Jeb Bush's Super PAC announced Thursday that it raised over $103 million in the first half of this year — a massive haul that makes Bush's operation by far the best-funded of any presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat.
Bush's actual campaign, meanwhile, raised $11.4 million in just the 16 days in June after he officially announced. When the campaign and the various outside group fundraising numbers that have been released so far are combined, Bush's $114.4 million far exceeds Hillary Clinton's $69.3 million.
Aside from Bush, the Republican whose campaign and outside groups have raised the most money is Ted Cruz, with $51.3 million. Bush's total more than doubles that. Many of his GOP rivals and their assorted Super PACs haven't announced their totals yet, but it's near certain that none of them will come near Bush's.
The Super PAC, called "Right to Rise" after Bush's campaign slogan, has been central to Bush's strategy all along. For nearly six months after Bush said he'd "actively explore" running for president, he continued to work with the Super PAC, helmed by his trusted longtime adviser Mike Murphy, and kept personally fundraising large amounts of money for it. (He can't do either now that he's a candidate, which is part of the reason he put off officially announcing until mid-June.)
The work paid off. Last month, Andrew Kaczynski and Ilan Ben-Meir of BuzzFeed News managed to listen in on one of the Super PAC's calls with its donors shortly after Bush announced. Murphy said he was "well-informed as of a week ago" about what was going on in Bush's campaign, told donors about Bush's three main messaging themes, and explained the campaign's plans for the near future.
He even said that the Super PAC had filmed new footage of Bush, to use in later ads. "We actually were able to do some filming before the wall went down," he said (referring to June 4, when Bush's team cut off contact with the Super PAC). "We have some incredible stuff in the can that we shot with the governor."
The drawbacks of a Super PAC-heavy strategy
But it's worth noting that there are many advantages to raising money for a campaign directly, rather than for a Super PAC (where the vast majority of Bush's dollars are). Campaigns get preference over Super PACs when it comes to placing TV ads, and they also get more favorable rates, as the Guardian's Ben Jacobs writes. Also, Bush and his official campaign team now technically have no say at all in how his Super PAC chooses to spend that $103 million. They aren't permitted even to coordinate with it.
We don't yet have a clear picture of how strong Bush's traditional campaign fundraising will be going forward, since this disclosure covers just a short amount of time. His campaign's $11.4 million haul in 16 days is certainly impressive, but fundraising often drops off after an initial burst. For instance, Ted Cruz's campaign raised $4.3 million the first few days after his late-March announcement but just $10 million over the three months from April to June.
Still, it's difficult to imagine Bush's operation ever being hard up for cash. He'll have plenty of money to compete. Now he just has to convince people to vote for him.