Is the Rubio campaign in a death spiral?

Amid the interest over the $20 million that Dr. Ben Carson raised in the last quarter and the chortling over the anemic fundraising by The Man Who Would Be King, Jeb Bush, the fundraising of most other candidates wasn’t scrutinized all that closely. Now some have started looking and the story isn’t all that good.
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This is what we know:

  • Jeb Bush’s campaign is overextended, bloated with GOP leeches, and his fundraising lackluster in the context of his expenses. Of all the candidates in the GOP field, retrenchment hurts him the most since he was running based on inevitability and cutting back means you ain’t.
  • Ben Carson’s campaign is spending money like a drunken sailor in Olangapo. He is on the verge of raising just enough money to fund his fundraising operation. This may be a feature rather than a bug as the Carson campaign strikes one as the political equivalent of the dog the caught the car or the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.

The most interesting item is that the campaign of [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] could be on its last legs. When you boil it all down, Rubio raised $5.7 million and he spent $4.6 million.

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Yes, he has cash on hand

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But what you are seeing is a campaign that is running on fumes and will be in the red very soon if it expands its operations.

The hype surrounding [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]’s presidential campaign just smashed into the wall of reality.

First, the Florida senator’s team insisted it had stashed more campaign cash in the bank than fellow Floridian Jeb Bush — only it hadn’t. The campaign also told reporters it had raised $6 million in the last fundraising quarter — also not true. That turned out to be an overly generous rounding of the underwhelming real figure: $5.7 million.
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Yet those aren’t even the most troublesome parts of the Florida senator’s most recent campaign finance report. Rubio may be slowly rising in the polls, but his third quarter filing revealed a campaign that’s also out-manned by many of its rivals in the early-voting states. His staff is largely concentrated in Washington, with just a small umbrella of on-the-ground, early-state operatives — and he’s already at a disadvantage because he hasn’t invested the time in early-state visits that some of his opponents have.
For all the recent buzz surrounding his candidacy — fueled by strong debate performances — Rubio isn’t raising enough money to keep pace with his rivals in the top tier and he’s running out of time to assemble a robust field organization.

Stories abound about Rubio wooing former Scott Walker donors:

[mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] met with more than a dozen of Scott Walker’s former top fundraisers Wednesday, as several of the Wisconsin governor’s donors plan to back the Florida senator’s presidential campaign.

The session, in New York, included financial-services executives Jonathan Burkan and Eric Anton, who organized Mr. Walker’s New York fundraisers, and [mc_name name=’Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’J000292′ ], a Wisconsin timber magnate who is the Republican Party of Wisconsin’s finance chairman.

Mr. Burkan called Mr. Rubio “a fresh, exciting candidate who represents the future of the Republican Party.”

Winning the Walker donor machine is key for Mr. Rubio, who raised only $6 million in the three months that ended Sept. 30, less than one-third of the total banked by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

These take on a new urgency when viewed against what was revealed about Rubio’s fundraising profile:

Notably, only $1.2 million — or 21 percent of Rubio’s total donations — came from small-dollar donors who gave less than $200. That stands in stark contrast to Carson’s massive fundraising total, 60 percent of which came from small donations.

While the ‘whale‘, gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, remains uncommitted (though leaning to Rubio), Rubio has not done all that well in the race to pick Walker’s fundraising carcass:

Jeb 2016, Inc. picked up approximately 17 Walker donors, who’ve contributed$40,750 since Sept. 21.

[mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] for President picked up approximately 33 Walker donors, who’ve contributed $33,216 since Sept. 21.

Cruz for President picked up approximately 26 Walker donors, who’ve contributed $25,355 since Sept. 21.

Carly for President picked up approximately 27 Walker donors, who’ve contributed $24,100 since Sept. 21.

More than is generally reported, Rubio’s campaign is on the cusp of a crisis. He does not have a base of small donors and is reliant on an handful of donors who can max out the hard money donation and bundle large sums. Jeb Bush has locked in his natural donor base in Florida. He is burning money but, at the rate he’s going, he will be out of cash before March.

If you are looking for a single event to predict how long Rubio is in the race, look to the Sheldon Adelson endorsement. Even so, unless Bush drops out — or his donors start abandoning him for Rubio — it is difficult to see how Rubio funds his campaign next year.