prosecutors opted to drop all charges. / AFP PHOTO / RHONA WISERHONA WISE/AFP/Getty ImagesRHONA WISE / AFP - Getty Images

Campaign shake-ups like the one Donald Trump orchestrated on Monday aren’t all that uncommon for presidential candidates in recent history. Ousting a campaign manager, like Trump did to Corey Lewandowski can be seen as a way to help soothe the fears of anxious donors and supporters when things aren’t going well.

But, as evidenced by the list of (mostly) losing campaigns below, it’s clear that a major staff upheaval is usually a troubling sign.

Here are some of the more notable staff shakeups in modern presidential campaigns:

Hillary Clinton (2008): The then-New York Senator replaced campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle with aide Maggie Williams during the Democratic primary in February after Barack Obama swept three Democratic contests. Clinton ended her first presidential run four months later and eight years later is the presumptive Democratic nominee.

John McCain (2008): The Arizona senator fired his campaign manager and chief strategist the summer before the nominating contests even began. The problems, an adviser told MSNBC at the time, had to do with poor fundraising and mixed messaging. McCain did go on to win the 2008 GOP primary after campaign manager Terry Nelson and strategist John Weaver’s exit. But he ultimately lost the general election to Obama.

John Kerry (2004): Then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry had a few significant personnel changes during his presidential run. In November 2003, Kerry found himself beating back an unlikely challenge from Howard Dean ahead of the New Hampshire primary. Kerry was able to win in New Hampshire and take the Democratic nomination. Kerry made more changes after a rough August where he faced attacks from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and was ultimately unable to defeat incumbent President George W. Bush.

Bob Dole (1996): Just nine weeks before the November election, Bob Dole fired top aides Don Sipple and Mike Murphy as he struggled to gain traction against popular President Bill Clinton. Interestingly enough, Paul Manafort, who has replaced Corey Lewandowski as campaign manager in Trump’s operation, took an expanded role in the Dole campaign’s messaging at that time. Dole was soundly defeated in the general election.

Al Gore (2000): In June of the election year, then-Vice President Al Gore replaced campaign chairman Tony Coelho with William Daley after Coelho was hospitalized. The move also came during a time when George W. Bush had begun to pull ahead in key states. Gore went on to win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College vote after a Supreme Court ruling that ended a 36-day long recount battle in the state of Florida.

Ronald Reagan (1980): In a rare instance of a campaign dust up on the cusp of a big win, Reagan pushed out campaign manager John Sears and other top aides on Feb. 26, 1980 -- the day he won the New Hampshire primary. And, according to Politifact, that resulted in more staff departures from other staffers loyal to those let go. Reagan, of course, went on to defeat incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter.