Don’t jump to conclusions. Perhaps they’re just going home to retrieve a change of clothes.
NEW: Ben Carson staff to cut more than 30 staff positions today, with more cuts expected after New Hampshire primary. –@KFaulders
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 4, 2016
The Washington Post reports that the downsizing will cut 50 jobs, not 30:
Ben Carson, the famed neurosurgeon whose bid for the Republican presidential nomination has struggled to keep pace with rivals, will cut more than 50 staff positions Thursday as part of an overhaul and downsizing of his campaign.
Salaries are being significantly reduced. Carson’s traveling entourage will shrink to only a handful of advisers. And instead of flying on private jets, Carson may soon return to commercial flights.
The employees being released — about half of Carson’s campaign — mostly work in field operations and at his headquarters in Northern Virginia.
This isn’t a shutdown of the campaign. Carson’s team had 125 paid staff positions, fueled by impressive fundraising in the second half of 2015. This would be a cut of about 40%, pushed in large part by a sharp drop in donations. Carson’s sometimes-arms-length spokesman Armstrong Williams insists that this move will make the campaign more effective:
“Dr. Carson is going to get his campaign lean — really lean,” Williams said in an interview. “One issue for a while has been too much infrastructure, and he has decided to fully address it so that he can sustain his campaign until the convention.”
Too much infrastructure? If so, it’s a curious time to streamline. The campaign will move from two small-population states to the larger South Carolina, one place where Carson needs to win or come close enough to impress donors all over again. Ten days later comes Super Tuesday, where campaigns that hope to compete literally have to be fifteen places at once — or at least as many of those fifteen as possible to remain competitive. This is a moment for a large footprint, not for lean.
The timing is equally curious. Carson just got done publicly dressing down Ted Cruz for his campaign’s suggestions at the Iowa caucuses that he was getting out of the race, which Carson’s own strange decision to fly home to Florida to pick up some clothes kick-started. (If one wants to get lean on the campaign trail, how about using a dry cleaner rather than a private-jet trip to restock the wardrobe?) After lecturing Cruz and citing Scripture to scold him over the suggestion that Carson wasn’t completely committed to the campaign, Team Carson then announces a 40% reduction in staffing. That dampens the message a bit, no?
Regardless of the spin coming from the campaign, a 40% staff reduction just before the New Hampshire primary can only mean two things. One: the campaign has been mismanaged. Two: The campaign is going badly and is running out of reasons to keep running, so to speak. Both could be true, but the numbers from Iowa, New Hampshire, and fundraising make it look like the latter is the reasonable conclusion.