Ahead of its required disclosure of third quarter fundraising, the Jeb Bush campaign says it is cutting back and being more frugal in its campaign spending.
A Politico story on Thursday, sourced with a variety of Bush “insiders” is likely a pre-spin of disappointing fundraising over the summer.
Conceived as a fundraising juggernaut that would “shock and awe” opponents into oblivion, Bush’s campaign is suddenly struggling to raise hard dollars and increasingly economizing — not because he’s out of money, but to convince nervous donors, who are about to get their first look at his campaign’s burn rate, that he’s not wasting it.
It is the latest sign that things haven’t gone according to script for the Bush campaign. Once a frontrunner for the GOP nomination, Bush has fallen to the back of the pack in recent surveys. Even in New Hampshire, a state seen as critical to his nomination fight and where his campaign has spent almost $5 million in paid advertising, Bush is mired in sixth place.
In the second quarter, the Bush campaign grabbed headlines with an impressive $100 million haul for his Super PAC. His individual campaign, however, raised a more modest $11 million in hard money. More worrying, 80 percent of the donations to his individual campaign were from maxed-out donors, meaning the campaign has to find new donors to replenish its coffers.
While Bush’s Super PAC has a large war chest, a candidate still needs sufficient resources in his individual campaign to fund the actual mechanics of a campaign. Both Scott Walker and Rick Perry dropped out of the race over poor fundraising, despite the fact that each had millions of dollars, unspent, in their Super PACs.
Jeb Bush, by far, has the largest campaign organization of any of the Republican candidates. Keeping that operation running requires a lot of money beyond whatever funds are in a Super PAC.
Bush’s preemptive story on campaign belt-tightening is a signal to donors that the campaign is adapting to the more challenging political environment.
Now, though, as his campaign is in desperate need of hard dollars in order to cover its day-to-day costs — staff salaries, travel expenses, paid media — those same donors aren’t as eager to double down on an underperforming candidate.
The main argument for a Bush candidacy was that his name and long list of contacts would have him the inevitable Republican nominee. As he has struggled to gain traction with voters, that argument looks much weaker.
Worse for Bush, he was widely expected to dominate campaign fundraising. His campaign is the only major one not to release any fundraising numbers ahead of Thursday’s FEC deadline. Campaigns that surpass their fundraising goals usually broadcast that fact as soon as possible — as Dr. Ben Carson did after pulling in $20 million last quarter.
The campaign must release its fundraising numbers Thursday. In addition to the Politico story on belt-tightening, the campaign has also announced that it will release tax returns and medical records along with its fundraising totals.
One doesn’t bury good news with lots of other extraneous information. Bush’s fundraising numbers are likely not good. With their report, the last bit of Bush’s inevitability argument evaporates.