There’s trouble in Jeb! World. The Bush campaign just announced major budget and staffing cuts across the board. In what is being called a “correction,” the campaign is slashing 40% of its payroll and 45% of its budget, although money for voter outreach and advertising won’t be touched. The changes will reportedly help save $1 million a month, dialing back the extraordinarily high 86% burn rate saddling the campaign. Jetting across the country with a horde of consultants will have that effect.
It appears the lack of major grassroots support for Bush’s campaign has started to affect a fundraising machine that many thought to be formidable, if not unbeatable. His third quarter fundraising total of $13.4 million was well outmatched by Ben Carson’s $20 million. Perhaps more importantly, Bush relies on big-donor contributions more so than any other candidate for president. This could cause problems in a cycle where small-donor fundraising has outperformed the 2012 total by threefold already. His dependence on big-money supporters also serves to buttress his image as an establishment favorite. Consider this from someone already fighting back against his family’s legacy and it’s no wonder why an angry, disillusioned electorate isn’t running to fall in line behind him.
Sure, Bush is carrying out a storm of advertising, from online videos to TV ads. But what does he have to show for dominating the airwaves? The RealClearPolitics average has him in fifth at only 7.2%. Only one of those polls in October had Bush in double digits. Rubio and Cruz, two able fundraisers picking up steam in the early states, have surpassed him. After today’s shake-up, the campaign may well double down in New Hampshire. Without a win there, the road ahead for the Bush campaign will be even murkier.
Despite the third quarter numbers, Bush’s Super PAC can still boast of having raised over $100 million this year alone. A war chest like that brings many advantages, but it can’t keep a campaign alive forever – see Perry and Walker. Nor will two lackluster debate performances. Bush has a number of challenges to face before he can hope to reenter the top tier of primary candidates, and today’s move is one more signal he knows he is missing something – results.