There’s no question that the 2016 presidential race will be expensive. Some estimates suggest that a candidate for president in 2016 will have to raise about $500 million to win the White House. A Republican primary candidate will have to raise about $80 million to win the nomination.
Therein lies the strength of Jeb Bush in Minnesota.
The former governor of Florida is by no means a favorite among party activists who, like many conservative Republicans nationwide, dislike Bush’s take on immigration and education. As to how Bush regards Minnesota, it’s not a critical state for him in terms of delegates to the national convention or electoral votes.
But Minnesota’s Republican donors are a different story.
“The things that the base finds distasteful about Jeb Bush – Common Core, immigration – the donors do not,” said one GOP insider who, like everyone interviewed for this story, wants to be unnamed to preserve neutrality at this point in time. “As a donor, you are looking for electability and not as concerned with the issues that the base may find really important.”
TCF Bank president Bill Cooper, broadcasting magnate Stanley Hubbard, and other executives —both current and retired — from Minnesota’s Fortune 500 firms are possible financial supporters of a Bush candidacy, said another activist. “They would like his chances to win in November,” she said.
Furthermore, while Jeb Bush is a stranger to most Minnesota voters, his father George H. W. Bush has close and personal ties to old money Republicans named McMillan, Whitney, and Pillsbury. While no longer the power elite among state Republicans, they are individuals who would make the $2,700 personal contribution to a candidate named Bush and might help out as regional fundraising chairs.
Before committing, Minnesota’s Republican donors likely wait to see which of field of at least dozen candidates gets traction. In the case of Jeb Bush, they may have to wait awhile. Bush supporters here say he’s not intending to compete in Iowa or even New Hampshire. Instead, he’ll wait for the South Carolina primary, with its more diverse Republican voting pool that would be more receptive to his ideas.
Observers point out that the Republicans best hopes for the presidency all have a problem with the base. “[Florida Sen. Marco] Rubio has immigration, [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie has the chumminess with Obama after Hurricane Sandy,” one said.
And the Bush name is a double-edged sword. “I think his problem may be ‘no more Bushes,’” according to one activist. “And that’s too bad because he’s the best of three by far.”
But even Bush’s strongest detractors in Minnesota acknowledge the clout he carries. “His problem is the activist base,” said one. “But that can be blunted because his strength is the donors.”