Presidential races

Jeb slashes payroll, other campaign costs

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Jeb Bush’s campaign is undergoing a wholesale restructuring, slashing costs and revamping the candidate’s message in the face of low polling numbers and a general sense that he has under-performed.

According to a memo obtained by The Hill, the campaign is slashing salaries for mid- and senior-level staffers and breaking up its organizational structure at Miami headquarters, shifting resources to voter contact operations and cheaper personnel in early-voting states.

{mosads}“It’s no secret that the contours of this race have changed from what was anticipated at the start,” the memo states. “We would be less than forthcoming if we said we predicted in June that a reality television star supporting Canadian-style single-payer health care and partial-birth abortion would be leading the GOP Primary.”

The campaign this week will reduce its payroll costs by 40 percent, the memo says, with all but the lowest-level employees taking pay cuts. The campaign will also cut back on travel costs by 20 percent, and plans to reduce overhead costs that are not associated with voter contact operations by 45 percent.

The campaign will dramatically reduce the number of staff working out of its Miami headquarters, asking many workers there take a pay cut and relocate to early-voting states to focus on ballot access and voter outreach.

Expectations for Bush were sky-high when he first began exploring a presidential bid last year. Many believed his deep political ties, establishment support, the $100 million he raised on behalf of a supporting super-PAC, and his widespread name recognition made him the front-runner and would keep others on the sidelines.

Instead, the race for the Republican presidential nomination has attracted more than a dozen candidates, and largely relegated Bush to an afterthought, as the conservative electorate has swarmed to political newcomers who have never before held office.

Now, Bush faces his second campaign reboot of the cycle. He also shook up his political team shortly before his official launch in June, when he brought on Danny Diaz, a high-octane conservative consultant to act as his campaign manager. Iowa operative David Kochel had been in line for the position, but instead was tapped to be a chief political strategist.

The new memo insists that the latest cuts are not due to money woes, and that “Jeb is in this race for the long haul.”

Despite his struggles on the campaign trail and inability to maintain standing in the polls, Bush remains among the best-funded candidates.

His campaign has raised $24.8 million to date, and has only spent $14.5 million, ending the third quarter with about $10 million in the bank. 

Still, Bush’s fundraising slowed dramatically from the second quarter to the third, and the internal memo is a clear signal to donors that the campaign is taking worries about the former governor’s viability seriously.

The campaign argued in the memo that the sum total of the asset reallocation will make it more nimble, enabling it to “remain as deft as possible” and better equipped to make strategic decisions “quickly and intelligently.”

The Bush campaign noted that, even with the cutbacks, it has “the most extensive field operations in all four early primary states,” with 10 paid staffers and two offices in Iowa, 12 paid staffers and one office in New Hampshire, eight paid staffers and three offices open in South Carolina, and eight paid staffers and two offices in Nevada.

Going forward, the campaign said it will place “a special focus” on increasing its New Hampshire operations. Many view the Granite State as a must-win for Bush, where he’s a natural fit for the mainstream conservative primary voters.

One recent poll of New Hampshire found Bush in third place, but trailing Donald Trump and Ben Carson badly.

The campaign memo stated that voters in all of the early-voting states can expect “more visits and longer trips” from the candidate.

The memo struck a note of defiance in the face of the strategists and media pundits who have been writing Bush’s obituary.

“We are in this campaign to win,” the memo said. “We will take every single step necessary to ensure Jeb is the Republican nominee and next President of the United States. We are unapologetic about adjusting our game plan to meet the evolving dynamics of this race to ensure that outcome.”

In addition to the asset reallocation, the Bush campaign plans to revamp the candidate’s messaging, portraying him as an accomplished executive ready to steer the country after “seven years of incompetence, corruption and gridlock in Washington.”

The new hook: We need a president ‘Who Can Fix It.”

The Bush campaign will play up Bush’s experience as governor of a purple state and his reputation as a policy wonk on national security, and will seek to portray him as an outsider ready to fix a “broken Washington.”

Jonathan Swan contributed. 

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