Donors warn Jeb Bush: You've got a month to turn your polling around before we start bailing

My goodness. If this is true and the money starts drying up, Jeb can’t possibly keep going based on what he’s already raised for more than, say, another nine months, right?

He’s got a president father and a president brother. Half of the donor class either worked for one or both of them or owes them some sort of favor. Jeb’s not going to run out of money.

Jeb Bush is entering a critical phase of his Republican presidential campaign, with top donors warning that the former Florida governor needs to demonstrate growth in the polls over the next month or face serious defections among supporters…

Bush “needs to get his favorables up,” said a senior GOP bundler who is backing him and requested anonymity to speak candidly.

“People are looking at the stage and saying: ‘Jeb and Marco? I’m going with the new,’ ” said a top party fundraiser not aligned with a campaign. “You’re seeing people really gravitate to [Rubio] and saying, ‘Okay, we’ll buck the Bush machine.’

“What I hear everywhere when you say Jeb’s name is, ‘If you want to lose the general election, nominate Jeb,’ ” the fundraiser added.

And yet, that reality notwithstanding, he remains easily the best funded candidate in the race thanks to his family’s connections. It’s almost as if his Republican benefactors don’t much care about beating Hillary Clinton or not.

I do think Jeb’s worried, though — not about whether he has the dough to keep going but whether he’s on the brink of becoming an afterthought in the race. In a perfect Bushian world where his early fundraising scared half the field away from jumping into the race and sent Jeb bouncing out to a comfortable lead in the polls, he’d never mention the name “George W. Bush” except in response to a question. As it is, Dubya’s held not one but two fundraisers for him this month, an obvious appeal to loyalists in lieu of Jeb being able to show would-be donors impressive polling as proof that they’re signing on with the eventual nominee. Not only has he slipped into single digits, nationally and in his must-win state of New Hampshire, he trails Rubio in the latest polls of both races. More alarmingly, Bush is only slightly ahead of John Kasich and Chris Christie in the latest NH poll and is tied with Kasich in Fox News’s national poll last week. He’s in danger of being supplanted by Rubio as the center-right guy from Florida who can win Latino votes and by Kasich and Christie as the centrist governor who’ll stick to his guns even when the right-wingers don’t like it. Worse still, Rubio and Christie are arguably the two most dynamic speakers in the race; it’s entirely plausible that they’ll help themselves at the third GOP debate on October 28th, just as they did in the last one on September 16th. That’s what Jeb fans are really worried about, I think. If Rubio and Christie gain ground again in the polls after the next debate and Jeb’s third-quarter fundraising is way down, he’ll be buried under an avalanche of “failed, fading campaign” narratives. How much can advertising do to turn that around? Especially if/when members of the donor class that aren’t Bush loyalists start signing up with Rubio and Christie to help make them competitive financially with Jeb?

One other X factor with Jeb: How long will he push on with a campaign that he seems not to be enjoying? It’s one thing to keep going if, like Trump, you’re out there every day having a blast, but between the need for the center-right to unite against Trump and Bush’s own seeming ennui on the trail, maybe he’ll take another month of poor polling as a sort of escape hatch from the race. He could follow Walker’s lead — “we need to come together behind Marco,” etc. Better to play kingmaker for his protege than keep battling him for months and months, splitting center-right votes and inadvertently helping his enemy Trump. Something to think about as you enjoy this message from the next president.

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