Jeb Bush may not have a wealth of polling support or a wealth of media attention. But he does have wealth.
"Blah, blah, blah," Bush told reporters when asked about staff cuts and budget troubles in his campaign. "That's my answer: Blah, blah, blah." And campaign experts note the former Florida governor still has nearly $25 million reasons to be cocky.
Federal Election Commission reporting indicates Bush's campaign has taken in $24.8 million so far in the 2016 presidential cycle. That puts Bush in third place among Republican candidates, behind Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, and well behind Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who has raised $77 million.
But Bush also has his family's donor list, which has been curated and attended to for decades.
“That’s very valuable,” Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, told AMI Newswire. "He can still go back and tap that, and you shouldn’t underestimate how important and valuable it is to have those donor lists that have been tested – tried and true donors.”
But additional donors can carry Bush only so far. McGehee says If he’s going to have a chance, he needs to invigorate voters and give them something to be excited about.
That challenge was underlined recently by a perceived financial crisis in Jeb Bush’s campaign. The Bush campaign slashed salaries by 40 percent, trimmed its Miami headquarters by half and reduced travel expenses.
The cuts are a sign of crisis mode from a campaign that’s bringing up the rear in recent polls. According to a Monmouth University poll released Monday, Bush is in fifth place in Iowa, with just 8 percent.
“When you are not running high in the polls, it doesn’t matter how well you do on the super PAC or dark money side or even on the large donor side,” McGehee said. “You still have to be able to sell your message to some degree, and this is obviously a campaign that’s struggling to find its legs.”
Two things need to happen, McGehee said: A candidate must have a message that resonates with voters and be able to tap money beyond traditional large donors. Bush is struggling on both fronts.
“People don’t like to jump on a sinking ship, they like to jump on a ship that’s going to go out there and sail the sea,” McGehee said. “And when you’re perceived as being in trouble, it often kind of creates its own dynamic.”
If Bush wants a chance at rising to the top, McGehee says he has to come up with a clear and exciting message.
“He has underwhelmed so far in the debates and underperformed. And in politics you can only get by with that for so long.”