Jeb Bush, the former governor, brother of president 43 and son of president 41, has quietly but ruthlessly assembled a 2016 presidential fundraising juggernaut--one that Republican money men say will be impossible for any of the other 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls to emulate and could easily go stride for stride with the legendary Clinton fundraising machine when, as expected, the former first lady announces her 2016 intentions.
What's so interesting about Bush's money grab is how relatively quietly he's been able to raise what FOX Business has been told is countless millions of dollars--plus the promises of millions more if he announces his candidacy. Does that mean we are all but certain to be heading for Bush vs Clinton (again)? I would say probably, but here are some caveats: My sources are largely Wall Street types who naturally gravitate to establishment front runners, so Bush is their natural choice. Moreover some of these fundraisers are still waiting for the possibility that a Midwestern governor like Mike Pence of Indiana, John Kasich of Ohio, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin might have some breakthrough moment, and with it, any of the above could start siphoning off some cash from the Bush machine.
But the odds of that happening--at least in the early innings of the race--look increasingly remote, the money men say. Texas senator Ted Cruz recently announced his candidacy to great Conservative fan fare, but more broadly in the GOP, is coming across as a novelty candidate of the far right, at least according to most big fundraisers who point out correctly that such candidates have rarely gone the distance.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio has an inspiring life story, but he's been emailing donors already in the Bush camp; the betting is that Rubio's best shot is as vice president for one of the Midwestern governors.
Bush's early-inning money advantage is squeezing wanna-be's, like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, nearly out of the race. For example, Bush will be in Dallas Wednesday night for a fundraiser with his brother, father, and many more luminaries who are likely to include old New York Jets owner Woody Johnson.
The price of admission to the gala is $100,000, one GOP fundraiser who is going told FBN. Christie meanwhile will be in Houston scrounging for what’s left over from those who couldn't afford the Bush event. "It reminds me of the snow storm that recently hit Boston; its going to impossible for any of the others to dig out from what Bush is putting together," one major Republican fundraiser recently told FBN.
There is a cynical (and accurate) view that Wall Street wants Bush because the financiers know they will have a friend in the White House--the same reason many bankers like Hillary Clinton. Both possible candidates have ties to major players on the Street: Jeb Bush was an adviser to Lehman Brothers and Barclays Bank; Hillary is pals with Goldman Sach's CEO (NYSE:GS) Lloyd Blankfein and many others.And the bankers want crony capitalism in return.
But Wall Street types, and particularly Republicans, also like Bush for other pragmatic reasons: They despise the far left, anti banker tilt of the Democratic Party under president Obama, and they think Clinton wont be able to reverse the power of the left. They also believe Bush, and only Bush, can beat Clinton.
One more big point in Jeb Bush's favor: No matter how much the populist Tea Partiers say Wall Street does not matter, the record shows in terms of picking candidates, particularly in the GOP, the financiers almost always do in fact matter. Ronald Reagan won in 1980 with significant Wall Street support, and he couldn't capture the nomination in 1976 without it.The populists like to point to Obama's insurgent candidacy in 2008 that beat Clinton en route to the presidency. But those people miss the point that then-candidate Obama had his own Wall Street money infrastructure headed by the likes of Blackrock's (NYSE:BLK) Larry Fink, and Robert Wolf then the head of the U.S. subsidiary of the giant Swiss bank, UBS.
The Wall Street seed money gave Obama a fighting chance against Clinton early on, and allowed the president to utterly destroy his rival John McCain in the fundraising derby during the general election. Its interesting to note, even as Wall Street was crumbling during the dark days of the 2008 financial crisis, Goldman Sachs had emerged as Obama's second largest contributor.
There is a good reason why Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate, dropped out of the race and I am told still harbors a grudge against Jeb Bush. When he was weighing whether to run again, he did a little research and saw what he was up against: A Jeb Bush money machine that would make the Clintons proud.