The 2012 presidential campaign broke nearly ever campaign finance record and the 2016 campaign likely will eclipse those figures, which is one reason why former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is preparing to set off on a 60-event fundraising tour in hopes of reaching a first-quarter fundraising goal of $100 million, reports Bloomberg News
During a series of meetings held in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday and Wednesday, those interested in supporting Bush were asked to raise various amounts of money — $50,000, $100,000, $250,000 or $500,000 in advance of a return visit in February, a source told Bloomberg.
While Bush spoke kindly of potential primary rivals, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and the party's 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, his aggressive fundraising agenda is seen as much as an effort not to be left behind in terms of the general election as it is an attempt to freeze out other GOP hopefuls.
But former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt does not believe Romney's decision will be impacted by Bush or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also is vying for the more moderate, establishment segment of the primary electorate.
"He's clearly demonstrated an ability to raise money. I would doubt that would weigh heavily in his criteria, because I think he would be confident he would have the money to run a good campaign," Leavitt told The Wall Street Journal
Leavitt was present at the Thursday meeting in Utah between Romney and Bush, a visit that was planned before the former Massachusetts governor publicly expressed a desire to launch another campaign, The Boston Globe reported
. Both camps remained largely silent on the details of the discussion.
Leavitt may not think money will be a factor in Romney's decision, but Bush's ability to generate support among top Republican financiers will be an undeniable factor.
During the 2012 Republican primary, more than half of the money raised by the candidates came from donors who contributed more than $1,000, according to Campaign Finance Institute data reported by the Journal.
And more than 80 percent of Romney's fundraising haul came in denominations of more than $1,000, while 62 percent of his donations were made by those giving $2,500.
In fact, the Bush effect already is evident.
One of those high-dollar donors, Florida healthcare executive Miguel "Mike" Fernandez, contributed at least $1 million to Romney in 2011, but will be giving to Bush this cycle and seemed unclear on which candidate has earned his support.
"I have not spoken nor heard anything from Gov. Romney's camp. I believed, he would have been a great president. I just don't know if he will run, again.
"I also do not know if Gov. Bush will run, but I would happy to support him, if he decides to enter the arena. At this time all that I do know is that he is still evaluating the possibility. As I have done in the past, I would also be happy to hold an event for his benefit, but we have not scheduled a fundraising event as of today," he told The Miami Herald
Bush might be the natural choice for many Florida fundraisers, but other lobbyists and donors who supported Romney in 2012 are holding out for the moment, reports The Center for Public Integrity
(CPI), a campaign finance watchdog group.
CPI contacted 90 individuals who contributed to Romney during the last election, including every federal lobbyist who helped him raise $30,000 or more.
"The vast majority willing to speak on the record say they haven't decided whom to support in 2016. Almost all say they are wrestling with conflicting loyalties to Romney, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and other potential Republican hopefuls such as Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, as well as Govs. Mike Pence of Indiana, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Chris Christie of New Jersey," reported CPI's Carrie Levine.
David Beightol, another lobbyist who raised substantial sums for Romney in 2012, called Bush and Romney "both high-quality people" but has not committed to either.
"Like a lot of people, I'm torn. They are making it tough on us," Beightol told USA Today
Bush has notched one early victory in the money stakes with the hiring of Lisa Wagner, a top fundraiser for Romney in 2012 who has been described by former Illinois GOP chairman Pat Brady as "a real force," reports Crain's Chicago Business
As the top so-called "establishment" candidates battle for campaign cash, they also are engaged in a competition for campaign staff, which is another reason Bush stopped in Washington before heading to Utah to meet with Romney, reports the National Journal
"This is where the intellectual firepower of the conservative movement houses itself. The whole process is moving faster this time than it has ever been. That means the Washington piece of it has to be accelerated too," says former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, who was at a Tuesday meeting with Republican operatives and staffers that was organized by the Bush team.
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