Capitol Alert

In major shakeup, Kamala Harris pulls staff out of California to go ‘all-in on Iowa’

When California Sen. Kamala Harris told a colleague in private last month that she would be “f---king moving to Iowa,” she meant it.

A memo her campaign released on Wednesday shows the senator will trim her national staff, cut the salaries of campaign consultants and move several California staff members to Iowa.

“We are implementing an organizational realignment to go all-in on Iowa,” reads the memo given to staff from Juan Rodriguez, Harris’s campaign manager.

Harris, who has already spent 15 days in Iowa this month across five trips, will “continue to spend significant time in Iowa” next month, according to the announcement first reported by Politico.

The decision to go “all-in on Iowa,” comes as Harris struggles both nationally and in early states. Harris’s support has dropped precipitously in her home state of California.

A September poll from the Public Policy Institute of California had her at fourth place in the Golden State with 8 percent support — a sizable drop from when she was at first place at 19 percent in a similar July poll from PPIC.

Harris, the youngest of California’s two U.S. senators, is currently struggling in Iowa, which votes on Feb. 3. She consistently places at a distant fifth in the Hawkeye State, with about 3 percent supporting her. Her average polling numbers mirror those of Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, billionaire activist Tom Steyer and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, according to RealClearPolitics.

“In a field of 18 candidates, we face an incredibly competitive resource environment,” the memo reads. “To effectively compete with the top campaigns and make the necessary investments in the critical final 100 days to the caucus, we need to reduce expenditures elsewhere and realign resources.”

Ian Sams, national press secretary for the campaign, declined to say how the restructuring would affect Harris’s operation in California. He was unsure whether the senator will go forward with opening a second California office in Los Angeles. Harris opened her first office in the state in Oakland last month and presently has 11 paid California staff members.

The memo says staff Harris members in South Carolina won’t be affected by the realignment. Several workers in New Hampshire and Nevada, however, will be sent to Iowa.

Harris’s campaign is struggling financially, compared to three other top competitors.

By the end of September, Harris had $10.5 million cash on hand, which pales in comparison to the $33.7 million in the bank for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, $25.7 million for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and $23.4 million for South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is neck-and-neck with Warren in recent surveys of Iowa voters, had a mere $9 million cash on hand.

Candidates have historically needed to perform well in Iowa to prove their viability and remain competitive.

Bill Carrick, a Democratic political consultant who served as a senior strategist on Eric Garcetti’s 2013 mayoral bid in Los Angeles, said California voters want to select someone who can win the party’s nomination. He noted how important it is for Democratic candidates to perform well in the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary — the two earliest voting states in the country.

“You’ve got to have some momentum coming in here, which means doing well in those first four states,” Carrick said. “You have to do pretty well. Since this modern primary system started in 1972, only one time has somebody been the (Democratic) nominee who didn’t win either Iowa or New Hampshire or both, and that was Bill Clinton in 1992.”

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Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.
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