Marco Rubio has led Jeb Bush in the polls for months as Miami’s two Republican presidential candidates scrap for the role of safest alternative to front-runners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
Now the momentum has shifted from Bush to Rubio in the money race, too.
The Florida senator is scoring campaign cash from small donors and billionaires alike and catching up to his former political ally in overall money raised, a Miami Herald analysis of new Federal Election Commission data shows.
$14.2 million Marco Rubio’s fourth-quarter fundraising haul
In the fourth quarter of 2015, Rubio raised nearly $14.2 million in individual contributions from donors around the nation, according to numbers the campaigns were required to file with the FEC by Sunday night. Donations made directly to candidates, which are capped at $5,400, often reflect grassroots support.
$7.1 million Jeb Bush’s fourth-quarter fundraising haul
Rubio’s campaign touted the haul as its “strongest fundraising quarter yet” in a press release.
Meanwhile, Bush pulled in just $7.1 million in the crucial months leading up to the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.
The former governor still leads Rubio in campaign donations since the race for president began, with $32 million to the younger politician’s $28 million. But the gap is narrowing.
And Bush essentially conceded Iowa early, calling Trump a “blowhard” in downtown Des Moines on Monday before jetting off to campaign in moderate New Hampshire, where he has a better shot at placing in the top three.
“We have candidates running where it's all about them,” he said.
That left Rubio to carry Florida’s standard in Iowa.
Bush won about 3 percent of the vote in the caucus, good for a sixth-place finish, according to provisional results reported by the Associated Press late Monday. Rubio finished third with 23 percent, behind the winner Cruz at 28 percent and runner-up Trump at 24 percent.
In terms of fundraising, both Florida candidates have been outraised by Ben Carson ($54 million) and Cruz ($47 million), although Carson has burned through much of his cash. Democrats Hillary Clinton ($112 million) and Bernie Sanders ($73 million), who have to spar with fewer primary rivals for donor dollars, are also ahead.
Money from campaigns, super PACs and nonprofits
Presidential candidates collect money directly for their campaigns but also have outside political groups backing them: “super” political action committees and tax-exempt nonprofits. Campaign donations are capped, while super PACs and nonprofits can accept unlimited dollars. Campaigns and super PACs must disclose their donors, but nonprofits can keep them secret. Here’s how much Bush and Rubio fundraised through Dec. 31. “Other”includes nonprofits.
Since they announced their bids for president – Rubio in April and Bush in June – the two have received roughly $60 million in campaign contributions nationwide. This is money given to candidates, not super PACs. About $51 million came from donors who gave more than $200, also known as itemized donations. Campaigns do not have to reveal information about donors who give less than $200.
The super PAC donors
Rubio did well among ultra-wealthy donors. His super PAC, Conservative Solutions, raised $14.4 million in the second half of the year, bringing its total to about $30 million.
Super PACs attract wealthy donors who can write big checks to the committees, which can’t coordinate with a candidate’s campaign. Here are the top contributors in South Florida — consisting of Miami-Dade and Broward counties — Florida and the nation to super PACs backing Bush and Rubio:
Chicago hedge-fund mogul Kenneth Griffin led the way, following up an earlier $100,000 contribution to the Rubio super PAC with a $2.5 million donation in mid-December. Griffin, a South Florida native, made headlines recently after buying a Miami Beach penthouse condo for $60 million and then quickly relisting it for $73 million.
Paul Singer, who manages a hedge fund worth billions in New York City, also chipped in with $2.5 million. Rubio’s long-time and most generous backer, Norman Braman, gave another $1 million, raising his total contribution to $6 million.
Braman, who runs a lucrative South Florida car-dealership chain, said in an interview small donations are a better bellwether than big-money contributions.
“The grassroots support is what’s really important,” he said.
But he added that he expects Rubio’s super PAC to pick up more donations.
$2.5 million Donation from hedge-fund mogul Kenneth Griffin to Rubio’s super PAC
“The donors will really start to come together around the strongest candidate after these early primaries,” Braman said. “That’s what we’ve seen happen before.”
In an early sign of those shifting political winds, Miami financier Bruce Berkowitz donated $250,000 to Conservative Solutions, which is supporting Rubio, in November after giving Bush’s super PAC Right to Rise $150,000 early last year. Berkowitz did not return a call requesting comment.
Right to Rise reported raising $15.1 million in the second half of the year after raising a whopping $103 million in the first half. A single, $10 million donation from a company controlled by Hank Greenberg, former chief executive of insurance giant AIG, made up the bulk of the haul.
Right to Rise still has $59 million remaining, more than Rubio’s super PAC, which has nearly $14 million. But the drop off in Right to Rise's fundraising reflects Bush's collapse in public-opinion polls, which make financial donors more skittish about backing a candidate.
Healthcare mogul Mike Fernandez remains the Bush super PAC’s biggest backer. A $150,000 donation in December brought his total to nearly $3.2 million.
Statewide itemized campaign contributions
For their presidential fundraising, Bush and Rubio have relied on donors from their hometown state, which holds its primary on March 15. The map below shows the difference in itemized campaign money Bush and Rubio received from donors in Florida. Rubio is catching up to Bush in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and has surpassed him in Palm Beach. The sitting senator also has more support on Florida’s west coast.
In the fourth quarter, Rubio’s campaign pulled in about $2 million from Florida donors compared to $1.2 million for Bush. Rubio outraised Bush in crucial media markets around Miami, Tampa and Orlando, but the former governor did better in the Tallahassee and Jacksonville areas.
In Miami-Dade, which both candidates call home, Rubio raised more than $512,000 to Bush’s $349,000.
Bush has still raised $5.9 million in Florida overall. Rubio has $4.4 million.
Nationwide itemized campaign contributions
The candidates are also competing for donors nationwide. Rubio’s strong fourth quarter saw him best Bush in the well-heeled states of California, New York and Illinois. Bush, a native of Midland, Texas, just edged Rubio in the Texas. Overall, Bush is still leading in Florida and New York but Rubio has pulled in front in California. Rubio is also ahead in the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.