Erick Erickson’s sources said yes yes yes, but Team Jeb immediately said no no no. Now Politico’s Eli Stokols hears the same thing — that the Jeb Bush campaign has all but run out of hard cash, and that donors have begun preparing for the end if Jeb can’t crack into the medal level in South Carolina. The final “kick in the balls” came from Nikki Haley, according to a key Bush donor, speaking anonymously:
Donors, who poured millions into his campaign and super PAC, have stopped giving — one refusing a direct request to raise $1 million this week. Bush himself is hitting the phones, pleading for patience with his most influential supporters. And even some of his confidants are suddenly dejected after a dispiriting week capped off by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley rejecting Bush in favor of Marco Rubio.
“What a kick in the balls,” said one of Bush’s closest supporters, one of the more than a dozen major Bush donors interviewed for this story. …
But even before Haley’s endorsement, several longtime Bush donors were emailing one another Tuesday morning, expressing a collective readiness to intervene and tell Bush, depending on his finish here Saturday night, that his time is up.
“People are going to wait and see what the sequence is in South Carolina, but they’ve put all the players on the field at this point, including W,” one donor on the email chain said. “If he finishes significantly behind Rubio in South Carolina, I think a lot of the people who are personally close to him, including donors are going to say, don’t stay in until money runs out, don’t stay in just to be a spoiler. We’re thinking about legacy now.”
They certainly didn’t hold back anything in South Carolina — especially cash:
On a donor conference call Wednesday night hours after the Haley endorsement, the mood was even more grim. Bush himself wasn’t on the line when one donor asked about the cash situation. The donors were told that the Right to Rise super PAC has $15 million left in the bank. The implication, however, “was that the hard money is about used up,” said one donor.
This dovetails with Erick Erickson’s report a day earlier that the campaign coffers had run dry:
Sources close to the Bush campaign are beginning to leak about a call last night. I’m told the Bush team is out of money. Pay for campaign staff will end on Saturday. The campaign is all but over.
Additionally, after having hundreds of millions of dollars on hand, the Bush Super PAC has less than $15 million from what I am being told.
The Bush campaign vehemently denied this report Thursday morning:
There was no staff call. Desperate fake leak by Marco 2 press bc his ballot stalled. Internals have Jeb/Cruz/Marco MOE. Raised sig $ this wk
— Tim Miller (@Timodc) February 18, 2016
Well, it doesn’t appear that this is a “desperate fake leak” after all, but more like entirely predictable reality. Both the campaign and the PAC spent heavily to gain traction in South Carolina, so it’s certainly believable that the coffers are running low, if not altogether dry. Given the nature of this key state especially for conservative credibility, it would have been malpractice not to invest in this primary, and hope success would stimulate more fundraising.
At least for now, that possibility remains open. Nothing is certain until the ballots get counted, after all, and polls can get things wrong … but there would have to be a major polling failure to see Jeb finish in the money. His current RCP average in South Carolina is 10.5% in a virtual tie for 4th place with John Kasich, but almost seven points behind Marco Rubio for third place. The highest Bush has finished in the past month in any poll is a tie with Rubio for third in the SC House GOP poll, but that’s it. Bush is pulling out all the stops, and his polling still shows in double digits, but it would take a miracle at this point to eclipse Rubio or Cruz, let alone Trump.
If the campaign has to fold its tent after tomorrow’s results, at least Jeb Bush proved one thing: money doesn’t buy elections. At least, not Republican elections.