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Jeb Bush spent $2,800 for every vote he got in Iowa

Jeb Bush spent over $14 million in Iowa but only won one delegate.
Jeb Bush spent over $14 million in Iowa but only won one delegate.
Chip Somodevilla / Staff

Jeb Bush and his allies spent more than $14 million on ads in Iowa but failed to break 3 percent of the vote total on Monday night — a setback for a campaign already struggling with diminished expectations and anemic support.

"In hindsight, it was probably a lot of money wasted," said Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor at Middlebury College, in an interview.

The gap between Bush's high ad spending and low vote count produced both mockery and pity the morning after, with critics calling for Bush to drop out and reporters questioning the former Florida governor's vow to compete successfully in New Hampshire.

Regarded by many as a top-tier candidate when the race began, Bush and his Super PAC spent about $14.1 million on advertisements in Iowa, according to the Huffington Post.

Last night, Bush received 2.8 percentage points and a little more than 5,000 votes, coming away with just one delegate — good for a sixth-place finish. In other words, he spent about $2,800 for every vote he won in Iowa.

Yikes. That's well more than double the spending of any other candidate.

By contrast, last night's victor, Sen. Ted Cruz, spent less than $250 on every vote received. Donald Trump, the second-place finisher, spent even less than that, according to the Huffington Post's look at the numbers.

Expert: Bush is pinning his campaign on New Hampshire, and that's not so crazy

Despite some talk Tuesday morning of Bush throwing in the towel, his campaign has downplayed its disappointing showing in Iowa and promised to press on, telling Politico that it views Iowa as "just one of 56 contests."

That may seem like wishful thinking, but it's not totally outside the realm of the possible, said Dickinson. There really is reason to believe Bush will have a better chance in New Hampshire, and there may be a path forward for Bush with a strong finish in the Granite State, according to Dickinson.

"Iowa was not his terrain — social conservatives have emerged victorious and overperformed the polls in the last two contests," Dickinson said. "I think [Bush] really staked his candidacy on New Hampshire."

Right now, Donald Trump is the heavy favorite in New Hampshire, with a poll released Sunday putting him at 38 percentage points, according to the Washington Post. Trump finished second in Iowa, several percentage points behind Cruz.

That same poll put Marco Rubio, who finished in a strong third in Iowa, essentially even with Bush, at 10 percentage points. But as the second primary contest next week draws near, Bush may have an opportunity to position himself as more in line with New Hampshire voters' preferences than Rubio, Dickinson said.

"People keep lumping Rubio in as an 'establishment candidate,'" but that's not really an accurate portrayal of him, Dickinson said. "You can see it on the stump in how often he talks about Judeo-Christian values ... I think that could help Bush."

And if Bush fails to break through in New Hampshire? Then his campaign and Super PAC still have at least another $60 million to burn through, according to data recently compiled by the New York Times.