Carson warns staff of shake-up

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Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson temporarily abandoned a wholesale shake-up of his campaign on Wednesday after top advisers convinced him they’re all on the same page moving forward.

In an interview with The Hill on Monday, Carson said his staff is on notice that he’s in charge, that he will have a more active role in daily operations, and that the downward trajectory of the campaign must be reversed.

“We’re going to be looking at the whole organization from top to bottom,” the former neurosurgeon said.

Carson is eyeing his budget in particular, saying he’s committed to making sure his campaign is spending frugally and is built for the long haul.

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An adviser told The Hill on Wednesday that Carson is on pace to raise about $23 million in the fourth quarter — an astounding sum likely to exceed his third-quarter haul. 

But the campaign will have spent all of that and more in the fourth quarter, with most of its expenses allocated toward its small-dollar fundraising operations rather than campaign infrastructure.

The Carson campaign will end the quarter with about $5.5 million in cash on hand, after beginning the quarter with more than $11 million, the adviser said.

“I’m extremely sensitive about budgets, growing up poor,” Carson said. “I definitely am going to be looking at every penny.”

Carson said there will be personnel changes — he was not specific here other than to say senior members of his campaign are safe right now — that he’s considering slashing salaries.

In addition, Carson said he’s urging his team to come up with new ways to get his message out, as he hits the reset on his once high-flying campaign just more than a month out from the Iowa caucuses.

“We need to maximize our efficiency, maximize our outreach, look at the things that brought us success, look at the things that caused us to fall, and react to those things in an appropriate way,” Carson said.

The interview came after a confusing few hours in which Carson seemed on the precipice of firing his top staffers. 

There was speculation that campaign manager Barry Bennett would be ousted after Carson sat for interviews in his home in Maryland with The Associated Press and The Washington Post.

Reporters from both publications said they met with Carson and his close friend and adviser Armstrong Williams without the campaign’s knowledge, and both left the meeting reporting that an overhaul, likely including senior staff, was imminent.

But Carson said he has since talked to his staff, including Bennett, and they’re all on the same page now.

Carson said he and Bennett are “absolutely” on good terms, and he lauded his top advisers, saying there aren’t many “senior teams that could have done what this team has done starting from scratch with an outsider.”

“I’ve talked to everyone,” Carson said. “We are going to be making some changes, but my senior staff people — I’m very happy with them. They’ve done a fabulous job and no one could possibly have expected us to be here in the position that we’re in.”

Wednesday’s events come at a tough time for the Carson campaign.

The candidate came out of nowhere, raising tens of millions of dollars, attracting crowds of thousands on the campaign trail and shooting to the top of the GOP primary polls alongside Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House defends importance of the WTO Trump on Hannity during Dem convention’s prime-time lineup Bill Clinton to campaign for Hillary in Utah MORE in late October.

But Carson spent much of his run atop the polls defending his inspirational backstory from intense press scrutiny.

His real struggle, however, came when the GOP contest turned to foreign policy in the wake of terror attacks in France.

This is not the first time his campaign has been bit by allegations of infighting, with one of his foreign policy advisers publicly criticizing him, a top fundraiser and former adviser leaving the campaign, and amid reports of tension between Williams, Carson’s long-time friend, and Bennett and other senior members of the campaign.

Wednesday’s events seem primed to intensify those competing interests.

The sum total has Carson losing much of his support in Iowa to Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzTeam Clinton: Sanders will help campaign take on 'rigged system' Clinton brings in the heavy hitters Wasserman Schultz drama overshadows Dem convention MORE (R-Texas), who has moved to the top of the polls in the state by galvanizing the evangelical support that was once in Carson’s corner. Carson is now a distant third there, and dropped from second nationally in early December to fourth.

Carson says the polls don’t tell the full story and that he’s being underestimated in the state.

“Polling is only done among likely voters,” he said. “There are so many people I run into that say they’ve never voted before, or never registered to vote or participate in a primary, and that they’re doing all of those things now.”