WASHINGTON -- When Jeb Bush dropped out of the presidential race on Saturday after his fourth-place finish in the South Carolina primary, he did so knowing that his once-mighty super PAC was essentially out of money.
After raising more than $118 million, Right to Rise USA has, at best, $2.5 million left in its coffers. The group raised just $378,000 in January, with the majority coming in the form of a $250,000 check from billionaire Amway founder Richard DeVos.
Bush's super PAC poured out $34.5 million in January and another $22 million in February, yet the once-upon-a-time GOP front-runner's poll numbers didn't rise accordingly.
Right to Rise USA was supposed to be a juggernaut propelling Bush through the Republican primary, but instead it struggled to promote a candidate who was no longer in tune with his party's increasingly radicalized base.
In December 2014, Bush announced that he would "actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States." This carefully hedged statement declaring his not-yet-a-candidate status allowed him to evade campaign finance laws that would have otherwise barred him from coordinating with Right to Rise USA. He went on to raise over $100 million in the first six months of 2015 for the group. Once Bush officially entered the presidential race, he had to stop soliciting large checks for the super PAC and its fundraising suffered.
At the same time, the former Florida governor's decision to raise money for the super PAC early on, instead of officially entering the race and raising funds for his own campaign, stunted his campaign's money totals. Bush recently bemoaned the current campaign finance system, wishing that the million-dollar checks he raised for his super PAC could have gone directly to his campaign.
"We could not be more proud of Jeb Bush, the campaign he ran, and the hopeful and optimistic message of conservative reform that he communicated throughout this primary," Right to Rise USA said in a statement on Saturday. "Our team is grateful to the more than 11,000 Jeb Bush supporters who helped us in our efforts. We are ceasing our activities in support of Governor Bush's nomination."
In recent months, the super PAC had turned its guns on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), once a protégé of Bush's. Now, Rubio will face fewer negative ads and mailers -- at least from one departed rival.
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