The Iowa Starting Line blog was stunned by what it saw. "[A] brief look at their Iowa numbers show extremely troubling signs for Bush’s viability in the the caucus," wrote Pat Rynard, assessing a spreadsheet full of single-digit numbers that represented the campaign's outreach in the state. Rynard summarizes: "[Y]ou don’t even have to be a former caucus or Iowa campaign staffer to realize how troubling their internal Iowa metrics look."
Another embarrassment in a tough week.
But there may be a silver lining -- a silver lining of which the campaign was very aware. Former Ted Cruz staffer Amanda Carpenter:
The "leak," like so many "leaks," may have been an intentional move to pass information to a pro-Bush super PAC.
Bush's campaign got a lot of credit for its massive fundraising push at the beginning of the campaign. The largest figure, though, was money that flowed into Right to Rise, the super PAC supporting the former Florida governor. In the first half of this year, Right to Rise raised over $100 million, money that it can spend on Bush's behalf.
The problem for the PAC is that it can't coordinate legally with Bush on where to spend that fortune. It has to do its own thing, making educated guesses about where and how to advertise or otherwise contact voters.
Unless, that is, there's public information it can act on. Bush's campaign can't call Right to Rise and say, "Hey, we need help in Iowa." It can however, make an internal document public for the world -- and the PAC -- to see. Carpenter's point? That was precisely the plan.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported a message that was directed the other way. "The outside political group supporting Jeb Bush's bid for president with tens of millions of dollars in television advertising is considering placing organizing staff in Iowa and New Hampshire," it reported, "a move that would follow the decision of his formal campaign to refocus its efforts on the two early-voting states."
Monday: The super PAC says it will staff up in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Wednesday: The debate.
Thursday: The campaign "leaks" a document showing precisely where in Iowa it needs help.
Can a super PAC effectively do the on-the-ground work for a candidate? A super PAC supporting Carly Fiorina has been doing just that for some time now, effectively operating as the in-state staffing for Fiorina's presidential bid.
That PAC has an advantage that Right to Rise doesn't. Using a loophole in FEC law which prohibits a super PAC from including the name of the candidate it supports -- an effort apparently intended to keep voters from getting confused about who's actually doing the work -- Fiorina's super PAC is called CARLY for America. "CARLY" is an acronym: Conservative, Authentic, Responsive Leadership for You and for America. CARLY.
The timing to outsource that work couldn't be better. At the end of the week, Bush also lost his chief operating officer, whose $12,000 monthly salary ate up a lot of the money that Bush's team is starting to worry about. The campaign is trimming budgets and slashing its payroll. Money is a concern.
In a situation like that, why not have a well-funded ally pick up some of the workload? Sure, it means dropping some bad numbers out in the public domain. But when the history of this election is written, the release of some bad numbers about Iowa will probably not be the first thing that's mentioned when it comes to why this was a rough week for Jeb Bush.