After Bush’s exit, why are the “strong knives” out for Mike Murphy?

posted at 10:01 am on February 22, 2016 by Jazz Shaw

When a well funded, high profile political campaign collapses as utterly as that of Jeb Bush there’s always going to be a postmortem where analysts struggle to figure out where we should affix the blame. In the case of the Jeb! exit, more than a few observers in political circles seem to have quickly identified their target and it’s long time politico Mike Murphy. Mike was in charge of Right to Rise, the Bush Super PAC which built a Fort Knox type vault of advertising cash before Bush was even officially in the race. Now that the end has come, CNN jumps on the bandwagon in pinning the collapse on Murphy’s handling of the entire dismal affair.

In the unsparing judgment of the Twittersphere, there was one clear loser after Jeb’s Bush’s graceful exit from the Republican presidential race Saturday night: political strategist Mike Murphy and the Bush-allied super PAC Right to Rise USA, which he directed.

Murphy has long been one of Bush’s closest advisers — and the political world was in awe last year when Right to Rise raised $100 million just as Bush was launching his candidacy.

Now, the super PAC will go down in history as yet another failed Murphy juggernaut.

In the armchair quarterbacking following Bush’s departure from the race Saturday night, Murphy is facing countless questions about the efficacy of the PAC spending tens of millions of dollars on a candidacy that floundered months ago and never rebounded.

CNN was hardly the only outlet making these claims. Erick Erickson was quick out of the gate to level the same accusation.

McKay Coppins went so far as to say that Murphy may be responsible for handing Donald Trump the nomination. But perhaps one of the most bizarre criticisms on display is the inference allegedly put forward by one bundler that Mike is somehow evil or dishonest because he earned some handsome compensation for his work.

One Bush bundler told CNN’s Dana Bash that when it came to Murphy, “strong knives are out.”

“He made minimum of $14 million,” the bundler said, requesting anonymity to speak freely about campaign strategy.

The details of Murphy’s compensation package at Right to Rise are not publicly known.

Pardon me if I’m a little slow on the uptake here, but I’m simply not getting this entire line of attack. Granted, everyone who works in politics wants to be on the winning team and a first place finish looks great on your resume, but there are armies of politicos out there who work for the many candidates who eventually drop out and go on to have lucrative careers. And before we leave that last point behind entirely, when did conservatives get into the business of criticizing somebody for cutting a good deal for themselves and earning a boatload of money? Isn’t that sort of the entire idea behind capitalism?

We also seem to be entering circular firing squad territory when we tag somebody outside the campaign for Bush’s failure to connect with the voters. Mike’s first job was to raise money which would be spent in the service of bolstering the Bush campaign and he raised it by the metric buttload. As far as the messaging goes, are we seriously going to pin the blame on the Super PAC? I realize we’re all supposed to pretend that there’s zero “coordination” between the PACs and the campaigns, but nobody in the business takes that seriously. It doesn’t take a genius to go to the candidate’s web site, read the press releases or watch their surrogates on cable news and figure out who they are directing their fire at and what themes they are pushing. If you can’t manage at least that much research you’re an idiot. And the campaign doesn’t want a bunch of disparate messages out there watering down their overall strategy.

The bottom line is that Murphy was tasked with promoting a product and it’s hard to sell a lot of Pepsi in a state where everyone is already drinking Coke. The best air war in the world isn’t going to carry the day for the same old same old if the market is looking for something different. At the end of the day, Jeb Bush’s campaign never got off the ground because the base was heading in a different direction, not because some Super PAC somehow failed to pull off a miracle.


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