Bush’s Campaign Trails Three Republican Rivals in 2016 Money Race
His super PAC remains supreme, but his campaign has less cash on hand than Cruz, Rubio, or Carson.
Nine months after entering the 2016 stage as a fundraising behemoth, Jeb Bush finds himself in the final, crucial months before actual voting begins with less money in the bank than three GOP rivals.
The former Florida governor raised $13.4 million between July 1 and Sept. 30—just $2 million more than he raised in the final two weeks of June following his formal entry into the race. The haul left him $10.3 million heading into October.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson all began the fourth quarter with more in the bank. Cruz had $13.8 million, Carson had $11.2 million, and Rubio had $11 million, according to Federal Election Commission reports filed Thursday.
“This is particularly noteworthy given the depth of the current field,” Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz said in a statement. “We knew from the start this was going to be a hard-fought and close race, but few could have anticipated just how volatile this field would be.”
These figures do not reflect the dollars collected by super PACs supporting the candidates. Among those, the Right to Rise committee supporting Bush had raised $103 million in the first half of the year, far more than the group supporting Rubio and the various groups backing Cruz. How much each of these groups has today is unavailable to the public, and won’t be until the next FEC filing deadline for super PACs on Jan. 31, 2016—the day before the Iowa caucuses.
Right to Rise, however, announced Thursday that it is reserving $16.8 million in TV ads in states that vote March 1, including Georgia, Texas, Virginia, and Michigan.
Also not covered by Thursday’s filings is spending by a secret-money political group, Conservative Solutions Project, which has been running millions of dollars in ads praising Rubio for months in the early-voting states. The donors paying for those ads never have to be revealed, and how much the group ends up spending doesn’t have to disclosed until the spring of 2017—months after the next president has taken office.
Setting aside the outside groups, that Bush’s actual campaign has been matched, let alone surpassed, by other candidates speaks to the trouble he has had all summer and into the fall gaining traction in polling. Bush currently stands in single digits nationally, despite having the best Republican fundraising operation in the country—originally built for his father’s 1980 presidential run, and then kept updated through five additional national races for his father and older brother.
That ability to raise money quickly, combined with Bush’s view that his campaign from the start had to be equipped to run a successful general-election race to take on presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, led him to build a sprawling operation far larger than his GOP rivals.
In the three months ending Sept. 30, Bush’s campaign spent $2.4 million paying 133 different staffers. Rubio, in contrast, paid 44 individuals a total of $591,500, and Cruz paid 36 people a total of $563,000.
(Carson, meanwhile, paid the majority of what he raised—$11.6 million—to the direct-mail and email marketing companies that brought the money in. His unconventional campaign spent just $169,000 on staff.)
The Bush campaign also spent $922,000 on chartered airplanes—although the vast majority of that came in July and early August, before the campaign started cutting back on expenses to match smaller expected fundraising totals.