The Bush campaign may not be over but you can certainly see the contours of the end from here.
As I’ve said before, the Bush campaign was always built on inevitability. The idea was to jump in the race, raise a crapload of money, lock in big donors and endorsements, and scare off the competition. The competition that he couldn’t scare off he counted on outlasting. In 2008 or 2012 that could very well have winning strategy. It is, after all, pretty much the path Romney followed. This year is different. The GOP base is angry and there are a lot of strong candidates in the field.
Three significant stories have broken since yesterday that all tell the same tale.
While most of the media focused on Bush’s $13 million fundraising haul last quarter the story not reported on was the fact that he ended the quarter with $10 million cash-on-hand. This means he spent $3 million more than he raised. The organization Bush has built is a consultant’s dream. It is top heavy and chock full of bloated salaries. Yesterday, the Chief Operating Officer was given the heave-ho. But it is worse than that:
Top campaign officials, meanwhile, are seeking to reassure staff that now is not the time to panic. On Friday, campaign manager Danny Diaz led a staff conference call in which he acknowledged that Bush had a bad week, but urged employees to soldier on, one Bush aide said.
Staffers in Miami are reportedly frustrated after having relocated there only to be asked now to work for less money and accept reassignments to other states. There is a “broad sense of betrayal, disappointment and anger,” according to a source inside the campaign.
Even while attempting to calm internal jitters, the campaign is trying to be wide-eyed about the possibility that funding could even more dramatically slow down. Bush reported earlier this month that his campaign had raised $13.4 million in the third quarter, and went into October with just $10.3 million on hand – less than three of his rivals, including Sen. Marco Rubio.
The campaign is now looking for ways to cut costs, even beyond what was promised in a restructuring announced before Wednesday’s debate, according to a campaign aide. And one donor speaking to POLITICO suggested that top officials — including Diaz, adviser Sally Bradshaw, and early state strategist David Kochel — might be willing to take additional pay cuts as part of a new barebones operation. Already, Bush’s top campaign chiefs have taken $75,000 pay cuts each.
“They’re asking a lot of the staff, so there’s a feeling of: ‘Let’s lead by example,’” a Bush supporter said. “Everyone’s going to make sacrifices because they believe in Jeb Bush.”
Loyalty and belief is fine, but, as the Perry campaign found out, eventually your staff decides that it likes to eat and have a warm and dry place to sleep.
Bush’s firewall has been the number of deep pocket donors in his camp. They joined early, based on inevitability, but they are tapped out. To move forward Bush, foremost of all the candidates, needed more of those donors who could give $2700 and convince others to do the same because Bush’s small donor fundraising is a joke. Now the firewall seems to be less than steady:
One of the wealthiest and most influential Republican donors is throwing his support behind the presidential campaign of U.S. [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] of Florida, the New York Times reported on Friday.
Billionaire New York investor Paul Singer sent a letter to dozens of other donors on Friday declaring his support for Rubio in a major blow to the struggling campaign of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the newspaper said. They are among the candidates seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Asked by reporters in Iowa about Singer’s support, Rubio said: “When people donate to us, they buy into our agenda, and I’m glad that he has and it will help us with resources.” Rubio added: “Resources alone are not enough … but we’re grateful to have his help, obviously.”
Rubio, Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and several other Republican candidates had eagerly sought Singer’s support, the Times said.
In the letter, Singer described Rubio as the only candidate who can “navigate this complex primary process, and still be in a position to defeat” Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in the November 2016 general election.
Singer gave more money to Republican candidates and causes last year than any donor in the country, the Times said, citing the Center for Responsive Politics.
Bush has expected to be the major beneficiary of Scott Walker dropping out of the race but only managed to hold onto about one-third of Walker’s donors. Rubio has also been in discussions with many Bush donors who are amenable to jumping ship after, as Bloomberg quotes one as saying, “a decent interval.”
We knew that for the beginning, right? Though Bush built a campaign based on inevitability, Bush’s weakness was, and remains, the fact that there is no slice of the GOP primary voter population that wants to vote for Jeb Bush. Now we have proof to back up that supposition:
It is a portrait of deep frustration. Jeb Bush’s campaign has 10 paid staff members in Iowa, it has made 70,380 phone calls to state Republicans and it has collected 5,000 email addresses. For all that, it has recruited just four volunteers statewide and has identified only 1,260 supporters.
This dovetails perfectly with Bush’s small donor fundraising. He was and is the candidate of the elites. I’m sort of surprised that he found four people willing to go door to door beclowning themselves.
This has been a very bad week for the Bush campaign but there is no sign that the bad news is abating. More layoffs are coming. More people will be moving on. Donors will decide that Bush’s time, if it ever existed, is long past. The only good news is that he only has a few more bad weeks left.