Jeb Bush isn't in a hurry.
As competitors for the Republican presidential nomination accelerate their campaigns, the former two-term Florida governor appears content to slow-walk toward an expected 2016 bid. On Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is announcing for president; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is expected to join him six days later (Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, launched March 23.) Bush remains focused on raising money for his political action committee and super PAC, both called Right to Rise.
The Floridian is scheduled through at least May 25 to headline several fundraisers for these two organizations, created late last year as a precursor to Bush's running for president.
Stops are set for locales as far-flung as Seattle in the Pacific Northwest and Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory in the Caribbean. A smattering of public, quasi-campaign events have been included in Bush's itinerary. This week, that schedule includes a meeting with military veterans in Colorado Springs; an energy-related event in Denver; and an address to the National Rifle Association in Nashville. Next week, Bush is public in Ohio and New Hampshire.
"The governor is focused on communicating his conservative, positive vision for helping every American get ahead as he gauges interest for a potential run," Allie Brandenburger, a spokeswoman for Bush's PAC, said.
Bush's focus on raising money and building his political team in advance of becoming an official candidate is hardly out of the ordinary. Most of the GOP's likely 2016 contenders are proceeding similarly. But Bush's truly national approach, with less focus on spending time in the early primary states, marks a departure from most of the other undeclared candidates who have spent most of their time in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Bush's torrid fundraising pace is nearly unprecedented among the field.
According to a list of events obtained by the Washington Examiner, upcoming Bush events are set for: Chicago (twice); Boston; Nashville; Vero Beach, Fla.; an unnamed city in Ohio; Portland, Ore; New York (twice); Seattle and Puerto Rico. Previous events were set for Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Tyler, Texas; and San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Palo Altoand San Francisco, Calif. Bush's team declined to discuss fundraising events in any detail.
"Jeb has some luxuries that other candidates don't have," said Nathan Gonzales, editor of the Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report. "He has access to so many high dollar donors and overall fundraising potential that he can afford to do things a little differently than the rest of the field. I don't think the person who raises the most money is guaranteed the nomination, but I think Jeb's fundraising guarantees he will be a factor far into the primary calendar."
Amid Bush's money tour, two additional events stand out — one in Miami, the other in Washington. The Right to Rise super PAC is holding a national "team meeting" in Miami April 26-27, but only for Bush bundlers who met their "fundraising commitment" as of April 17. The event is billed as "policy, political and finance briefings with the governor and our team."
The fundraising commitments, detailed in a "save the date" sent to Bush supporters, include individuals who pledged to contribute $25,000; those who offered to donate or raise $50,000; those who promised to raise or give $100,000; those who obligated themselves to raise or contribute $250,000; and individuals who marked themselves down for raising or donating $500,000.
A few days later, on April 30, Bush is scheduled to return to Washington for a morning coffee event to raise more money for his super PAC. Individuals can attend for a $1,000 contribution. Those who want to be members of the host committee are being asked to donate $5,000 or raise $10,000 in money that was previously pledged or received. The Bush team is trying to prevent bundlers from taking credit for raising money that is considered already in the door.
"Please note that all raised funds for your host committee commitment must be new contributions," Right to Rise regional finance director Sarah Corsaro wrote in a save the date email.
Bush is expected to raise tens of millions of dollars — possibly more than $100 million — by the time he announces for president. Even some of the Republican contenders who have been successful raising money nationally, such as Rubio, are unlikely to match Bush's money machine prior to launching their White House campaigns. But being an actual, rather than hypothetical, candidate could help other Republicans blunt Bush's financial advantage.
Cruz's fundraising kicked into high gear once he officially jumped into the race with an announcement at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., in late March. The Texas senator raised $4 million his first week as a declared candidate, mostly from small donors. Paul and Rubio, who have existing and lucrative small donor networks, could see an even larger surge in resources their first week as official candidates.
Meanwhile, Opportunity and Freedom PAC, a super PAC formed to support the eventual presidential candidacy of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, announced last week that it had brought in more than $1 million combined from fundraisers in Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Midland, Texas. The GOP primary field for the 2016 nomination is projected to be deep, with several potential top tier candidates for voters to choose from. Many can, and most might, catch up with Bush's fundraising machine over time. Even if they don't, money doesn't guarantee victory.
But a Republican operative who advised a presidential candidate in 2012 said Bush is in a unique position. Unlike most of the other potential candidates, Bush has a deep well of political allies to draw on, amassed over more than three decades of high offices held by Bush and his family members, including his father, former President George H.W. Bush; and his brother, former President George W. Bush. He doesn't have to rush to scoop up supporters and professionals to work on his campaign, the way some of the other candidates might.
"The Bush family has hundreds of loyalists across the country who would be willing to move to Miami and join the cause if and when they're asked. And once these folks are hired, they will find their work easier than staffers on the other campaigns," said this GOP operative, who is not affiliated with a 2016'er. "They will start with strong contacts and foundations in every state and have the resources necessary to further build out the organizational elements."