America's saddest presidential campaign has finally been euthanized by the good voters of South Carolina. No longer can voters chuckle woefully at pleas to "Please clap" or at ham-handed attempts to explain why Dubya wasn't wrong to invade Iraq. Jeb! and his random exclamation point have walked slowly into the sea, never to be seen again.
As a thousand think pieces this morning dissect what went wrong for Florida's ex-governor — the short answer is Donald Trump and Marco Rubio — it's worth remembering what an astounding pile of cash Jeb wasted on his historically bad campaign.
By the time he jumped into the presidential race last June, he'd built up the biggest campaign war chest in primary history. Because he strategically dragged out his official announcement, Jeb was able to hit up donors to his super PAC, Right to Rise, for more than the usual $2,700 limit.
The result? A ridiculous $100 million in cash before his campaign even began. That figure eventually ballooned to roughly $113 million. The conventional thinking was that Jeb would easily nuke his opponents out of the race through the sheer force of millions in negative ads.
It didn't turn out that way. At all. Jeb's team and the super PAC — which can't coordinate with his campaign under federal law — dumped almost $15 million worth of ads in Iowa, by far the most of any candidate.
All of that spending got him just more than 5,000 votes. Jeb, in other words, spent almost $3,000 per solitary vote. It was the same story in New Hampshire and this weekend in South Carolina. When it was all said and done, he'd blown through almost $60 million in donations. His best finishes? Fourth place in New Hampshire and S.C.
Almost no one was more victimized by that terrible campaign than Miami billionaire Mike Fernandez, the mogul behind MBF Healthcare. Fernandez dumped more than $3 million into Right To Rise, according to Jeb's disclosures, making him at the time Jeb's single largest donor. (Insurance mogul Hank Greenberg later topped that with a single $10 million gift.)
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Fernandez told reporters he believed Jeb could go all the way. “If you want a great speaker like Barack Obama or Marco Rubio, that’s not Jeb,” Fernandez told the Wall Street Journal. “But if you want a speaker with substance and drive and executive experience, that’s Jeb.”
Primary voters, it's safe to say, did not want "a speaker with substance and drive and executive experience."
It's tough to feel too bad for Fernandez, of course. Three million bucks is ultimately a drop in the bucket for a billionaire, and Fernandez has spread his wealth around in the political world. (Records show he's given smaller amounts in this election cycle to everyone from Marco Rubio to Harry Reid.)
But in hindsight, it is staggering how little Jeb did with Fernandez's money and the millions from his other wealthy backers. Where does Fernandez go now that Jeb is out of the picture? He hasn't responded to a message from New Times about that question, but it's a safe bet he has millions more to throw into this race.