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With Bush Out Of the Race, A Massive War Chest Is Up For Grabs
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With Bush Out Of the Race, A Massive War Chest Is Up For Grabs

Politics

With Bush Out Of the Race, A Massive War Chest Is Up For Grabs

With Bush Out Of the Race, A Massive War Chest Is Up For Grabs
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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/467768245/467768246" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Steve Inskeep talks to Bush fundraiser James Wareham, who is one of those who has to decide whether he is going to put his money behind another candidate.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

One hundred fifty million dollars can buy you a lot but cannot guarantee a presidential nomination. We know this because Jeb Bush's campaign, along with outside groups, raised more than $150 million, spent most of it and Bush withdrew the other day. Now the people who raised so much money decide where to put their money next, if anywhere, and they include our next guest, Jamie Wareham, who is a Jeb Bush fundraiser - raised money for the candidate. Welcome to the program, sir.

JAMIE WAREHAM: Good morning.

INSKEEP: He's in our studios. Who, if anyone, are you and your colleagues supporting now?

WAREHAM: For me, it's more a process of elimination. There are six candidates, in effect, who are left. Four are incompetent and not going to get support from me or from Jeb people - certainly the two folks on the Democratic side who I like to kid are either avowed or de facto socialists. You have a right-wing radical guy in Ted Cruz who probably isn't even eligible under the Constitution. And you have Bozo the braggart from New York who is not my guy or most right-thinking people's guy. And I don't see any chance at all that Donald Trump serves as president. So you're kind of left with two folks that have solid records and are possibilities for everyone in a similar situation to me - that's John Kasich and Marco Rubio.

INSKEEP: John Kasich and Marco Rubio are your possibilities. Have you been reaching out and talking with them at this time?

WAREHAM: No - it's Tuesday. On Saturday I was dialing voters in South Carolina trying to get them to go to the polls for my guy, who is still the most qualified person to be the President of the United States. So four days is a little early for me to make a decision. I think a number of people are in that posture.

INSKEEP: I know you've supported Jeb Bush for quite some months and raised quite a lot of money for him. Did you believe his campaign would turn around at some point?

WAREHAM: Yes, I did. I hoped that there would be a change at the top when in the early summer, mid-summer, it was clear to me that we had the wrong people running the campaign. That never came to pass. People like me who knew that was a necessity weren't able to come up with a solid solution. And so we kind of let perfection be the enemy of the good, and we let things run. And here we are. So I think the campaign was eminently winnable, and we lost.

INSKEEP: So you think the campaign was run the wrong way. Is it because the campaign did not adapt to the political environment that turned out to exist in 2016?

WAREHAM: Yes and no. We had, you know, a campaign manager who had no real experience.

INSKEEP: Danny Diaz is the person.

WAREHAM: Danny Diaz, right - he lacked the temperament, he lacked the experience...

INSKEEP: And we should be fair, he had a lot of experience, but not in this particular role.

WAREHAM: Correct. His major accomplishment prior to being hired was losing the Ken Cuccinelli campaign in Virginia. So he had no successful experience, but he did have experience.

INSKEEP: So what does this say, though, about the broader political environment - about where the Republican Party is heading, about where the Republican electorate is? We heard plenty from the Bush family and from supporters of the Bush family about being surprised that this is where the Republican Party was.

WAREHAM: Well, there were certain things that could have changed the dynamic. Had the campaign handled New Hampshire better and signed on the people that Kasich signed on, and had they succeeded in getting Nikki Haley and Tim Scott on board, I wouldn't be sitting here right now. I'd be on a plane to Nevada. Notice how I said Nevada, not Nevada.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) That would be where the next voting would be on the Republican side.

WAREHAM: Correct.

INSKEEP: You think that this was a winnable campaign on the technical side of things. Looking at the situation as it is now, though, do you believe that anyone can really beat Donald Trump?

WAREHAM: Yes. He's at 30 percent of a party that is in the minority of registered voters. I don't see him playing very well in many, many states coming forward. I don't see - you know, his brand basically is flash casinos and glitzy buildings and self-promotion and failed marriages and, you know, goofy hair. And if you can't beat that guy, then somebody ought to be horsewhipped.

INSKEEP: Just got a few seconds here. Many people have taken the failure of Jeb Bush's campaign to mean that money doesn't mean all that much in politics after all. Do you see it that way?

WAREHAM: Yes, money misspent is money that's irrelevant.

INSKEEP: But if spent well...

WAREHAM: If spent well, it could have made a huge difference. And he did everything that a candidate could possibly do. This concept that he was low-energy is despicable. Nobody in this race had more time commitment, more energy commitment than Jeb Bush.

INSKEEP: Jamie Wareham, thank you very much. He's a Washington lawyer and was a fundraiser for the Jeb Bush campaign.

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