5 reasons Jeb Bush's soon-to-be-announced campaign is already a mess

A week out from his campaign kick-off, Bush isn't the dominant frontrunner he was once tipped to become

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published June 9, 2015 3:40PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Rebecca Cook)
(Reuters/Rebecca Cook)

Jeb Bush is expected to announce his candidacy for president in less than a week, but promises of a campaign juggernaut have already given way to a hapless rollout and campaign reshuffling after a series of befuddling blunders.

Below, Salon looks at five reasons Jeb’s yet-to-be-announced campaign is already a mess.

1. There’s plenty of internal drama

The biggest sign of a campaign in duress came this week. Bush reportedly plans to name Danny Diaz, an outside consultant, as his campaign manager -- not David Kochel, the Bush loyalist who ran Romney's 2012 Iowa strategy and whom Bush brought down to Miami earlier this year to run his ghost campaign. Advisers were reportedly concerned about Kochel's "efficiency" as a manager, according to the New York Times. Replacing top-level campaign management a week before an announcement is just the latest sign of trouble for the so-called establishment candidate.

2. Jeb hasn’t run for office in more than a dozen years -- and he’s showing it

Bush, who hasn't run for office since 2002, is a bit rusty on the trail as well. Grassroots support was never set out to be Bush's thing, hence his hesitation in investing in Iowa, but he had managed to garner some positive coverage for his ease with reporters on the trail. All of that gave way, however, to days of criticism when Bush recently fumbled the one question everyone knew he'd be asked: whether his brother, George W., was right to invade Iraq.

But Bush's team is quick to ward off any talk of mismanagement or grassroots grumblings, instead deflecting media attention to Bush's favored status among the donor class. After months of denying reports of a record-breaking $100 million primary fundraising haul, the Bush camp now flaunts its fundraising numbers as evidence of its prowess even though the polling indicates that that money may have to go very, very far.

3. Bush’s money hasn’t cleared the field

But Bush’s financial strength hasn’t translated into polling strength; he leads the national GOP field by less than a percentage point, and he finds himself in a far worse position than where his brother stood at this point in the 2000 cycle. Moreover, with up well over a dozen candidates already in the race or poised to enter soon, his money clearly hasn’t scared off the competition, as some pundits predicted.

4. Onetime protege Marco Rubio could eclipse Bush

Though some observers expected Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who served in the state House while Bush was governor of the Sunshine State, to step aside for his onetime mentor, Rubio nevertheless entered the race in April -- and much to the shock of many analysts, he looks like he could go toe-to-toe with Bush.

While it looked like Bush could eat into Rubio’s base of political and financial backing, Rubio -- despite early stumbles of his own -- has won the support of some GOP megadonors, and polls in the top tier of GOP hopefuls nationally.

5. He’s confronting legal questions surrounding his super PAC

All of this comes as watchdog groups call for a Justice Department investigation into Bush's super PAC and non-profit for possible violations of campaign finance laws. The groups allege Bush campaign-in-waiting has illegally coordinated with the Right to Rise super PAC, despite Bush’s avowals that he hasn’t decided on the 2016 race.

Bush has delayed announcing his campaign in order to continue vacuuming up super PAC cash; once he announces, Bush will no longer be able to solicit contributions for the Right to Rise PAC.

At this point, Bush’s money and family name recognition him keep him in the mix -- but as we’re already seeing, that may not suffice.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2016 Elections Gop 2016 Jeb Bush Marco Rubio Republican Party