Jeb Bush campaign slashes salaries

Story highlights

  • Jeb Bush's campaign released an internal memo outlining cuts to salaries and travel costs Friday
  • The moves come amid Bush's struggling poll standings

(CNN)Jeb Bush's struggling presidential campaign is reducing salaries, downsizing its staff and cutting travel costs in order to invest more in its ground game in early voting states, with a special focus on New Hampshire.

For the past four months, the campaign has already been making cuts to its budget and reducing salaries for senior and mid-level staffers, but the new changes affect a wider swath of the campaign's payroll.
"This means lean and mean, and this means I have the ability to adapt, and the circumstances when we started the election are different," the Republican presidential candidate said Friday in an interview with televangelist Pat Robertson.
    The move comes as Bush, once the front-runner, now finds himself lagging in the polls, while his campaign failed to outraise some of his rivals in the third quarter.
    According to internal campaign talking points obtained by CNN, the campaign will slash payroll costs by 40% starting this week, cutting salaries across the board with the exception of most entry-level staff.
    The campaign acknowledges that Donald Trump has had an expected affect on the campaign's prospects.
    "I have not met a person who thought Donald Trump would be the front-running candidate at this point," Bush told Robertson. "God bless him for his success in that regard. We'll see how long that lasts. But you have to adapt."
    A quarter of its staff will remain in the Miami office, while 25% is already based in the states. Some will be laid off entirely. But according to the memo, most remaining staffers will be offered a position in the early voting states or as part of its ballot access effort at a reduced salary.
    Travel costs will be reduced by 20%, and other overhead costs will be cut, including 45% of the money originally envisioned for the non-media/voter contact budget, according to the talking points.
    "Every dollar that we can save in overhead is a dollar that goes on television, goes on radio, goes on media, goes on voter outreach," Bush told Robertson.
    While laying out the changes, the talking points still try to play up the campaign's current strengths, pointing to its extensive field operations in the four early voting states.
    That includes 10 paid staffers and two offices in Iowa, 12 paid staffers and one office in New Hampshire, eight paid staffers and three offices in South Carolina, and eight paid staffers and two offices in Nevada.
    Many of the staff deployed from campaign headquarters in Miami will go to New Hampshire from now until the primary in February.
    Bush, who is already visiting each of the four early states about twice a month, is planning to make more frequent visits and longer trips to those states. "We will use the campaign's best asset -- Jeb Bush -- and put him in front of as many voters as possible," the talking points say.
    While the cuts can be a tough pill to swallow, especially for those facing a salary reductions or losing their job, some supporters argue it's a smart move.
    "Hallelluyah! I welcome these moves," Ana Navarro, a supporter of Bush, said in an email. "Me and others have been pushing for this. Jeb's campaign got too big too quick. They need to be a lean, mean, hungry battalion made up of loyalists who get work done. This is a step towards that."
    The campaign's talking points also illustrate a shift in messaging.
    Bush and his surrogates plan to push the idea that the candidate is the only one who can "fix" Washington and they'll continue to aggressively highlight his conservative record as a two-term governor, including his habit of vetoing line items in the budget.
    With his e-book coming out at the end of October, the campaign is hoping publicity from the book will help bring more focus to his record. The book uses his emails to tell the story of his tenure in office.
    He's also set to emphasize more strongly the idea of Bush being the country's next commander and chief, while drawing a contrast to Hillary Clinton, who'll they'll attack as a reckless secretary of state.
    The former Florida governor has been facing questions for weeks about his dwindling poll numbers. Bush has insisted that his slow and steady approach will push him past the finish line in the end, but he also has made sure to point out that former nominees have gotten off to a uneasy start.
    In an interview with CNN's Dana Bash last month, Bush talked about seeing Sen. John McCain, the eventual 2008 GOP nominee, in an airport this time eight years ago, alone and holding his own luggage, while he was campaigning for president.
    "And he won the nomination. And he did it because he's a good man," Bush said. "People knew he could lead."
    Pressed Thursday night on what it would take for Bush to drop out, the candidate maintained that he's in the race for the long run.
    "I'm not getting out. I believe we have a plan to be very competitive in the early states. We have the resources to stay with this," he said on Fox News. "I'm campaigning hard, I'm campaigning with heart, I'm campaigning in a way that will draw people towards our cause."
    The Bush campaign leadership, including top adviser Sally Bradshaw and manager Danny Diaz, did a call Thursday with some of its key financial backers briefing them on the changes it is making.
    Texas bundler Jay Zeidman applauded the moves and said the call was positive.
    "This is a proactive measure. As in any business you evaluate your bottom line and allocate resources where they are best used," Zeidman told CNN. "This is not a struggling campaign"
    Officials pointed out the campaign is still well-financed and with a healthy amount of cash on hand, but it was time to make some financial changes.
    "You've got to do more with less," is the message that was delivered Zeidman said. "I think this is a sign of real good budgeting and leadership" by the team.
    Zeidman said those raising money for Bush will need to work as hard as they have worked in the past to make sure the money continues to pour in.
    He said it is natural as you approach the first contests that changes are made in how a candidate's time is devoted, such as less fundraisers, and how resources are applied.