Team Jeb slashes campaign payroll by 40%, claims it's being done from ... a position of "strength"

Rick Perry was also quite “strong” on campaign spending shortly before he dropped out, as I recall.

Bush told Megyn Kelly last night that he’s in this race for the long haul. We’ll see about that.


The campaign is removing some senior staff from the payroll, parting ways with some consultants, and downsizing its Miami headquarters to save more than $1 million per month and cut payroll by 40 percent this week, according to Bush campaign officials who requested anonymity to speak about internal changes. Senior leadership positions remain unchanged.

The campaign is also cutting back 45 percent of its budget, except for dollars earmarked for TV advertising and spending for voter contacts, such as phone calls and mailers. Some senior-level staff and consultants will continue to work with the campaign on a volunteer basis, while other junior-level consultants, primarily in finance but including other areas, will be let go, the officials said. The officials declined to say who would be removed from the payroll or provide an exact dollar figure for the savings…

One Bush adviser told Bloomberg Politics in an interview Friday morning that the team was “unapologetic” about the changes, saying the moves were from a “position of strength.”

By my count, this is at least the third iteration of “Jeb Bush tightens his belt” stories over the past two months. The first came in late August, when the campaign claimed that fundraising was fine and that they merely wanted to reduce needless spending. Then, starting early this month, they cut back further, with even Jeb himself trading trips by plane for trips by car wherever feasible. That was more ominous (“The high life has ended”) and that clearly was motivated by fundraising. Jeb’s third-quarter haul of $13 million was a distant second to Ben Carson on the GOP side and less than half of what Hillary raised over the same period. He began October with less cash on hand than Cruz, Carson, or his rival Rubio. That’s not a total disaster given how well funded his Super PAC is, but the Super PAC is barred by law from performing some important campaign functions, like GOTV and ballot access. That’s a campaign job, and a campaign that might not have the cash to do it is potentially in trouble. And what the Super PAC can do, namely, advertising, it hasn’t been doing well: It’s been on the air in New Hampshire and Bush’s numbers haven’t improved.


The idea now, per Bloomberg, is that they’re going to redirect most of their new savings to organizing in the early states, most notably New Hampshire. You think Jeb’s donors will buy it?

According to donors, some of whom called for Bush to rein in its spending, the campaign’s assurances about its organizational and financial advantages had worn thin; and the third-quarter financial report, filed last Thursday, gave further definition to their growing concerns about the state of the campaign.

“These donors are not finding these explanations by the Bush team believable,” said one bundler, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “There’s a lot of frustration that a lot of money’s been spent and it hasn’t moved anything.”

Now I see why Mike Murphy, the head of Jeb’s Super PAC, was suddenly wiling to agree to a long interview with Bloomberg this week about the state of the race. The key point Murphy made was that the Super PAC is uniquely well positioned financially to make sure Jeb is competitive in the first 45 days of voting. Other candidates like Cruz have done well raising money but no one else has a war chest right now large enough to ensure that they’ll have all the ad buys they need in the key early states. In other words, Murphy was nudging Bush donors to keep the faith and keep him going until February, at which point everything would start falling into place. It’s hard to believe the donors are going to be that patient, though, especially if Jeb underwhelms at the third debate next week. I’ve been babbling for a month now that Wednesday night realistically is probably his last chance to keep most of his wealthiest donors in the fold. If he does poorly and Rubio does well, why would anyone continue to stick it out with Bush? Today’s news only compounds the problem. Poll-wise, financially, in every conceivable way (see, e.g., this withering assessment of how heavily Bush depends on rich donors and why it’d be unprecedented for someone like that to be nominated), he looks like a candidate whose campaign is dying. Wednesday could be the coup de grace.


Here’s Megyn Kelly politely asking Bush last night just how low his polls would have to go before he calls it a day. As you watch, ruminate about this sharp point made by Myra Adams: Murphy called Trump a “false zombie frontrunner” who’s ultimately unelectable, but isn’t that exactly what Jeb himself was in the early pre-Trump stage of this race? After he first made noise about running late last year, he bounced up to the high teens (and occasional low 20s) in polling based on nothing more, really, than voter recognition of his last name and media heavy breathing about his “shock and awe” strategy to blow away the rest of the field in fundraising. Whether the voters liked him or even knew who was was beside the point. He was expected to win because he was a Bush, he had a lot of money behind him, and most Republican voters could and would eventually be bludgeoned into submission by his campaign machine. Ten months later, he’s in a tailspin. Who’s the real zombie frontrunner?

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