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Ben Carson slashes staff by more than half

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks at the National Press Club in Washington February 3, 2016.

REUTERS

As Ben Carson continues to slip from the top-tier of the Republican primary race, the former neurosurgeon is slashing his campaign operations by "a little more" than half, a campaign source confirmed to CBS News.

The employees laid off Thursday in the campaign downsizing were mostly Iowa staffers and in field operations. Some staffers who did not fit into an "immediate need" category were also cut. A finish lower than first or second in Iowa meant that the field operation would be affected, the source said.

The leaner staffing, the campaign source reasoned, will help them "focus their energy a little bit more" on the upcoming nominating contests in New Hampshire and South Carolina. The campaign also sees Saturday's Republican debate in Manchester as a big opportunity for the candidate to show his "much more confident" demeanor.

Carson, who had been in the top tier for awhile in national and early-voting state polls, has struggled in recent months. His support waned after several foreign policy stumbles in debate performances. And just before the new year, infighting at the campaign's top levels resulted in a leadership shakeup, with Carson's ex-campaign manager, Barry Bennett, eventually throwing his hat in the ring with rival Donald Trump.

Earlier this week, Carson finished fourth at the Iowa caucuses, gaining just nine percent of the vote and three delegates from the state. In October, Carson had placed at the top of the polls in Iowa, even leading GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, Carson held a press conference where he blamed rival Ted Cruz for his performance on caucus night.

Cruz's campaign, who finished first in the caucuses, had circulated rumors on caucus night that Carson's campaign was heading home to Florida because he was withdrawing from the presidential race. In reality, Carson said, he was only leaving Iowa to get a "fresh change of clothes." The Carson source said Thursday that the Cruz campaign's actions were "much more damaging" than had been reported.

In New Hampshire, the nation's next nominating state, Carson is polling in last place -- at just three percent, according to a RealClearPolitics average.

CBS News' Erica Brown contributed to this report.