Jeb Bush raised more money in the past three months than any other Republican presidential candidate except the surging Ben Carson, collecting $13.4 million through Sept. 30.
Yet Bush’s fundraising pace slowed dramatically from when he launched his campaign in June and amassed $11.4 million in a mere few weeks.
At the time, Bush appeared difficult to defeat in the 2016 GOP primary, with a fundraising machine fueled by much of the same party establishment that lifted his father and brother into the White House. Then came Donald Trump and the summer of political outsiders.
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, especially benefited from Republican voters’ mood, raising $20 million last quarter. Trump, a billionaire who is self-funding his campaign, said he received an “unsolicited” $3.8 million in contributions last quarter.
“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,” Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz wrote in a memo released Thursday along with the fundraising total. “I — for one — would be less than forthcoming if I said we predicted in June that a reality television star supporting Canadian-style single-payer health care and partial-birth abortion would be leading the Republican Primary.”
The Bush machine is still in place, and the former Florida governor has an expansive, Miami-based operation that boasts an unparalleled number of staffers in early primary and caucus states.
“The overall effort supporting Jeb will be better funded than any other in the entire field and the campaign has a formidable grassroots organization in the early states that is making thousands of voter contacts and recruiting volunteers for February,” Diaz wrote.
But campaigns are expensive. Diaz has trimmed costs, and the candidate has started flying commercial more often, instead of on pricier private jets.
In all, Bush has $10.2 million in the bank — less than several of his opponents. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who raised $12.2 million last quarter, leads the field with $13.5 million, followed by Carson with $11.5 million and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with $11 million. Most candidates had yet to file detailed reports — due by midnight Thursday — with the Federal Election Commission.
Those totals do not include what political action committees have collected on behalf of candidates they support. As of June 30, Right to Rise USA, the super PAC backing Bush, had pulled in a staggering $103 million. PACs and political nonprofits, which can keep their donors secret, do not have to report updated fundraising numbers yet.
Though contributions to Bush more than doubled the ones to Rubio, the senator’s campaign pounced Thursday afternoon, gloating that Rubio has a little more cash on hand — about $700,000 more. The television ads promoting Rubio’s policies —about $6 million’s worth —have so far all been paid for by a political nonprofit, Conservative Solutions Project.
Rubio’s campaign waited exactly six minutes after Bush published his totals to blast a statement bragging that Rubio, who raised a disappointing $6 million, had “saved” more: “Thanks to smart budgeting and fiscal discipline, Marco Rubio for President started October with more money in the bank than Jeb Bush for President and most other campaigns.”
It’s unclear how much of Rubio’s remaining cash is for the primary and how much for a potential general election. A Bush campaign source said about $270,000 out of its $10.2 million on hand is for the general election.
None of the Republicans raked in as much as the top two Democratic presidential candidates. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton collected $28 million last quarter, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders raised $26 million.
Several Republicans in the crowded field appear strapped for cash. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul raised $2.5 million and has $2 million in the bank, prompting deathwatch rumors that led the campaign to author a memo Thursday insisting all was well.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal spent more ($832,000) than he raised ($579,000) and now has only $261,000 in the bank.