- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. | Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his allies have raised more $114 million for his presidential bid over the past six months, delivering a historic one-two punch that sets the financial bar for his Republican primary rivals and easily outpaces the money haul to date from Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The eye-popping financial numbers are a firm reminder of the political blessings that come with being the scion of the most recognized family dynasty in Republican circles, and of Mr. Bush’s ability to tap into a financial network that is decades in the making.

The Bush campaign said it raised $11.4 million on its own in the second half of June after he formally declared his candidacy, while Right to Rise USA, the super political action committee which is backing Mr. Bush’s bid, said it had raised $103 million between Jan. 6 and June 30, with $98 million cash on hand, according to Charlie Spies, the group’s treasurer.

“We are grateful for the overwhelming response from the thousands of donors who have been drawn to Jeb’s optimistic message of conservative renewal and reform,” Mr. Spies said in a post on the group’s website.

The announcement is good news for the Bush camp, which had floated the idea earlier this year that it would be able to raise $100 million.

It also will provide a boost of momentum for candidate, who is leading the GOP presidential field both nationally and here in New Hampshire, which hosts the first-in-the-nation primary and has done something that Iowa and South Carolina failed to do in 2008 and 2012: pick the eventually GOP presidential nominee.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign announced last week that $51 million had been raised between his campaign and supportive super PACs.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, meanwhile, announced it raised $45 million since she entered the race, while outside groups backing her have reported raising about $15.6 million in the first half of 2015.

Even as his finances are boosted by his famous last name, Mr. Bush still faces other challenges from being the son of former President George H.W. Bush and the brother of former President George W. Bush.

“I think his chief task for the next several months is to slowly steadily try to build a political identity of his own,” said Dante Scala, political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.

“He came into the year, very well recognized by New Hampshire Republican voters, but not especially well-liked,” Mr. Scala said, alluding to polls. “He had daily high negatives. The question is how much of that is attributed to him and how much that is to the Bush name itself. “

Primary voters in New Hampshire, which is widely viewed as key to Mr. Bush’s chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination, say the Bush legacy is very much on their mind when they give him a look.

“He has some good points and so forth, but I just don’t think we need another Bush to tell you the truth,” said Roland Harmon, who attended a town hall meeting hosted by Mr. Bush at a local VFW fall this week.

Frank Rydstrom, a Vietnam veteran, said he would be hard-pressed to vote for Mr. Bush because of his political background.

“I am tired of politicians,” Mr. Rydstrom said.

Steve Duprey, a New Hampshire Republican National Committeeman, said those remarks show “there is still a Bush 43 hangover here.”

He said Republicans are upset about the spending and debt that was left in the wake of the second Bush presidency last decade, as well as the poor economy, ongoing wars and the Medicare prescription drug subsidy that added billions of dollars to the deficit.

“Most of the candidates have to introduce themselves, and then convince the voters that they can be a good president,” Mr. Duprey said. “He comes in and he has to do the opposite. He has to convince people he is not his brother or his father, and once he does that, people say, ‘This guy is smart. He is a deep thinker. He is campaigning in a very civil way. He doesn’t take pot shots at people. He is pretty comfortable in his own skin. He had a great record as governor. I really like the guy.’”

Despite the challenge, Mr. Duprey said Mr. Bush is in good shape in the GOP nomination race.

“Would you like to be No. 1 and explain that you are your own person, or be No. 14 and go ‘I am in this?’” he said. “I take No. 1 and explain it. He understands that is his challenge. He has a good team here and he is doing a good job with it. He just has to do it 250 more times.”


• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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