It is far from a slam-dunk for former Florida governor Jeb Bush in his bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. But the scion of one of America’s top political families has two things going for him now: solid showings in the early polls and access to almost limitless campaign funds.
While experts caution the Republican race is still wide open in early 2015 – less than a year before the first presidential primaries – only Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are attracting double-digit support from voters in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, according to new NBC News/Marist polls released Sunday.
Moreover, since former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney recently ruled out another White House bid, Bush has eclipsed Walker and the other dozen or so serious GOP contenders in locking up super-wealthy financial backers for his campaign.
The Washington Post reported over the weekend that Bush’s two political committees are on track to amass an unprecedented sum of tens of millions of dollars by early spring.
As one example of how wealthy business people are lining up to support Bush, about 25 attendees who turned out last week for a fundraiser for Bush at the Park Avenue home of private-equity titan Henry Kravis paid a minimum of $100,000 each just to get in the door. Many similar events are in the offing.
It is possible, of course, that the universe of campaign funding will expand exponentially and that others -- including Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and their allies -- will raise ample funds to compete for the GOP nomination. But for now, Jeb Bush is generating enormous interest within the moneyed class, thanks in part to allegiances to his father and brother, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
“I think they will come up with an eye-popping figure,” veteran GOP fundraiser Fred Malek told The Post.
With former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the leading candidate to claim the Democratic nomination when her party meets in Philadelphia in 2016, Bush and Walker have emerged as the GOP’s early favorites in recent polls.
The NBC News/Marist polls show that while seven different potential GOP candidates get double-digit support in at least one of the early caucus and primary states, only Bush and Walker register strong results in all three states. For example:
Iowa: Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee leads the field with 17 percent of potential GOP caucus-goers, followed by Bush with 16 percent and Walker, 15 percent.
New Hampshire: Bush has the support of 18 percent of potential GOP primary voters, Walker 15 percent and Paul and Christie, 13 percent.
South Carolina: Sen. Lindsey Graham, a native son, has 17 percent, followed by Bush at 15 percent and Walker, 12 percent.
As for the Democrats, Clinton leads Vice President Joe Biden in Iowa, 68 percent to 12 percent, among likely Democratic caucus goers. She also leads Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) by the same margin in New Hampshire. And in South Carolina, she holds a 45-point lead over Biden, 69 percent to 13 percent.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a liberal favorite, was not included in the polling due to her insistence she will not challenge Clinton for the nomination. However, a number of groups are trying to draft her.
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