Jeb Bush’s campaign insists it is not imploding before primary voters’ eyes despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
The former Florida governor now finds himself in a situation where his own supporters say he isn’t firing on all cylinders, his polls are sagging, Republican insiders claim he is running out of cash, and key endorsements are going to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
And now campaign officials and a top fundraiser are pushing back aggressively against claims the Bush campaign will stop paying staff on Saturday due to lack of funds.
Citing “sources close to the Bush campaign,” conservative commentator and Red State editor Erick Erickson wrote that there was a phone call on Wednesday night in which the news leaked out that the Bush campaign was out of cash.
“Pay for campaign staff will end on Saturday. The campaign is all but over,” Erickson wrote Thursday at the Resurgent. “Additionally, after having hundreds of millions of dollars on hand, the Bush Super PAC has less than $15 million from what I am being told.”
Erikson said Bush could be a “king-maker” if he got out of the race before South Carolina’s primary voters head to the polls on Saturday, but the campaign “vehemently” denied having cash-flow problems.
After Erickson’s story reverberated through the political world on Thursday morning, Bush campaign spokesman Tim Miller tweeted:
“I am traveling on Saturday to Nevada to help oversee that effort, and we have staff waiting for me,” Al Cardenas, a longtime Bush insider and senior fundraiser, said in a telephone interview with The Hill. “And nobody’s been notified about this information.
“It would come as a surprise to [Bush campaign] staff that Erick’s been notified ahead of them.”
And a source familiar with Bush fundraising and the campaign told The Hill the story was “complete bullshit.”
“F—ing Marco Rubio got a third place in Iowa and a fifth place in New Hampshire, and he’s trying to drive us out of the campaign. It’s ludicrous,” the source said.
“It’s a f—ing civil war [with Rubio], that’s what it is … Jeb Bush is a proud dude. … We are not going to announce to the world that the campaign will finish on Saturday.”
Rumors that Bush’s campaign is about to be pulled off life-support coincide with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s endorsement of Rubio and a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll released Thursday showing Bush capturing just 4 percent of the primary vote.
A CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday also had Bush running a distant fourth-place behind Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Rubio.
“It’s all been decided, apparently,” Bush sarcastically said at a campaign stop in South Carolina on Wednesday. “The pundits have made it all – it’s all decided. We don’t have to go vote, I guess. It’s all finished. I should just stop campaigning, maybe, huh? It’s all done.”
Bush’s supporters, however, seemed worried.
Edward Scott, 58, who lives in Maryland but works in South Carolina, told the New York Times on Wednesday that Bush seems to have been “knocked off center” by his opponents’ attacks. He told the paper it was important for the former Florida governor to “raise the bar” and “be beyond the bullying.”
“I think [Trump] is getting you off your message, your good message,” added David Villinger, 62, of Ridgeville.
Bush told the Summersville audience he was “disappointed” that Haley endorsed Rubio, but vowed “a role for her in the campaign” if he wins the Republican nomination.
Trump, Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich will face off tonight during CNN’s town hall debate in South Carolina. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. EST. Viewers can tune in here.