Yesterday was the deadline for campaigns to file their quarterly fundraising report. The news was grim for Jeb Bush.
Jeb Bush’s campaign is built on two pillars: inevitability and the ability to raise a boatload of cash. The fundraising report knocked some of the blocks out from under the second pillar.*(SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF THE PAGE)
At first blush this doesn’t look bad. But then one needs to look back at the last report
Jeb Bush trounced the Republican presidential field in fundraising in the first major report of the 2016 campaign, but Ben Carson, [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] and [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] posted solid numbers, suggesting they will have financial backing needed to compete.
Mr. Bush, a former Florida governor who announced in mid-June, collected $11.4 million in 16 days, averaging more than $700,000 a day.
The next closest was Mr. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, who announced in early May and raised about $8.5 million, averaging $146,000 a day. Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio, U.S. senators from Texas and Florida, respectively, each averaged about $110,000 a day.
So Bush raised only a little more in the 90 days covered in this report than he did in 16 days for the last report. This shows that Bush’s strategy was to scare competitors from the field with a huge amount of money seemingly collected in a very short period of time.
The fact that he finished behind Ben Carson and virtually tied with [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] indicates that the bloom is off the rose and the campaign built on inevitability is over and to compete Bush must actually work for the nomination.
What is more telling is the cash-on-hand report:
This places Bush in fourth place. What is more significant is that Bush spent over a million dollars more in this quarter than he raised. Bush is falling victim to the Scott Walker Syndrome. He started believing his own press releases and the whispers of the GOP consultant class and has built a campaign organization for a general election campaign and has spent money as though he was the nominee. Now the pain is setting in:
On the first day of a two-day Iowa swing back in August, Jeb Bush flew from Davenport to Ankeny in a private plane. The next day, after he spent more than four hours bounding around the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, a top adviser attributed Bush’s high energy level to having spent less time in transit.
Those days are over.
Last week, Bush spent three days in Iowa, traveling again from Des Moines to the state’s eastern edge, campaigning in the Mississippi River towns of Bettendorf and Muscatine — but this time, he went by car. The campaign also cancelled its reservation at the tony Hotel Blackhawk in nearby Davenport, staying instead at a cheaper hotel. More and more, Bush is flying commercial.
“The high life has ended,” said one Florida operative familiar with the campaign’s operation. “They’re running a more modest operation in the last two weeks, and the traveling party has definitely shrunk.”
What is more telling is that the expenditures by the campaign and associated super PAC may have accomplished very little. Bush has lost ~15 points in the polls since his announcement:
In New Hampshire, seen by many as a must-win for Bush, Bush and the Right to Rise super PAC backing him have spent at least $4.8 million on TV and radio to support him since early September. One ad-tracking firm produced an analysis for POLITICO that showed pro-Bush spots in the past three weeks have occupied about 60 percent of the political ad air-time in the state. Bush’s numbers have moved from 9 perrcent to 8.7 percent since the ad blitz began, according to the Real Clear Politics averages of polls in the GOP primary.
And even more pain is in the offing:
More than 60 Bush staffers might have had their salaries cut or their positions changed to reduce their income, compared with the second quarter of the year when Bush announced his candidacy, the campaign-finance reports show. The campaign did not want to discuss the numbers. But the pay cuts, depending on whether the salaries are divided on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, could have saved the campaign anywhere from $450,000 to nearly $900,000 per quarter, according to a POLITICO analysis of the campaign’s payroll. The cuts have ranged from the small for some staffers ($12 a week) to large reductions for four of the top campaign chiefs who each took a $75,000 pay cut.
The Bush campaign payroll is still huge: nearly $1.7 million this quarter. It spent as much as $2 million more on various consulting-related services, from fundraising to legal compliance.
For a campaign counting on fundraising and an air of inevitability, this is a near fatal condition known as ‘flopsweat.’ The lackluster fundraising and cutbacks make Bush just another candidate. Where Ted Cruz is relying on small donations from the GOP base, Ben Carson on the donations of those frustrated with the GOP, and Marco Rubio on scavenging the Walker donors and rustling a few from Jeb Bush, Bush really has no place to grow. He is tapping out his available source of hard money — GOP establishment plutocrats who want more [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ]. Unless he comes in with about $15 in the next quarter he is done. If his fundraising drops to $10 million he is out of the race.
*I’ve been asked to note that the Rubio campaign is rounding its numbers. None of the adjustments affect the main points of this story. Bush remains in 2d place in fundraising. The rises to 3d place, rather than 4th, in cash-on-hand, but his cash-on-hand figure is reduced from $10.3 million to #10 million by subtracting general election funds.