Washington — Senator Kamala Harris is significantly curtailing and reshaping her presidential campaign in a bid to cut costs and boost her standing ahead of the the first-in-the-nation state of Iowa.
A memo sent Wednesday to campaign staffers and top donors and obtained by CBS News outlines plans to slash salaries, reduce staff size at the campaign’s national headquarters in Baltimore and in some early states and redouble Harris’ plan to campaign in Iowa.
Harris has raised about $35 million to date from more than 350,000 donors, according to the memo. But she remains mired in the middle of the pack in early-state and national polls that usually show her trailing Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The kind of realignment outlined in the memo from campaign manager Juan Rodriguez is typical at this stage of the campaign, as the fourth quarter begins and final decisions are being made on how to best deploy staff and purchase advertising time. Longtime political observers in Iowa and leaders of rival presidential campaigns have agreed in recent weeks that staffing decisions ahead of the Iowa caucus on February 3 must be in place by November 1 in order to succeed.
As the memo states, “Plenty of winning primary campaigns, like John Kerry’s in 2004 and John McCain’s in 2008, have had to make tough choices on their way to the nomination, and this is no different.”
By this time in 2003, Kerry was making plans to mortgage his Boston home to help keep his campaign afloat and in 2007, McCain was down to a skeleton operation after hemorrhaging staff. But he doubled down on his town hall appearances in New Hampshire and ultimately prevailed.
News of the realignment was first reported by Politico.
In the memo, Rodriguez says he will take a pay cut, “along with all consultants, we will trim and renegotiate contracts, and we will also reduce the size of our headquarters staff. These decisions are difficult but will ensure the campaign is positioned to execute a robust Iowa ground game and a minimum 7-figure paid media campaign in the weeks leading up to the caucus.”
Staffers from campaign offices in New Hampshire, Nevada and California and some from Baltimore headquarters will be sent to Iowa “for the home stretch of the caucus campaign,” the memo says.
This move mirrors what candidates like Jeb Bush in 2016 had to do — clear out his Miami national headquarters and send personnel to Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina.
Finally, the Harris memo states the senator “will continue to spend significant time in Iowa” in November, including spending Thanksgiving in the state.
“She is determined to earn the support of every caucus goer she can in the next 96 days,” Rodriguez writes.
Opting to all-but move a candidate to Iowa has worked with mixed success in the past. Then-Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut moved his young family to Iowa in 2007 but still placed last in the 2008 Democratic caucus and dropped out of the race. But Republicans Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum used solitary aggressive Iowa plans in 2008 and 2012, respectively, and won the state.
Harris and most of the Democratic presidential field is set to spend the weekend in Iowa for some of the final major all-candidate gatherings before he caucus. A major state party dinner will draw the contenders to a downtown Des Moines rally on Friday night, while freshman Democratic Representative Abby Finkenauer is holding a fish fry Saturday in Cedar Rapids set to be attended by eight candidates.