Sen. Kamala D. Harris plans to cut campaign staff at her Baltimore headquarters and shift resources to Iowa as she looks to rescue her flagging presidential campaign with just months to go until the first-in-the-nation caucuses.
The campaign restructuring involves layoffs or redeployments both in Baltimore and in such other early-voting states as New Hampshire and Nevada, and her home state of California.
“From the beginning of this campaign, Kamala Harris and this team set out with one goal — to win the nomination and defeat Donald Trump in 2020,” campaign manager Juan Rodriguez wrote in a memo. “This requires us to make difficult strategic decisions and make clear priorities, not threaten to drop out or deploy gimmicks.”
Mr. Rodriguez plans to take a pay cut as part of the changes, which are not expected to affect staffing in South Carolina, site of the first-in-the-South primary.
The Harris campaign pointed to John Kerry in 2004 and John McCain in 2008 as examples of candidates who ultimately secured their party’s presidential nomination after making “tough choices.”
The “gimmicks” Mr. Rodriguez cited likely referred to such 2020 rivals as Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, both of whom have threatened to end their campaigns in recent weeks if they didn’t meet certain fundraising goals.
“It’s certainly never a good sign, but it’s not fatal — yet,” said John Couvillon, a Louisiana-based pollster.
“What I think it signifies is that she’s circling the wagons,” Mr. Couvillon said. “While it’s certainly not a ‘circling the drains’ kind of thing yet, it does signify that the initial lofty expectations of her campaign have not been realized because, of course, she has quite a bit of competition on the progressive side.”
The Harris campaign shake-up was first reported by Politico on Wednesday.
Ms. Harris finished the most recent fundraising quarter with about $10.5 million on hand.
But she raised about $11.8 million while spending close to $14.6 million, and has been slipping in recent polling while such candidates as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, have gained momentum in recent weeks.
The campaign of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who finished the quarter with less than $9 million on hand, has signaled in recent days that it wouldn’t oppose outside help from a super PAC to try to boost Mr. Biden, who has also lost ground in some recent polling.
Ms. Harris was at 3% support in a national USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Wednesday.
Last month, the campaign had already announced an “Iowa-or-bust” campaign strategy couched in a top-three finish in the Hawkeye State.
“It’s just one of those unfortunate realities that due to the sequencing of the primary calendar, you basically have to put the majority of your eggs in either Iowa or New Hampshire or both. Of course you can never admit that publicly, but that’s the reality,” Mr. Couvillon said.
The announcement came as Ms. Harris and other 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are set to head to Iowa this weekend for the state Democratic Party’s “Liberty and Justice Celebration,” one of the premier political events of the year.
The Harris campaign said in a separate memo Wednesday that the senator has “moved to Iowa” in the run-up to the event, spending 15 days at more than 30 different events across the state.
A reporter overheard Ms. Harris joke to a colleague last month, “I’m [expletive] moving to Iowa” — a phrase that now adorns T-shirts and sweatshirts as clothing companies look to cash in on the unguarded moment.
“Heading into November, Harris will maintain frequent travel to Iowa and keep building out her on the ground organizing in every corner of the state,” the campaign said.
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