Is Jeb Bush about to revolutionize American presidential campaigns?
Sure sounds like that’s possible. According to a big Associated Press story out Tuesday, Mr. Bush is planning to turn over many core campaign functions to his “Right to Rise” super political-action committee. This organization, which can legally raise cash from deep-pocket donors in unlimited amounts, would handle many TV ads, direct-mail appeals, and maybe even voter data-gathering and phone-bank outreach.
The campaign per se, subject to individual donor caps of $2,700 for primary and another $2,700 for general campaigns, would be a much smaller entity. It would handle some traditional functions but mostly focus on Bushian activity – planning and operations for the candidate’s actual appearances.
“The goal is for the campaign to be a streamlined operation that frees Bush to spend less time than in past campaigns raising money, and as much time as possible meeting voters,” writes AP’s Thomas Beaumont.
Here’s why this is potentially so big: Legally speaking, Bush will not be allowed to coordinate with his super PAC’s activities once he’s an official candidate. He’ll be setting it up, helping it raise initial funds, staffing it with loyalists, and then setting it free in the wild to roam on its own.
It’s like Right to Rise will be a friendly giant that will do everything in its power to help Bush in his White House quest – but Bush won’t be able to order the giant around, or even really talk to it. Or maybe a robot is a better analogy – a robot that Bush has infused with artificial intelligence based on his own beliefs and then dispatched from his underground Florida lab to defeat his opponents while he goes off to kiss babies in New Hampshire.
The whole thing is “a bit like political science fiction,” writes Philip Bump of The Washington Post’s political blog “The Fix.”
The description the Bush team might prefer is “bridge partner,” not “alien overlord.” The Right to Rise super PAC will be an entity that the rump Bush campaign can cooperate with, and react to and lead by example, even if they can’t conspire with it directly.
They’ll be helped in this by the fact that GOP political strategist Mike Murphy is likely to head Right to Rise, according to the National Journal. He’s a longtime friend and associate of Bush once thought to be the obvious choice as Jeb 2016 campaign manager.
The huge advantage of this structure is that it makes it much easier for Bush to amass an enormous war chest. He’ll have to spend much less time dialing for dollars. All he needs is a billionaire or two in his corner. (Anybody have the Koch brothers’ number?)
This kind of operation could become de rigueur for US politics if it works well for Bush. In that sense, it’s similar to the Obama campaign’s rejection of public financing in 2008. Barack Obama showed that it was possible to raise more cash outside the existing framework than inside it. Mitt Romney followed suit in 2012.
Not that everyone thinks Bush’s move is a good idea, of course. The phrase some on the left might use to describe the possible new structure is “Frankenstein monster.”
“Isn’t it kind of weird, and potentially either dangerous (if the law is complied with) or grossly illegal (if it’s not) to locate not only the financial but the operational control of a presidential campaign in an organization that’s not supposed to coordinate with the candidate?” writes Ed Kilgore at the Washington Monthly’s “Political Animal” blog.