Has $14.9 million ever bought less? As Jeb Bush's dispiriting campaign for president limped to an all too predictable wet thud of a finish in Iowa last night, his supporters played down the ramifications. New Hampshire matters much more, they say. Iowa's strictly conservative base was never a great fit for the mainline governor, they argue.
All fair points. But it's also true that Jeb's super PAC bombed Iowa airwaves with almost $15 million worth of ads and got almost nothing in return.
In fact, if you crunch the final vote tally estimates and the final spending figures from NBC, Bush's war chest ended up splurging $2,888 for every single vote in Iowa.
That's bad. That's very, very bad. In fact, Jeb's spending was the highest of any GOP candidate in Iowa (with Rubio second at $11.4 million). And the final tallies rolling into Des Moines found the governor with only 5,235 votes — less than a third of what fellow Florida Man Ben Carson scored and far behind surprising fourth-place finisher Rand Paul's 8,478-vote showing.
Bush has spent the morning trying to shift expectations and playing off Iowa as a lost cause from the get-go. “The Jeb 2016 campaign has never made Iowa a centerpiece to winning the nomination," his campaign wrote in a memo.
But then why pump nearly $15 million into trying to sway votes in the state? Bush has been savaged in the press this morning, with Politico calling his performance "even worse than expected."
Imagine being Jeb Bush - Everything set up for you for monumental success, yet somehow you still manage to deliver abject failure.— Luke Aaron Moore (@lukeymoore) February 2, 2016
Me waiting for Jeb Bush to drop out of the race... pic.twitter.com/c788Mhaocq— _AG_ (@ag_texas) February 2, 2016
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Embarrassing. If you are Jeb Bush, how are you not completely embarrassed by this result. https://t.co/rANIleAibH— D. Hawkins (@HawkinsUSA) February 2, 2016
Of course, it wasn't all bad news for Florida Men in the Iowa caucuses. Jeb's onetime protégé, Marco Rubio, surged to an impressive third-place finish, barely coming short of longtime frontrunner Donald Trump. His campaign — which has already been siphoning off donors and political backing from Bush — is poised for a serious challenge in New Hampshire.
But for Bush after such a pathetic display in Iowa, New Hampshire really is his final bulwark. He has emphasized that he has a much larger staff and much better organization in the northeastern primary state. If that effort doesn't pay off with a surprisingly strong finish, Jeb is done.