Chris O'Meara / AP

Super PAC aims to fix Jeb Bush

During week before debate, Right to Rise USA airs more TV ads than any other group or campaign

Jeb Bush says he can fix the nation's problems. But just in case voters aren’t hearing the message, a moneyed super PAC is fighting to fix Jeb.

Pro-Bush Right to Rise USA aired more than 1,400 ads on TV networks and national cable from Nov. 3 through Nov. 9, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of preliminary data provided by advertising tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.

The pro-Bush ad blitz of the past week accounted for nearly 1 in 3 presidential-focused TV ads aired by any candidate or political committee — and roughly half of those directed at GOP presidential primary voters.

The super PAC boost comes at a critical time for Bush, who faces — in the words of Mitt Romney's deputy campaign manager — a "make-or-break moment" ahead of Tuesday’s debate. It also allows Bush's campaign, which has struggled mightily to keep cash flowing, to conserve resources. A candidate's presidential campaign may accept contributions of no more than $2,700 per person per election. Super PACs, in contrast, can amass contributions in any amount at any time.

Right to Rise USA has sponsored nearly 10,000 pro-Bush TV ad spots for the election cycle through Monday. Bush’s campaign? About 400.

Through June, Right to Rise USA, which Bush formed before becoming a presidential candidate, raised more than $100 million. Bush’s official campaign committee raised about $25 million through the end of September.

On the one hand, the ad blitz — most are running on stations serving the early caucus and primary states Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — don’t appear to have helped Bush much. Recent national polls show him languishing in single digits behind businessman Donald Trump, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

On the other hand, analysts might ask where Bush might be without them. In New Hampshire, where the pro-Bush super PAC has inundated the airwaves, his numbers are marginally better than his standing in national polls. Same in Iowa. Recent super PAC ads have focused on his record on jobsfinancial matters and budgetary issues.

Among other developments from the past week's presidential TV ad war:

• Democrat Bernie Sanders’ campaign aired more than 1,050 TV spots, besting rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign by more than 200 ads. Sanders did not air TV ads before this week, while Clinton has aired more than 9,000 for the election cycle.
• Carson remains the only Republican candidate — among those enjoying TV ads about their candidacies — not to rely heavily on super PACs. Carson's campaign has sponsored more than 2,200 TV spots during the election cycle, which accounts for about 7.5 percent of TV ads so far in the Republican primary contest.
• Among Republican advertisers, a nonprofit group supporting Rubio ranked second, behind Right to Rise USA, in terms of ads aired. The pro-Rubio Conservative Solutions Project was responsible for close to 700 spots last week, or nearly 1 in 4 TV ads in the GOP presidential contest.

This story is from the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative media organization in Washington, D.C. Read more of its investigations on the influence of money in politics or follow it on Twitter.

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