Jeb Bush’s campaign spending problem.

Jeb Is Great at Raising Campaign Cash, Even Better at Spending It

Jeb Is Great at Raising Campaign Cash, Even Better at Spending It

The Slatest
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Oct. 15 2015 7:00 PM

Jeb Is Great at Raising Campaign Cash, Even Better at Spending It

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Bush speaks to the press at the 4th of July Parade in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

Photo by Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images

Jeb Bush entered the Republican race as a fundraising powerhouse. He entered autumn, though, without a whole lot to show for it.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

On Thursday, Bush announced he had raised $13.4 million during the past three months—good for the second-most among those GOP candidates who have released their summer fundraising totals so far, but only about $2 million more than he reported bringing in during the first 16 days of his campaign. More troubling for Jeb than that trend, though, is how much cash his campaign has already burned through.

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Bush’s campaign reported spending $11.5 million during the third quarter—roughly 86 percent of what it brought in over those three months—leaving Jeb with $10.3 million on hand entering October. For comparison, Marco Rubio, his main establishment challenger, raised only $6 million over that same period but reported having roughly the same amount in his bank account as his better-funded rival does. Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, meanwhile, both claim to have more on hand than either of the establishment favorites (third quarter totals via the Washington Post):

  • Ted Cruz: $12.2 million raised; $13.5 million on hand
  • Ben Carson: More than $20 million raised; $11.5 million on hand
  • Marco Rubio: $6 million raised; nearly $11 million on hand
  • Jeb Bush: $13.4 million raised, $10.3 million on hand
  • Carly Fiorina: $6.8 million raised; $5.5 million on hand
  • Rand Paul: $2.5 million raised; $2 million on hand

Bush still has his well-funded super PAC to fall back on, and he isn’t in any danger of running out of personal campaign cash like Scott Walker did. But his high burn rate combined with his low polling numbers won’t settle the stomach of his nervous donors who are already worried that they’re not getting the desired bang for their buck. Jeb’s team attempted to do a little preemptive defense earlier this week, boasting that they had recently started to pinch pennies by cutting down on private planes and fancy hotel rooms—but by doing so they also reminded everyone that their man had been flying on private planes and staying in fancy hotel rooms while slipping to fifth place in the national polls (and that he needs to now pinch pennies).

Jeb began the year as his party’s front-runner, thanks in large part to two (related) things: his last name and the establishment excitement around his “shock and awe” fundraising strategy. Almost a year later, though, he’s still struggling to figure out how to utilize the former, and the latter is starting to look shocking for the wrong reasons.