Some Bush donors think he needs a heavyweight political adviser

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 02, 2015 4:21 PM

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some of Republican Jeb Bush's financial supporters think he needs a heavyweight political adviser to help him navigate the campaign trail and deliver more dynamic performances.

According to conversations with a number of donors, some would like to see Bush bring back Mike Murphy, the political veteran who heads Bush's Right to Rise organization and who by law cannot advise Bush as long as he is at the super PAC.

Other donors, while anxious about Bush's slippage in polls of Republican voters, say they are pleased that he appears to have stopped the bleeding in his campaign with a stronger debate performance in Milwaukee last month and believe he can still emerge as the victor in the unpredictable race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

When Bush set up his campaign last summer, he split up his key advisers. Murphy, who ran John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign and is based in Los Angeles, became head of Right to Rise, in charge of developing television ads to run in key early states, with a war chest of more than $100 million. Sally Bradshaw, his long-time adviser in Florida politics but not steeped in running national presidential campaigns, stayed in Tallahassee, and other senior team members like campaign manager Danny Diaz were based in Miami, Bush's home town.

Donors who believe Bush is the Republicans' best hope for capturing the White House in the November 2016 election have become worried at the state of the race, with political novices Donald Trump and Ben Carson leading the way.

Bush, a favorite of many establishment Republicans, is showing support only in single digits in many national polls and polls in early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Some believe Bush might benefit from an experienced hand to travel at his side and help him hammer home his message on the campaign trail, with two months to go before the voting starts.

"What he needs is somebody every morning to pump him up and tell him 'why you need to be the best damned candidate,'" said one source familiar with the debate among donors about what might help Bush.

There was no indication that Bush is prepared to bring back Murphy, or hire another heavyweight.

"There is no plan for him to leave here," an official at Right to Rise said of Murphy. "We're pretty far along now and this was kind of the plan from the get-go."

The Bush campaign itself declined to comment but gave no indication that such a move might be in the offing.

It is not a universal belief among his core supporters that Bush needs a political veteran to help guide him.

In fact, many Bush donors like the candidate they see now, noting he is drawing good crowds on his campaign stops and has improved his performance, including a well-received speech in South Carolina two weeks ago on how he would deal with Islamic State militants in the wake of the Paris attacks.

"People who are with Jeb believe in Jeb, and also think that over time the laws of physics will take shape and sort things out the right way," said Joe Kyrillos, a major Bush donor in New Jersey.

Bush remains a strong draw among financial donors. He will attend a fundraiser on Thursday night in Washington at the home of Boyden Gray, a long-time figure in Republican politics who was a senior aide to his father, former President George H.W. Bush.

And this weekend, Bush and top aides are to host big donors at a two-day retreat in Miami.

"We feel like we're well-positioned. This is a race we know is going to get tight," a Bush aide said. "This is a long slog. We always knew that."

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Leslie Adler)