As Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s poll numbers dropped, his supporters sought to assuage doubters by pointing to a campaign machine built to out-muscle less organized competition in March, the most frenetic and consequential stretch in the party’s five-month primary race.
But a survey of states with March primary and caucus contests suggests the former Florida governor has little advantage, so far, over his rivals. Interviews with political strategists—as well as with members of the grassroots network the Bush team has touted—reveal a campaign that’s struggling to recruit volunteers and gin up excitement amid Bush’s slide in the polls and poor debate performances. They paint a picture of a top-heavy campaign with plenty of endorsements that’s still waiting for the candidate to turn on the ignition.
“You can buy all the people you want, but it doesn’t make voters vote for you,” Brent Buchanan, an Alabama political consultant, said in an interview. “He’s just not connecting with people like his brother did. He’s a policy wonk, and that’s great for a governor. But it doesn’t always translate to the presidential race.”