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First Read: Jeb Bush's Very Good Month

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, runs along the Independence Day parade route in Merrimack, New Hampshire
Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, runs along the Independence Day parade route in Merrimack, New Hampshire July 4, 2015. New Hampshire is home of the nation's first presidential nominating primary. REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY Reuters

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Jeb Bush’s strong past month

Exactly a month ago, Jeb Bush was in a rough spot, especially in the aftermath of how he handled that Iraq war question. Indeed, we were writing back then that Jeb was clinging to any kind of frontrunner status. But since that time, he’s had a strong last 30 days. It started with his European trip. It carried over to his presidential announcement in Miami. It was evident in how he handled his taxes release. And it was hammered home yesterday, when his campaign and Super PAC reported raising a combined $114 million. The biggest takeaway from the last month is that he’s the aircraft carrier in the GOP field; he isn’t going to sink by a single strike. He still has his vulnerabilities (that Iraq war question and even his recent “people need to work longer hours” line are two examples). Money, as our colleague Perry Bacon writes, isn’t everything. And it’s still possible he won’t be his party’s nominee -- all that’s needed is for a Scott Walker or Marco Rubio to truly take off. But when you have the durability and resources that Jeb Bush has, he isn’t going away easily.

Jeb and Hillary are building two very different campaign models

The early fundraising numbers tell us that Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are building two very different models. Jeb’s model -- with a whopping $103 million via his Super PAC and $11.4 million by his campaign (in just 16 days) -- is one where you will have possibly two competing organizations (the campaign and the Super PAC), and where most of the resources (at least early on) will be housed in the Super PAC. As one anonymous Republican emails Politico, “[T]he true test of this structure will be during a campaign crisis, when a bifurcated team will have to respond. On the one hand, there will be a Super PAC functioning like a traditional campaign. And then there will be the actual campaign [handling] candidate scheduling, logistics, and policy briefing shop. Who takes the lead in responding during a crisis?” Meanwhile, Hillary’s model -- $45 million raised by the campaign, $23 million by two Super PACs -- is the structure we’ve seen from the last two successful presidential candidates, Barack Obama and George W. Bush. This model keeps most of the resources and almost all of the decision-making inside the campaign. What’s more, campaigns get discounted ad rates versus what outside groups and Super PACs get.

What the campaigns have raised so far

With the July 15 reporting deadline coming up next week, here is what the CAMPAIGNS have raised so far in the second quarter.

  • Hillary Clinton campaign: $45 million
  • Bernie Sanders campaign: $15 million
  • Jeb Bush: $11.4 million
  • Ben Carson: $10.5 million
  • Ted Cruz campaign: $10 million
  • Carly Fiorina: $1.4 million

What the Super PACs and 501c4s have raised so far

  • Right to Rise (Jeb Bush): $103 million
  • Keep the Promise groups (Ted Cruz): an estimated $37 million
  • Priorities USA (Hillary Clinton): $15.6 million
  • American Bridge (Hillary Clinton): $7.7 million
  • American Bridge 501c4 (Hillary): $1 million
  • Conservative Solutions PAC (Rubio): $16 million
  • Conservative Solutions Project 501c4 (Rubio): $15.8 million
  • CARLY for America (Fiorina): $3.4 million

What the combined amounts (campaign + Super PACs) are

  • Team Jeb: $114.4 million
  • Team Hillary: $68.3 million
  • Team Cruz: $51 million (that includes the $4 million his campaign raised in the 1stQ)
  • Team Carly: $4.8 million

A reminder: Because of the difference between how the organizations can raise money, plus the different ad rates they get, it’s important to compare apples to apples (the campaigns), oranges to oranges (the Super PACs), and grapefruit to grapefruit (combined amounts).

Bill Clinton and W. Bush discuss 2016

Is Hillary vs. Jeb a fait accompli? Here’s a final point to make about Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush: Is a general election featuring the two becoming a fait accompli? Just consider yesterday’s event in Dallas, TX with former President Bill Clinton and former President George W. Bush, where they were talking about a potential Jeb-vs.-Hillary matchup. “I know Jeb. And I’m confident that Secretary Clinton will elevate the discourse,” former President Bush said, per MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt and Elyse Perlmutter-Gumbiner. “I can’t attest to their surrogates. But I can attest to this surrogate: I’m not going to be a surrogate!” President Clinton was more direct: “I know who I want to win,” he said. Maybe it’s a fait accompli – and maybe it isn’t.

A GOP scared of Donald Trump

As for Donald Trump, the New York Times explores why Republican leaders have been so hesitant in calling him out more forcefully. The answer: They’re worried about the backlash -- from both GOP voters and Trump himself. “Republican Party leaders agonize over the prospect that Donald Trump will mount a third-party candidacy that could undermine their nominee. They fear insulting the white working-class voters who admire him. They are loath to tangle with a threat-flinging firebrand for whom there are no rules of engagement.” But this hesitancy (from the party and the 2016ers) raises this question posed by Tufts foreign-relations professor Dan Drezner: “If you're a #GOP2016 candidate and can't stand up to @realDonaldTrump, why should I trust you to stand up to Putin?”

A GOP star is born (again)

With the Confederate flag coming down from South Carolina’s statehouse grounds, Nikki Haley has once again emerged as a GOP star -- and an obvious VP short-lister. It’s interesting: She took a big national focus in her first two years as South Carolina, and paid a price for it back at home. Then she focused more at home, and she now finds herself a national star. Funny how those things work out. One other thing worth pointing out: The Confederate flag coming down was accomplished largely because Haley and Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott all stood together. There was no space between them.

Cyber Insecurity

Given what happened to OPM, NYSE, United Airlines, and every other high-profile hack over the past year, there is a growing insecurity on safety and security. Government leaders are going to have to start actually attempting to do something instead of just holding summits or issuing press releases.

On the trail

Lincoln Chafee, Carly Fiorina, and Lindsey Graham are all in New Hampshire… Rand Paul campaigns in Michigan… Marco Rubio addresses the Right to Life Convention in New Orleans and then heads to Las Vegas… And Rick Santorum also addresses the Right to Life Convention.

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