bush death watch

Jeb Bush’s campaign was always built upon a single principle: use name recognition and family connections to lock up major donors and starve competitors into surrender.

In order for that strategy to work you have to at least appear interested in winning the presidency and you have to show that someone might be inclined to vote for you. The Bush campaign, so far, has done neither. The debates have showcased Bush as a lackluster and lackadaisical candidate who seems to view the primaries as an annoying preliminary to his coronation and the polls have shown that the more people see of Bush the less likely they are to vote for him.

His donors have seen this and they don’t like it.

For the past week, Jeb Bush’s campaign advisers have been using a new data point to convince nervous donors that he’s still the candidate to beat — Bush’s lead in the political prediction markets.

Just one problem: Beginning Sunday night, PredictIt, the biggest of the online sites and the one referenced last week by top Bush advisers and confidants, placed [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] ahead of Bush at the head of the GOP pack.

The sudden evaporation of yet another data point in his favor explains the tension in and around Bush’s campaign this week on the eve of the third quarter FEC fundraising deadline.
His top bundlers, summoned to Miami for a last-minute call-a-thon, are working hard to convince increasingly anxious donors of their candidate’s strength. Bush’s team is highlighting the benefits of its sizable financial advantage — mainly, a top-notch national organization — in an effort to focus attention on the campaign’s durability but also to demonstrate its superiority in relation to [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ], whose rise in recent polls represents a growing threat.

Miami’s message essentially boils down to this: Keep calm and remember we’re sitting on $100 million and an extensive organization.

The donors seem to be convinced that people who will not place Bush as their first or second choice will flock to him in the primaries. To me this seems to be raising “hope” to the level of a campaign strategy.

If you read this carefully, you can see that Bush is following the Scott Walker strategy.

The campaign’s fundraising machine has been working overtime in recent months, having to squeeze harder to get hard money, limited to just $2,700 per contribution, out of a donor list that already pumped $103 million into Bush’s super PAC during the first half of the year.

As Donald Trump dominates the airwaves and outsider candidates like Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina surge past Bush in the polls, Bush’s operation continues to stick to the game plan by churning out policy papers and sticking to the mechanics of running for president — such as collecting signatures for ballot access.

He has 40 people on the ground in the first four states on the primary calendar and is working to make the ballot in all 50 states ahead of what increasingly looks like a long slog of a nomination fight where every delegate could matter.

His problem is much like Walker’s. His super PAC is doing great but he’s close to tapping out the available supply of hard money that can be used to fund campaign operations. His operation looks similar in scope to Walker’s which was burning through about $750,000 a month in salary and benefits. His campaign can talk about national scaling all it wishes but the Bush campaign is never going to generate volunteer enthusiasm. Where some campaigns can get signatures using grassroots organizations, Bush is going to have to pay people to collect them.

If you need a sure sign that the Bush campaign, like Walker’s, is being used as a full-employment program by GOP operatives who have no vested interest in anything beyond their next paycheck, then this is it:

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has snagged a top GOP operative with ties to the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.

Until recently, Austin Barbour was running a super PAC backing Perry’s presidential campaign. But the former Texas governor bowed out this month, and Barbour joined Team Bush officially Monday as a senior adviser focused on finance and political operations.

According to Politico, Bush donors aren’t buying the happy talk and a reckoning is coming:

That safety net, of course, may not be there forever. Beyond the symbolic importance of posting a solid third quarter fundraising number, Bush has another set of expectations to meet to convince donors he’s still the candidate best-suited for a marathon campaign — the efficacy of his super PAC’s first $25 million in television ads set to run out next month.

“If this $25 million doesn’t move numbers, in two weeks, that’s when you’re going to see panic set in,” a donor said.

I can save them some anxious moments. They should go ahead and panic right now.