WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang made several comments during a recent call with campaign staffers that strongly suggest he’s thinking about running for president again in four years if his long-shot 2020 White House bid falls short.
Yang told his staffers that a strong showing in the New Hampshire primary this Tuesday would help build a base of supporters he could draw on if he ran again in four years.
“Every bit of good we do in the state of New Hampshire gives us a chance to make history right now on Tuesday, but it also enables us to build a following and support base for the ideas that energize this campaign and for the future,” Yang said on the call.
He went on, “Imagine a world where we put up a really great number on Tuesday, and then let’s say we decide to run this back again in four years. If you start with that base in New Hampshire, plus everything that we have the next time around, we’re going to be even better positioned to see the goals of this campaign through, eradicate poverty, improve the human condition, and help move this country we love forward in the right direction.”
A source provided Rolling Stone with a recording of Yang’s comments. Asked for a response to Yang’s remarks, campaign spokesman SY Lee said in a statement: “Andrew Yang is laser-focused on the upcoming New Hampshire primary and the campaign is powering ahead at full-steam and continuing to compete with other top-tier campaigns for the Democratic nomination.”
It’s been a rough week for Yang and his grassroots campaign. He finished a lackluster sixth place in the Iowa caucuses. A few days later, Yang’s campaign laid off staffers across the organization and appeared to throw as much manpower as it could into a strong showing in the New Hampshire primary.
Yang campaign manager Zach Graumann said in a statement that this week’s layoffs were part of the “natural evolution” of the campaign. “As part of our original plans following the Iowa caucuses, we are winding down our Iowa operations and restructuring to compete as the New Hampshire primary approaches,” Graumann said. A Yang spokesman told Rolling Stone that the campaign “remains at full strength in New Hampshire, where we expect to compete and outperform expectations.”
The layoffs happened as the campaign’s unionized employees were negotiating with senior campaign officials over higher monthly pay, a month’s severance pay at the new pay rate, and guaranteed expense reimbursement, including for travel and mileage. The unionized employees claimed that the campaign had dragged out the talks, while the campaign said it had tried to negotiate in good faith but was “rebuffed with no reason given.”
SY Lee, the Yang spokesman, said there was no connection between the firings and the talks with the unionized employees.
Several ex-campaign staffers said they felt stung that they were fired with no notice after their email accounts and other campaign services were abruptly disabled. “I still very much believe in Andrew’s message but the way his campaign treated staff runs completely counter to the concept of Humanity First,” says Sasha Cohen, a former Yang field organizer who was laid off this week. “I believed in the campaign and what it stood for but to be treated this way is disheartening.”
On the recent internal campaign call, Yang spoke about his loss in Iowa. He described the caucus format as “singularly opposed to the dynamic that our campaign tends to attract.” He said his wife, Evelyn, who has campaigned on Yang’s behalf, remarked to him that the caucuses were “the least Yang Gang environment” that she could imagine.
But Yang went on to say that the campaign has a “ton of potential” in the New Hampshire primary. “There are hundreds of thousands of independents and libertarians and Republicans who will cross the party aisle and vote for us on Tuesday,” he said. “If we hit 14, 15 percent, we’ll be in fourth place. We’ll raise hundreds of thousands, probably millions, and we’ll have a very clear path forward.”