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Castro fights to stay in race as staff looks for other jobs

Julián Castro plans to refocus his 2020 presidential campaign on Iowa, Nevada and Texas in the coming days and is supporting his staffers looking for jobs with other campaigns, sources familiar with the plans tell CNN.

The former Housing and Urban Development secretary has struggled for months to raise money or get attention in the still large field of Democrats vying for the chance to take on President Donald Trump. Castro spent the final 10 days of October pushing to raise $800,000 and pledged to donors that he would drop out if he failed to hit that goal. The campaign narrowly hit the goal with hours to go on October 31.

But it was clear inside the San Antonio-based campaign even before the push began that the future was uncertain for the Texas Democrat. The Castro campaign senior leadership told staffers before they announced their fundraising push that whether or not they hit the number, staff should feel free to look for other opportunities.

And even when the campaign hit the fundraising goal, Castro’s senior aides again told staff that the campaign would likely have to make staffing adjustments to press on.

That has led some Castro aides to look for jobs with other campaigns.

A source said Castro has no plans to drop out at this point, but that the campaign’s senior leadership wanted to be as “clear as possible with staff” about the campaign’s forthcoming strategic decisions and “not spring (the news) on them.”

Castro’s campaign would not be the first to lay off staff and refocus the campaign in a bid to stay in the race. California Sen. Kamala Harris’ campaign announced this week that she would lay off staff — including all but shuttering her New Hampshire based campaign — and significantly cut costs to her Democratic presidential campaign as they turn their entire focus to Iowa.

No final decisions have been made on which Castro staffers may lose their jobs, the source said. But the source added staff would be notified about their future with the campaign in the next few days and that some people may be out of a job.

Sawyer Hackett, Castro’s national press secretary, cast the campaign changes as a way to keep the Texas Democrat’s voice in the race.

“In pushing to keep Secretary Castro’s critical voice in this race, our campaign, like many others, will make adjustments in staffing and resources,” Hackett said. “This race is shifting as we speak, and Julián will continue to be fearless and defy expectations by making the most of our resources.”

Castro will also reallocate resources to two early states — Nevada and Iowa — and largely pivot away from New Hampshire and South Carolina. Castro’s team believes that Nevada and Iowa are the two states where the former San Antonio mayor has the best chance to surprise people with a strong performance, a possibility they do not believe exists in the other states.

And Castro will also pour more time and money into his home state of Texas, especially after fellow Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke ended his presidential campaign on Friday. The delegate-rich Texas primary will be on March 3 and Castro’s team believes that O’Rourke’s exit allows them to better compete in the state.

In pushing to raise $800,000 in the final days of October, Castro and his campaign struck dire warnings about what missing the goal would mean for the campaign.

“I’m running out of time, so please forgive me for being blunt: If I don’t meet my End of Month goal by midnight tomorrow — I will have no choice but to exit this race,” Castro wrote in one email.

His email name, at one point, was changed to “Julián Castro’s last stand” and in another email he conceded, “I’m worried it might not be enough to meet my do-or-die goal.”

Castro, as his campaign looks to chart a path forward, has begun focusing more on poverty in his stump speech.

At Friday’s Liberty & Justice Celebration in Des Moines, Castro said, “Somewhere along the way in our country, we forgot to talk about the poor, to talk about the most vulnerable. We are great at talking about the middle class and we need to fight for the middle class… but we also need to fight for the poor and those who have the least, those who suffer the most.”

Poverty has been a focus of Castro’s campaign since the outset, but the candidate now plans to double down on that message as a way to distinguish himself in the field of Democrats.

While Castro has run a proudly progressive campaign, staking out left positions on a host of issues that often fired up the party’s base — like immigration, housing and policing — he has failed to turn that policy into fundraising or polling success.

And Castro’s biggest problem remains on the horizon: The November debate, a contest he has yet to qualify for. While the Democrat has received donations from the needed number of donors, he appears unlikely to reach 3% in the needed statewide or national polls.



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