A long-simmering feud between two Florida Republican presidential heavyweights has erupted out into the open over the past day, prompted in part by the release of federal campaign-finance disclosures.
The campaigns of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) publicly traded barbs Thursday over the reports, each trying to outdo the other over which campaign was thriftier and in better position going forward.
And Bush’s son, Jeb Bush Jr., also dinged Rubio over a plethora of missed Senate votes, something for which the senator has faced increased scrutiny from both sides of the political aisle in recent weeks.
The biggest area of debate came over the campaigns’ “cash on hand” — the money they had in the bank heading into the final fundraising quarter of the year. Money raised in the third quarter, and the resulting cash on hand, is crucial, because much of it goes into a ramp-up in advertising in key early-voting states.
The Rubio campaign said Thursday that it had almost $US11 million cash on hand, a figure that would put him behind only Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
The Miami Herald’s Patricia Mazzei wrote that “when it comes to campaign finance, the devil is in the details.” Indeed, digging into Rubio’s numbers reveals a more complicated picture than what his campaign had laid out in the days and weeks before.
First, the FEC report shows Rubio raised approximately $US5.7 million, when his campaign had said that number was $US6 million. And second, Rubio only has that much cash on hand if his campaign is assuming that he’ll win the nomination.
Here’s the breakdown: Rubio has about $US10.98 million on hand, according to the FEC filing. But of that, about $US1.23 million counted toward the general election, meaning he can’t use those funds during the primary. So his primary cash on hand ends up being more like $US9.75 million.
The Bush campaign, meanwhile, had about $US10.27 million cash on hand, according to the FEC filing. Only about $US270,000 of that is earmarked for the general. So, his cash on hand for the primary is about an even $US10 million.
But the Rubio campaign had already trumpeted, in its press release summarizing its filing, that it started the year’s final quarter with “more money in the bank than Jeb Bush for President and most other campaigns,” a line that made it into many media reports.
Tim Miller, Bush’s communications director, tweeted out a link to a story detailing the Rubio campaign’s alleged “inflation” of its cash advantage. He added a dig at Rubio’s budgeting skills:
“Is it a big difference? No. But little differences can add up,” Mazzei wrote.
Saint Peters Blog’s Peter Schorsch was less charitable.
“Compare this to Jeb Bush’s primary cash on hand of $US10,001,000 — about a $US250,000 advantage for Bush — and you begin to get a sense of how willing Marco was to fudge the numbers to create the myth that his lean and mean campaign machine has more primary cash than Bush,” he wrote.
On Thursday, Miller had also taken another shot at the Rubio campaign’s boasted-about frugality by pointing to about $US6 million spent by a non-profit on what Miller alleged were “secret money TV ads.”
Data from a Republican media firm, previously obtained by Business Insider, showed that the non-profit group, the Conservative Solutions Project, has spent about $US6.1 million in advertisements this year. The Rubio campaign has not paid for television advertising yet.
For its part, the Rubio campaign detailed the lengths to which it went to save money in the third quarter. They cited frequent trips via UberX, buying office furniture from Craigslist, and travelling on low-budget airlines like Frontier, Southwest, Jet Blue, and Spirit.
Alex Conant, Rubio’s communications director, also chided the Bush campaign in a tweet linking to details about how the campaign spends its money:
Here’s why Marco Rubio’s campaign has more cash in the bank than Jeb Bush for President: https://t.co/eYNZ7gFX48
— Alex Conant (@AlexConant) October 15, 2015
But money wasn’t the only source of shots fired between the camps Thursday, in what’s quickly becoming an increasingly intense rivalry between the two Florida heavyweights.
Bush’s son, Jeb Bush Jr., in New York City for an event with the NYU College Republicans, said Rubio should either “drop out or do something” rather than continue to miss Senate votes by campaigning for president.
“As a Floridian, I’m a little disappointed, because he’s missing, like, 35 per cent of his votes. And it’s just, kind of, like, dude, you know, either drop out or do something, but we’re paying you to do something, it ain’t run for president,” Jeb Bush said at a New York University College Republicans event, as reported by Politico.
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