The reaction to Jeb Bush announcing the establishment of a leadership PAC as a presumed forst step for running for the GOP 2016 nomination may not have played well across the more conservative GOP base, but the GOP’s deep-pocketed donors were reportedly enthusiastic and even relieved.
Some of the GOP’s top donors and operatives have been pushing Bush to get into the race, or were holding their breath and hoping he would — and they interpreted his Facebook post on Tuesday as a signal that all systems were a go.
“I think a lot of people are pleased [Bush] is taking the next step,” said former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who has not yet endorsed any candidate for 2016. “He has a following of his own, but I am sure there are a lot of people who met him when his dad was vice president or president who have followed his career who are very impressed.”
Several donors said they are increasingly optimistic that Bush will launch an official campaign in early 2015, but until he makes an official announcement to form an exploratory committee there is nothing that they can do.
“Nobody is asking for any cash at this point,” said Fred Malek, a veteran GOP donor and bundler. “I think there are a number of people who are inclined to support Jeb Bush, who will now hold their fire.”
Malek, who is finance chairman of the Republican Governors Association and played the same role on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said he is focusing his efforts on the governors races. But he noted that Bush would be a “very powerful candidate.”
While talk is cheap, even coming from the GOP’s big money guns, what may be costly for some other prospective candidates is the impact Jeb’s announcement will have on large donors. In fact, that may have figured into Bush’s timing – wanting to freeze some big money before he makes, or at least announces a final decision.
“It is a temperature-taking exercise right now,” said Tony Fratto, a Republican operative who supports a Bush 2016 bid. “They are going to find a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of people willing to step up and want to be supportive.”
He added: “I think Jeb would have a pool of backers that is much broader than who was supporting and even who was supporting President Bush the last time around.”