Jeb to meet with donors days after slashing campaign costs
Jeb Bush will travel to Texas to face an increasingly anxious group of his biggest donors this weekend, just days after laying off staff and making budgets cuts to his struggling presidential campaign.
The Bush donor retreat beginning Sunday in Houston is expected to feature both his brother and his father, former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. The retreat, which will involve contributors to both the Bush campaign and a pro-Bush super-PAC, has long been planned.
But these major donors are now reconvening at perhaps the lowest point of the Republican’s presidential campaign. The former Florida governor is struggling to find new sources of money and to convince fundraisers to reinvest in a campaign that is faltering and a candidate stuck in single digits in national polling.
One of Bush’s most generous donors said in a phone interview on Friday afternoon that he still believed in Bush’s candidacy but is becoming frustrated that the Bush’s messages about his conservative record in Florida do not seem to be resonating with the American public.
“Yes, the fundraising has slowed down,” the donor said. “In June, when he announced he was running, I sent a letter out to … my friends.”
“I can tell you mine has slowed down because everyone I asked gave,” the donor added. “I don’t know anybody that I asked that gave less than $2,700, so there’s nothing more they can do.”
Bush’s heavy reliance on wealthy donors who contribute the maximum of $2,700 to his campaign account is becoming a problem for his campaign.
Bush has been unable to generate the excitement necessary to build a large base of small-dollar contributors as rivals such as former neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have done on the Republican side, and as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has done on the left.
Small-dollar donors, who typically send campaigns checks of $50 or less, are invaluable to candidates because they are people who can be continually tapped for money throughout the presidential year and won’t exceed the maximum limit early in the cycle.
Bush held several fundraising events in California earlier this week, including two with major backers in Orange County and Los Angeles, a donor who attended told The Hill.
The Bush campaign’s cost-cutting was an issue discussed among Bush’s wealthy backers at the California fundraisers, but the donor who attended said in his view, these cuts were not as terrible as the media is making them out to be.
“How [are staff cuts] a negative?” the donor said in a phone interview Friday. “Any successful business needs to cut their cloth from time to time.”
“In my opinion, [Bush] is just fantastic on the stump now,” the donor added, after seeing him address his wealthy West Coast supporters.
“The problem is — if only we could buy a 15-minute ad and … well if anybody would watch, they’d see how fantastic he is.”
“It’s frustrating [that voters] can’t see that. … It’s frustrating seeing the polls.”
Bush, who was once seen as the establishment favorite for the Republican nomination, entered the race in June in a fundraising blitz some called “shock and awe.” His midyear report to the Federal Election Commission showed a record $103 million raised for his supporting super-PAC Right to Rise. Super-PACs are not allowed to coordinate with official campaigns but can spend unlimited money on the candidate’s behalf.
But the limits of well-funded super-PACs have already been revealed, with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry both quitting the presidential race despite each having more than $10 million in their super-PAC accounts. That money could not legally be used to pay campaign costs such as staff salaries and travel for the candidate, and now the Bush campaign is running into a similar problem.
The recent quarterly financial reports revealed that Bush’s campaign fundraising has slowed to such an extent that he can no longer afford to run a team of the size or power that he originally proposed.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.