At a recent closed-doors meeting with donors in New York City, Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio reportedly ended a call for donations by emphasizing to the assembled bundlers, “No one’s ever dropped out of a presidential campaign because they ran out of ideas. They dropped out because they ran out of money.”
As the third quarter of fundraising draws to a close, this truth is becoming more and more apparent across the Republican field. Already Scott Walker and Rick Perry have seen their cash dry up due to the brutal combination of a high burn rate—the burn rate is the rate at which a campaign spends money in excess of inflow—and low donations. Now it appears that Rand Paul is also experiencing these funding issues, with even his fellow Kentucky senator and GOP majority leader Mitch McConnell urging him to abandon his increasingly quixotic quest for the presidency and instead focus on his senate reelection bid.
To be fair, however, none of the above candidates were supposed to be powerhouse financial juggernauts. That label was applied to Jeb Bush, whose stated goal was to have $100 million in campaign donations before even declaring his candidacy, engaging in what the political press corps dubbed a “shock and awe” campaign which would use its massive cash on hand and Super PAC funds to scare off other Republicans from even entering the race and crushing those who did with a swarm of ad-buys and luxury resort confabs with GOP bigwigs. Seventeen GOP candidates later, that strategy appears to have failed—miserably.
Not only have a swarm of other candidates entered the field, but now it appears that the unthinkable is more than just thinkable, but actually happening: the mighty Bush fundraising juggernaut has gone off the rails. Around Miami and Washington, rumors swirl that more and more donors are either pulling back or contemplating pulling back from Bush’s campaign, at least for a moment. A combination of poor debate performances, unforced errors and gaffes on the campaign trail, and that pesky last name have all happened of course, but these were expected. What was not expected was the abject failure of the Bush campaign to exploit its financial advantage in almost any way.
The Bush campaign has an astonishing 87 percent burn rate at the moment, which effectively
means that for every $100 that the campaign receives it immediately spends $87 worth of it on things ranging from luxury resorts for meetings to private charter jets for the candidate. This burn rate stands in stark contrast to that of the average presidential campaign (roughly 60 percent, according to Politico) and in marked contrast to that of presumed primary Bush challenger Marco Rubio (about 40 percent). While the Bush campaign announced across- the-board cuts yesterday as they move to get “leaner,” it appears that donors are getting very restless with the current results, a restlessness which could have fatal results for Jeb’s campaign.
This is the worst possible place for Jeb to be right now. The two whom many see as his most serious opponents, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, are raising nearly as much money while doing better in the polls, especially in the early voting states. He has failed to neutralize any of his initial disadvantages— wooden speaking, lack of passion, perceived sense of entitlement and that last name again—while also failing to capitalize on his initial advantage: money.
What do you call a campaign that cannot overcome its disadvantages or capitalize on its advantages? Over.