Jeb Bush blowing away rivals in fundraising
Calling on his extensive contacts among GOP mega donors, as well as the network of financial backers who supported his father and brother's presidential campaigns, Jeb Bush is amassing an eye-popping amount of money for his war chest since his announcement last month that he is "exploring" whether or not to run for president in 2016.
Consider the "exploration" over. The campaign has begun in earnest and Bush is sprnting to a huge lead in the race to lock up donors.
The former Florida governor’s overwhelming dominance in the race to line up financial backers has come at a speed that has impressed longtime Republican money players, who say wealthy party backers have rapidly migrated to Bush since 2012 nominee Mitt Romney decided against another White House run two weeks ago.
At one Manhattan fundraiser for Bush at the Park Avenue home of private-equity titan Henry Kravis this week, about 25 attendees paid a minimum of $100,000 each just to get in the door. It’s one of six events for Bush’s political action committees — including one next weekend in Palm Beach — with such a price tag.
“I think they will come up with an eye-popping figure,” said veteran GOP fundraiser Fred Malek.
Bush’s press for dollars has been so intense — averaging one fundraiser a day — that his Republican competitors do not even claim they can compete at his level and acknowledge that he is the unrivaled financial leader.
“Are they raising a lot of money? Yeah,” said Ray Washburne, a Dallas real estate developer who is heading efforts to solicit contributions for Gov. Chris Christie’s new political action committee. “We’re in the making-friends stage.”
The gravitation to Bush is being driven in part by the wide network of donors who supported his father and brother, as well as a sense among many in the establishment that his policy acumen and moderate stance on immigration makes him the strongest contender in a general election.
Despite Bush’s robust lead, party strategists and fundraisers agree that there is still plenty of room for his rivals to maneuver because of the changed nature of this year’s money primary. Super PACs that can raise unlimited donations have already been embraced by the expected candidates, allowing them to scoop up massive contributions before their campaigns officially launch. And the pool of potential givers has greatly expanded in the past several years, as the freewheeling era of big-money groups has attracted a new class of political donors.
Money isn't everything. Just ask Hillary Clinton, who outraised then candidate Barack Obama by 10-1 before the Iowa caucuses. All that cash brought Hillary organization, paid advertising, and the sense of inevitability that goes with front runner status.
But something happened to Clinton on her way to the coronation; the American voter. Something similar can easily play out in the GOP primaries of 2016. All this money means squat until the first votes are cast. The most recent Des Moines Register Iowa Caucus Poll shows Bush at just 9% - good for 5th place. And while the whales may like Bush's stand on immigration and Common Core, the majority of the part certainly does not.
Just because someone is rich doesn't mean they're politically savvy. Bush has too much baggage and is too much a 20th century relic, in my opinion. His real chances are no better or no worse than Governor Walker or Rand Paul at this early stage.