TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Bernie Sanders’ campaign started letting hundreds of field staffers go on Wednesday, hours after five states in the Northeast voted and the Vermont senator fell further behind Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination, five people familiar with the situation told POLITICO.
It’s not the campaign’s first round of departures, but it’s by far the most significant, coming at a time when Sanders is signaling that he is looking to shape the Democratic platform at the party’s convention, but also insisting he will remain in the race until then.
Sanders trails Clinton by well over 300 delegates.
Staffers who were working in states that voted Tuesday were told by campaign manager Jeff Weaver to look elsewhere for work rather than continue on to the next voting states, according to people close to the campaign. The news comes as Sanders looks to spend more time in California, which is set to vote in June.
While Sanders appears set for a handful of wins in May, his path to the nomination appears all but closed off after he lost Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Connecticut on Tuesday night.
“We’re 80 percent of the way through the caucuses and primaries and we make adjustments as we go along. This is a process that we’ve done before of right-sizing the campaign as we move through the calendar,” said Sanders’ campaign communications director Michael Briggs.
Asked if the move was coming from a posture of weakness, Briggs said instead it was “coming from a posture of reality.”
The campaign has let field staffers go before — including early in March, after his sweeping losses on Super Tuesday — and aides have been trickling out of the organization in recent weeks. But Wednesday’s move signifies a bigger move to reshape the size of the campaign operation, bringing the the number of staffers down to between 325 and 350.
The losses are primarily in the five states that voted on Tuesday, but other staff have also recently left the campaign, including some based in the Burlington, Vermont, headquarters. Briggs said field staff from other states may leave the campaign as well.
While Sanders has raised large amounts of money online, and started April with $17 million according to his most recent Federal Election Commission report, he has also spent at a very high rate, including $46 million in March. It is unclear how much money his campaign currently has on hand.
Sanders has had a large field organizing presence all over the country, and Wednesday’s cuts are the first significant scaling back of his campaign apparatus now that the majority of states have voted in the primary.
Sanders insisted to a crowd in Indiana on Wednesday that he is still in the race to win it, but his focus now is primarily on influencing the Democratic platform if Clinton is the nominee. He continues to seriously compete in Indiana and California, where the race is likely to be far more expensive than any other to date.
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