UPDATE: As Christine noted, it's all over for Bush.
Gov. Bush–it may be time to close up shop, sir. Indeed, that’s what everyone is saying in the media and within the insider circles of Florida’s political elite. The former Florida governor’s campaign operations had raised an enormous amount of money, rivaling the Clinton camp, but the war chests seem to be all but depleted. In January, the Bush machine was attacking everyone, especially Sen. Marco Rubio, which spurred the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes to write that all he’s doing is softening the rest of the field to clear way for a Trump nomination.
It would be another thing to say if he was rising in the polls; he’s not. Bush has spent thousands per vote in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he had a less than stellar sixth and fourth place finish in those contests. Oh, and he eked out that fourth place, barely beating Rubio for that spot. Even prior to the New Hampshire primary, those funding the Bush camp were reportedly resigned to the fact that Jeb will never win the nomination:
Many donors and influential supporters, bound by a deep and longstanding connection to the patrician clan, say they will remain with Bush no matter what. Yet others, deeply distressed by the rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and eager for the Republican Party to rally around a mainstream candidate with viability, say they have come to terms with Bush’s long odds and the possibility they will eventually get behind someone else.
“I acknowledge reality. There’s going to be three or four candidates remaining after New Hampshire,” said former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, a Jeb Bush adviser who also worked on George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns. “I think the field is going to narrow pretty quickly. We’ll see what happens in South Carolina, and from there you can see the dynamic starting to winnow the field pretty quickly.”
Another high profile Bush financial backer, who has also been close to the family for years, said most of Bush’s donors would give him until the South Carolina primary on Feb. 20. “That’s when they say, ‘Enough.’”
In the Tampa Bay Times, 130 of Florida’s top political insiders pretty much reiterated the same thing: the end is near, with some citing Hayes’ January remarks that the longer he stays in the race–the greater the chances that Trump will become the nominee:
I love Jeb. It's over for him," said on Republican. "Time to rally around anyone but Trump."
"Bush is dead but his team is too stubborn to pull the plug," said another Republican. "If he doesn't leave the race and continues to nuke Marco, he might as well be working to elect Donald Trump."
Granted, these polls aren’t scientific, though it still echoes the truth, which is that if Bush doesn’t finish in the top three (okay, maybe fourth but let’s put an asterisk on that), he should bow out with dignity. As Ed wrote over at Hot Air, at this point–there doesn’t seem to be any way that Bush can overtake Cruz, Rubio, and especially Trump.
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.
In the words of Jim Morrison, “this is the end...my only friend, the end.”