Lansing — A Bush family loyalist is organizing a “friendraiser” in Grand Rapids next month to generate both support and cash for the struggling campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose position in the Republican presidential primary polls has been falling.
Grand Rapids businessman Peter Secchia confirmed Wednesday he is hosting a reception with Bush for prospective donors Nov. 12 at the Amway Grand Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids.
“It’s not a fundraiser, it’s a friendraiser,” Secchia told The Detroit News. “It’s a chance for people to hear Jeb and get to know him. Because all they know about him is what they read in the press, and we all know what we read in the press is subjective.”
Secchia’s effort to recruit new Bush loyalists in west Michigan comes as the former two-term Florida governor’s standing in the crowded GOP primary field has been overtaken by two political newcomers — billionaire Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a Detroit native — and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Bush has the support of 7 percent of likely Republican primary voters in a national average of polls, placing him in fourth and just ahead of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, according to RealClearPolitics.com.
“He needs all of the friends he can get,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “... He needs votes a lot more than money at this point.”
Michigan Republicans who have already donated to Bush’s presidential campaign also are invited to the reception, Secchia said. He’s expecting a turnout of 125 to 150 people.
“If you’ve contributed to Jeb, you’re invited,” Secchia said. “If you might contribute to Jeb, you’re invited. And if you want to hear Jeb, you’re invited.”
The event, however, will be closed to the media, Secchia said.
Secchia, who served as ambassador to Italy under President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1993, has known the former president’s second son dating back to the late 1980s.
Bush’s fundraising in Michigan slowed in the third quarter after he led the pack among both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates during the first half of the year.
From July 1 to Sept. 30, Bush raised $115,675 from Michigan donors, a third of the $351,954 that Carson collected during the same period, a Detroit News analysis of campaign finance data shows.
Democrat Hillary Clinton led all candidates in Michigan fundraising during the third quarter, The News reported Thursday.
Bush’s Michigan loyalists, led by Attorney General Bill Schuette, are trying to refuel the campaign. Oakland County supporters held a fundraiser for Bush on Oct. 22 at the Marriott in Pontiac.