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Jeb Bush misses with some GOP debate viewers

Jeb Bush needed to impress Wednesday night, by many accounts. But some debate viewers believe the former Florida governor failed to deliver.

Before Wednesday's GOP debate, 21 percent of respondents in a CNBC.com poll said Bush needed "a strong debate performance the most." In another survey after the debate ended, only 2 percent said he "won."

Jeb Bush at the CNBC GOP Debate in Boulder, Colorado.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Jeb Bush at the CNBC GOP Debate in Boulder, Colorado.

The results do not necessarily reflect primary voters. But the lukewarm response comes as Bush's struggling campaign is cutting costs and shifting its focus to early voting states.

Read MoreStruggling Jeb Bush campaign downsizes

The campaign planned to reduce payroll by 40 percent, chopping salaries across the board except for entry-level staff, a source told CNBC last week. The once clear front-runner trails political outsiders Donald Trump and Ben Carson in some recent polls in Iowa, a key early voting state.

Bush was aggressive near the debate's start, challenging Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida on his voting record. But he largely faded to the background through the rest of the event.

Last week, Bush's campaign continued to stress that it is setting up for long-term success through the primary cycle.