The "smart Bush" is looking more and more like the burning Bush these days, and even Politico is writing Jeb's campaign epitaph with an eye towards who will benefit for his family's network of super-donors.
POLITICO talked to nearly two dozen major donors, and most say they are waiting for what one veteran Republican and former Bush 43 administration appointee described as the "family hall pass" to jump to another campaign after the New Hampshire primary.
“I’m resigned to it being over, frankly. It’s really disappointing,” said one top Bush Wall Street donor. “I’d urge him to get out after New Hampshire if he doesn’t do well, but he probably won’t."
The deterioration of the Bush campaign has been a humbling experience for his fundraisers. A year ago, even before he was a candidate, Bush's team was locking down donors across the country and getting commitments for six- and seven-figure checks with little trouble. Donors were pitted against each other to see who could raise more and be in the good graces of the man who, at the time, was described by many in Bush World as the inevitable nominee.
Now the fundraising pitch is decidedly different.
"Hey, I need you to throw away money on Jeb — out of loyalty," a Bush fundraiser has told donors recently.
Rival campaigns are watching Bush's finance operation closely and have been working behind the scenes to lay the groundwork to poach his donor network. So far, a top Florida Republican fundraiser, Brian Ballard, has been one of the only notable defections to Sen. Marco Rubio's camp after Bush's campaign attacked Rubio.
"Donors I've talked to are desperate not to abandon Jeb because of their long bonds and loyalty with the family, but they are also recognizing there is no ROI [return on investment] on this campaign," said Rick Wilson, a veteran Florida political operative who is backing Rubio. "The sense of these folks is it is so sad. They whisper to each other, 'When will Jeb go?'"
The mood is very much that in order for someone to be able to challenge Trump, the riff-raff and the chaff have to go, starting with the biggest drain holding back the most donor cash: Jebby.
I don't blame the Republicans. They're just weeks away from putting a racist, bigoted white supremacist hatemonger out in front, and only a few months from assuring a nasty convention fight later in the year in order to try to strip him of the nomination.
The vultures are circling a lot of the remaining GOP field, frankly, but Jeb has the juiciest pickings.