Saturday, October 17, 2015

Why Jeb Bush is in Trouble (updated)

The latest news from team Jeb! is not looking good.
Jeb Bush’s campaign slashed hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries over the last three months as the struggling candidate's fundraising machine slowed to a more middling pace, new campaign-finance reports indicate.
So what's the deal here? Isn't Jeb the "shock and awe" candidate when it comes to campaign cash? Didn't his superpac pull in the largest stash ($100 million) ever recorded in campaign history? Aren't we living in an oligarchy where the guy with the most cash from the 1% automatically wins?

It's true, Jeb Bush's superpac is the largest war chest ever captured in U.S. presidential history. But as we've discussed before, that money can't be used to pay for the nuts and bolts of his campaign. Hence, if you work for Bush, you're likely getting a pay cut right about now.

When it comes to cash for the actual campaign operation, so far Bush is hauling it in at about the same rate as Rubio and Cruz (all in the $24-$26 million range so far). But I suspect that someone in Jeb's finance team noticed the same thing I did about the huge difference between these campaigns. Of the money raised so far, only 5% of Bush's has come from small donations (under $250). For Rubio that number is 27% and for Cruz it's a whopping 42%.

If my assumption is correct that the majority of the large contributions came in the form of the maximum allowed - $2,700 - Jeb could be in big trouble because his donors have already given as much as they can until after the convention. Hence, all the cutbacks right now. On the other hand, Rubio and Cruz have a larger cadre of supporters/donors who can continue to give money to their campaigns.

That is precisely why one Bush supporter nailed it with this statement:
“We’ve reached one million people [via voter contacts] and we’re in fifth place nationally?” said one Bush supporter who didn’t want to be identified. “I trust the campaign. I just don’t know about the voters. It’s like the more Jeb is out there, the less well he does.”
If, for one, take heart in the fact that no matter how much money a candidate's superpac is sitting on, it's still the voters who get to decide in the end.

UPDATE: Confirming my assumption that Bush raised most of his contributions from people who gave the maximum amount ($2,700), Paul Blumenthal at HuffPost provides this chart (based on July - September contributions).

This chart also suggests that Christie (and perhaps Kasich) might run into the same problem.


  1. What is interesting to me about that chart is that Ben Carson is out-raising everyone with individual donors by a considerable amount. Or am I just reading this wrong? Graphs aren't user friendly to me. If I am reading this correctly, then why aren't we more concerned about the retired brain surgeon with ZERO experience?

    1. What candidate in this race am I not supposed to be concerned about? Every one of them would be a disaster.

      What I'm trying to do here is demonstrate that our assumptions about the role money in politics aren't playing out.

    2. Nothing about how Presidential elections cycles are supposed to go is playing out. For either party.

  2. It seems to me that a good indicator of a candidate's popularity is her/his number of small donors. The graph posted here reflects a high popularity for Dr. Carson among Republican donors. On the Democratic side, less than one per cent of the approximately 700,000 donors to Senator Sanders' campaign have contributed the maximum amount, according to this recent article in The Nation:


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