The Bush blame game begins – Politico


With Jeb struggling, supporters, staff and donors start pointing the finger at the super PAC’s chief, Mike Murphy.

They think he wasted money on everything from an iPad-sized video mailer to direct mail for donors in states that don’t yet matter. They think his attacks on Marco Rubio are doing more harm than good. And they worry that, at the end, all he will have accomplished is the destruction of the Bush family brand.

The big-money supporters fueling Jeb Bush’s super PAC have found their boogey man: Mike Murphy, a sharp-witted, Twitter-obsessed veteran GOP ad man who runs Right to Rise.

If Bush’s campaign ends with anything other than the GOP nomination, blame is certain to be widespread. But that donors and GOP operatives are already sniping at Murphy before the first votes are cast demonstrates the depth of frustration and displeasure with the Bush-world loyalist.

“It looks like they’re blowing the whole thing up, like even if Jeb can’t win, they’re not going to let anyone else win either,” said a Florida Bush backer and Right to Rise donor who worked on Bush’s gubernatorial campaigns and in his administration. “You might as well light all of this money on fire. Most of all, they’re hurting the reputation of a really great man.”

POLITICO interviewed nearly two dozen Right to Rise donors and Bush supporters, and all blamed Murphy for a super PAC strategy that has failed to boost their struggling candidate. Multiple advisers to the Right to Rise super PAC concede privately that the $40 million spent on positive ads aimed at telling Bush’s story has yielded no tangible dividends.

Among the many and varied complaints, several Republicans close to the Bush campaign have questioned the PAC’s decision to let John Kasich own the airwaves in New Hampshire this fall, allowing the Ohio governor to get a foothold in a state where Bush must perform well to keep his White House bid alive. Others faulted Right to Rise for spending so much money on telling Bush’s story and not changing tactics immediately after Donald Trump entered the race and began stoking the groundswell of anti-establishment sentiment and defined Bush–lastingly–as “low energy.”

“At a time when so many voters are anti-establishment and angry at the government, the last thing you should say in all of your campaign ads is ‘I am a former governor with a great record of governing,'” said Joe Culotta, a former Republican Party of Florida consultant who is supporting Rubio. “Don’t get me wrong, I respect Gov. Bush and totally agree that he did great things in Florida. But to voters, that translates to ‘I have a lot of experience in being part of the establishment and the government that you all hate.'”

These sour feelings about Murphy’s management of Right to Rise mark a dramatic turn for a group that came out of the gate in stunning fashion, raising a record $103 million this summer and setting a break-neck pace that many, a year ago, thought couldn’t be matched.

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