Jeb Bush’s campaign, searching for momentum in a race that hasn’t gone its way, is deploying nearly all of its staff in its Miami headquarters to early states and shifting millions of dollars in TV ad reservations.
On a Wednesday afternoon staff-wide conference call, top campaign officials, including campaign manager Danny Diaz, informed employees that the deployment would be staggered throughout the month of January. The campaign is expected to dispatch between 50 and 60 staffers in Miami and elsewhere, with 20 going to New Hampshire and 10 or more going to Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada.
One participant on the call quoted Diaz as saying that “damn near everybody” would be departing Miami for early primary states. Diaz, too, would be getting deployed, he told the staff.
The campaign also said it was making major adjustments in its TV spending, canceling $3 million in reservations and directing it to field efforts and voter contact. It will scrap over $1 million of TV spending in Iowa, a state that he’s been trailing in, and around $2 million in South Carolina.
“We’re making a strategic resource reallocation,” said Tim Miller, a Bush spokesman.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Bush, along with Diaz and top campaign fundraiser Heather Larrison, held a conference call with top donors and bundlers to explain the staff redeployment and to provide a general update on the campaign.
Bush fielded several questions and gave an upbeat assessment of the campaign’s fundraising performance in the fourth quarter of 2015, which will end on Thursday —though he did not provide an exact figure of how much he had raised.
Political observers will be looking closely at Bush’s cash on hand when the campaign files its required reports toward the end of January.
The strategic shakeup comes as Bush is mounting a major push in New Hampshire, which his advisers consider a must-win state. The former Florida governor, once the frontrunner of the unwieldy GOP field, is making a last-ditch effort to right a campaign that has faltered despite a hefty cash pile and an establishment pedigree.
Wednesday’s announcement marked the Bush campaign’s third major overhaul. In June, the organization surprised the political world when it said that Diaz, a hard-charging veteran operative, would serve as its manager instead of David Kochel, an Iowa-based strategist who had long been seen as the likely occupant of the post. Then, in October, beset by lagging poll numbers and mediocre fundraising, the campaign announced that it was slashing staff salaries and firing a number of consultants.
The latest decisions reflect a calculation on Bush’s part that, in a presidential campaign defined by loud voices and wall-to-wall media coverage, TV commercials are having less of an effect than they traditionally do. While Bush has benefited from more TV spending than any other candidate, his poll numbers nationally and in early primary states have disappointed.
Advisers said that money would be redirected to a variety of activities in key primary states. Much of it will go towards increasing its staff presence in Iowa, where the campaign currently counts 11 paid staffers, in New Hampshire, where it has 20, South Carolina, where it has seven, and Nevada, where it has nine.
Aside from increasing its spending on field efforts, the campaign said it would boost its spending on radio advertising in New Hampshire and South Carolina — including on conservative talk shows.
For its TV presence, the campaign will find itself increasingly reliant on Right to Rise, the super PAC that has been airing tens of millions of dollars in advertisements on Bush’s behalf. The group, which operates independently of the campaign, has reserved advertising time in all four early states.
A Right to Rise spokesman, Paul Lindsay, said Wednesday afternoon that the super PAC would be “evaluating progress on the ground and augmenting our TV buys in early states where we see a need.”
The Bush campaign is also seeking out volunteers — including alumni of the George W. Bush administration. On Tuesday, Brian McCormack, a former staffer in the George W. Bush White House who now works at the Washington, DC-based Edison Electric Institute, sent out an email to Bush administration alum asking them to help out Jeb Bush’s early state efforts.
“The political season is about to shift into high gear which means it’s time to make your plans to visit Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and/or Nevada!” McCormack wrote. “What could be a better resolution for 2016 than working to put a Republican in the White House?”
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