Iowa Does Not Heart Jeb Bush

You know that Jeb Bush internal campaign document that everybody’s quoting this week? Well, turns out it has something even more interesting than the talking points about Marco Rubio’s personal finances. The Week‘s Jeva Lange explains:

The Iowa caucus, on February 1, is 93 days away. Bush’s campaign has set the goal of receiving 18.45 percent of the vote — more than double the 8 percent he’s polling now. About 128,800 Republican voters are expected to turn out, which means Bush needs about 24,000 votes. The catch: His campaign is only confident he has 1,260 voters in the Hawkeye State.

The estimate comes from over 70,000 phone calls made by a 10-person paid staff in Iowa; for all their calls, the team was only able to rope in four volunteers and root up a total of 1,260 Bush supporters statewide. That leaves a gap of 22,740 voters that the campaign needs to identify or persuade to its side by February. Making matters worse, an advertising blitz isn’t waiting in the wings to rescue Bush’s Iowa ground-game: Of the budget set aside for advertising, Bush’s team only plans to spend $1.36 million in the weeks before voting begins, as opposed to $5.6 million set aside for New Hampshire or $2.7 million for South Carolina.

In plainer words, Bush’s campaign hopes to somehow gather 22,000 supporters in less than 100 days with a relatively small ad campaign and little luck after over 70,000 phone calls to potential voters.

Actually, the four volunteers harvested by those 70,000 calls was even more startling than the low number of Bush supporters. I’m not one to over-estimate the importance of enthusiasm in politics, but you really do need some committed non-paid staff to pull off a successful Caucus effort. Worse yet, you get the sense that Bush’s supposedly top-notch organization just isn’t up to the massive task of persuading people to like their man.

Fortunately for Jebbie, Iowa’s not a must-win state, but he does need not to get humiliated there. And having to work hard not to be humiliated is not a good sign. And this sort of data is not helpful during a week when people are beginning to talk seriously about the Bush campaign getting toasty.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.