Bush and his top advisers first huddled with top bundlers at the glitzy Biltmore Hotel near his home in Coral Gables. Later, Bush visited the Miami Beach studios of Romero Britto, a Brazilian-born artist who hosted the candidate, his wife, Columba, their son, Jeb Bush Jr., and dozens of "young professional" donors participating in the campaign's "Mission Next" project. The event coincided with Art Basel, an annual contemporary art festival that draws thousands of visitors to Miami.
At the Biltmore meeting, attendees heard from his top aides, including campaign manager Danny Diaz, senior strategist Sally Bradshaw, finance director Heather Larrison, and a longtime aide who is running his campaign's South Carolina operations, Brett Doster. The group also heard from Bush national finance committee chairman Woody Johnson — owner of the New York Jets — and former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who has become a top bundler and surrogate.
"They have a plan, believe in it and are determined," said one attendee.
"They weren't trying to spin everything, but they pointed out how these primaries are very volatile," said another.
Donors described details of the meeting on the condition of anonymity because the campaign had asked them to remain tight-lipped.
During the meeting, Doster walked the donors through how he's building support for Bush in the Palmetto State, the third state to vote in the GOP primaries where Bush has spent time mostly discussing his military, veterans health-care and national security proposals. Cantor reminded the donors how it took the GOP's 2008 and 2012 nominees, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney several months to win the primaries and that they prevailed despite stumbles in early primary states.
Bush aides told the group that a fundraiser that some of them attended Friday night in nearby Key Biscayne raised $325,000 for the campaign. On Thursday night, Bush raised more than $100,000 at one of two events he held in Washington, attendees said.
The cash infusion comes amid several recent bad polls for Bush. A CNN/ORC poll released on Friday gave Bush just 3 percent nationally — more than 30 points behind front-runner Donald Trump. Bush remains in the single digits in Iowa, where he campaigned last week for three days, and New Hampshire, where he will spend three days this week.
Before the meeting, Diaz said that his team would be telegraphing confidence.
"We have the best candidate, with the best record and the best ideas," he said in an email. "We have communicated to voters in the early states the Governor's record of conservative accomplishment, which is unmatched in the field, and we are now focused on the policy prescriptions that will move the nation forward."
Diaz said the campaign's focus would remain on national security, noting that Bush was the first Republican presidential contender to unveil a comprehensive strategy over the summer that would "defeat ISIS and rebuild our military after seven disastrous years under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton."
Meanwhile, Right to Rise USA, the super PAC that promises to spend more than $100 million on television advertising in the early states, released a 15-minute biopic on Saturday that includes brief interviews with the candidate and his wife, Columba.
The video will air in the coming days across New Hampshire, including on the New England Sports Network, a channel that airs Boston Red Sox games. Footage in the short film already appears in other ads and online videos produced by the PAC. Mostly, "The Jeb Story" recounts how Bush met his wife, his decision to move the family to Miami, his unsuccessful gubernatorial run in 1994, his victory in 1998, and how he worked to transform the state over eight years as governor. It includes interviews with Columba Bush and current and former Florida lawmakers and lobbyists.
But in the final two minutes, the video takes a dramatic turn from Bush's biography to recent events — the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. Mixing news footage with images of Bush during a recent speech at The Citadel military college in South Carolina, an announcer bellows: "The threat to America is real. One man is tested: Jeb is ready to lead."
"We are at war with radical Islamic terrorism. ... America has had enough of empty words," he said.
"Jeb's performance on the stump is strong in both style and substance, and we're working hard to amplify that," said Right to Rise USA spokesman Paul Lindsay. "We think this will come down to a race about experience and judgment, and no one can match Jeb Bush on those attributes."
New Hampshire TV viewers are seeing shorter versions of Bush's national security message in another ad. One version is paid for by the super PAC. The other is bought and paid for by the Bush campaign and stars Medal of Honor recipients who blast Obama's leadership and raise doubts about other GOP contenders