Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is taking “aggressive” steps Friday to restructure his lagging presidential effort, campaign officials said.
Bush’s campaign will cut payroll costs by 40% beginning this week, slashing staff salaries and eliminating positions at the campaign’s headquarters in Miami, top aides wrote in a memo. Many of those positions will be shifted at lower salaries to the early voting states and stated with signature requirements for ballot access, but an as-yet-to-be-determined number of campaign staffers will be let go, the campaign said.
The move comes as Bush has seen his poll numbers collapse nationally and in the early presidential voting states, and just days before Bush is set to meet with many of the campaign’s top donors at a retreat in Houston.
In recent weeks, Bush backers have been raising the alarm that his campaign is flailing and too top-heavy. Many are worried that his message has fallen flat with voters who have been taken by the rise of outsider candidates like Donald Trump and Ben Carson, and see the rise of the younger, more dynamic Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as posing an existential threat to Bush’s candidacy. Friday’s moves, announced on an internal campaign conference call led by Bush’s team, appeared aimed and addressing those concerns.
Through Friday, 75% of the Bush campaign’s staff was based at headquarters, with 25% in the states. Under the new formula, only 25% of the existing staff will remain in Miami, with the reductions coming from all departments. The campaign will also cut travel costs by 20%, while cutting 45% of its overhead costs. A campaign aide said there was no change to the campaign’s planned television ad buys or any negative change to early states other than the across-the board-salary cuts.
A “particular emphasis” is being placed on shifting staff to New Hampshire, the aide said, while moving staffers to collect signatures in states like Virginia and Illinois will save the campaign money by eliminating hiring signature firms. Some fundraising consultants will be shifted off payroll into commission positions, while others will be eliminated entirely.
“We needed to make a decision while we still had the resources to make a move like this from a strong position,” the aide said.
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The reductions are the second round of pay cuts, after many departments and top- and mid-level staffers saw their pay reduced in recent months.
“We will take every single step necessary to ensure Jeb is the Republican nominee and next President of the United States,” the campaign wrote in a memo. “We are unapologetic about adjusting our game plan to meet the evolving dynamics of this race to ensure that outcome.”
The campaign spent $1.9 million on salaries in the last quarter, but the campaign estimates the savings of the restructuring will save $1 million per month in costs. Bush reported last week that his campaign raised $13 million in the third quarter of 2015, but was swiftly burning through cash with $10 million in the bank. The moves were first reported by Bloomberg.
Bush will refocus his time away from fundraising, which he has done at a furious pace, to spending more time in retail settings with voters, particularly in New Hampshire and South Carolina—states the campaign see as more ripe ground for victory than Iowa.
The decision to restructure the campaign was made in the last week after the campaign had “full information” by evaluating its financial position at the end of the quarter, in comparison to its rivals for the nomination. Many of Bush’s rivals have boasted of running “lean” campaigns in contrast to Bush.