The developments highlight how much the fundraising landscape has changed, giving a major advantage to candidates who can tap into an army of small-dollar donors and hamstringing those who have struggled to broaden their appeal beyond the traditional wealthy donors.
The decision by Harris, who is now focusing her campaign almost solely on Iowa, is a major shift for a candidate who once seemed well-positioned to capitalize on two of the most energized groups in the Democratic Party: women and African Americans. While the senator hails from California, one of the nation’s largest states and one that has long served as a cash cow for Democrats, she is struggling to raise funds.
“In a field of 18 candidates, we face an incredibly competitive resource environment,” Harris campaign manager Juan Rodriguez wrote in a memo. “To effectively compete with the top campaigns and make the necessary investments in the critical final 100 days to the [Iowa] caucus, we need to reduce expenditures elsewhere and realign resources.”
Rodriguez wrote that he was taking a pay cut and that the staff of the Baltimore-based campaign headquarters would be reduced. In the coming weeks, he added, field staffers would be moved out of New Hampshire, Nevada and California and relocated to Iowa. The operation in South Carolina, another early primary state, would not be affected, he said.
The memo, which was first reported by Politico and provided to The Washington Post by the campaign, said the cutbacks were needed to mount a seven-figure ad buy in Iowa.
Rodriguez compared the moves to those made by Democrat John F. Kerry in 2004 and Republican John McCain in 2008, when they pared down their campaigns in the fall before mounting comebacks in the winter. Both won their parties’ nominations but lost the general election.
But this is an undeniable comedown for a Harris campaign that launched in front of nearly 20,000 supporters in Oakland, Calif., still one of the largest gatherings of the campaign. Harris seized more attention during the first debate, when she attacked Biden in personal terms for his long-standing opposition to court-mandated busing programs designed to integrate schools.
The senator held private fundraisers during the third quarter of the year, but she drew roughly the same amount of money as she had the previous quarter — about $11.8 million. She spent more money than she raised in the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, and entered the final three months of the year with far less cash than the top fundraising candidates.
Harris’s reorganization comes as Biden, who still leads in many primary polls but by diminishing amounts, gets some financial reinforcement.
Allies of the former vice president announced Wednesday that they were forming a super PAC called Unite the Country, which will be able to accept unlimited contributions to aid Biden’s effort but be legally prohibited from coordinating directly with his campaign.
It was just a few days ago that Biden dropped his long-standing opposition to having a super PAC created to support him. In a Democratic Party increasingly skeptical of rich and powerful figures, Biden’s change has prompted other candidates to accuse him of hypocrisy.
Organizers of the super PAC, including several former Biden staffers and aides, say the goal is to help him fend off attacks from President Trump, who has aimed much of his fire at the former vice president. They have not addressed how much of their goal will also be to help him win the Democratic nomination.
“We are committed to fighting back against Trump, his allies, the Russians, and the Republican Party — all of whom are engaged in unprecedented attacks against Vice President Biden in order to deny him the Democratic nomination,” Mark Doyle, the chairman of the super PAC and a former Biden aide, said in a statement.
Others leading the PAC include John MacNeil, former president of Moody Street Pictures, who was Biden’s videographer during his 2008 presidential campaign; Larry Rasky, a political strategist who held senior roles in Biden’s 1988 and 2008 campaigns; Mark Riddle, executive director of Future Majority; and Michèle Taylor, who has served as a strategist on national and federal campaigns.
Harris and Biden are not alone in facing money troubles. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have tapped into extensive networks of small-dollar donors, and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has also raised significant sums, but other candidates have struggled to bring in cash.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), for example, was among the lowest fundraisers in the third quarter, drawing $4.8 million while spending nearly $8 million. She entered the fourth quarter with about $3.6 million in the bank.
Former housing secretary Julián Castro has been peppering supporters with fundraising appeals recently, after publicly announcing he would drop out of the race if he failed to raise $800,000 by the end of October.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Sen. Michael F. Bennet of Colorado both entered the fourth quarter with less than $2 million on hand. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey used a 10-day fundraising push at the end of the third quarter to stay in the race, but it is unclear whether he can keep up that momentum.
Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke’s campaign, meanwhile, has adopted an unorthodox approach to raise money. In late September, members of O’Rourke’s campaign staff were pitted against one another to see who could personally raise the most money for him.
A New Hampshire-based O’Rourke organizer promised donors that if he won the staff competition, he would create a “choreographed video” featuring a massive “Beto” sign. Another staffer offered to do whatever donors wanted him to, including growing a beard.
Senior adviser Abe Rakov offered something of perhaps greater value, saying that one of his donors would receive a recorded voice mail greeting from O’Rourke himself.
Harris’s campaign, however, said she would not engage in such tactics.
“From the beginning of this campaign, Kamala D. Harris and this team set out with one goal — to win the nomination and defeat Donald Trump in 2020,” Rodriguez wrote in the campaign memo. “This requires us to make difficult strategic decisions and make clear priorities, not threaten to drop out or deploy gimmicks.”
Jenna Johnson contributed to this report.