Bush group buys $1.8M in TV ads for Michigan primary

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — A group supporting Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign has booked $1.78 million in broadcast television ads for the three weeks leading up to Michigan’s March 8 primary, underscoring the former Florida governor’s vow to campaign heavily for the state’s Republican delegates.

Bush’s Right to Rise USA super political action committee reserved about $711,000 in air time on Metro Detroit stations and about $217,000 in the Grand Rapids market from Feb. 15 through March 8, according to TV station public records reviewed by The Detroit News.

A spokesman for Right to Rise says the super PAC has bought $1.78 million in total air time statewide as part of a planned $2.1 million initial buy in Michigan and $14.5 million committed to states with March primaries.

“March is a critical month in the nomination process in terms of delegate allocation, and Michigan is a big reason for that,” Right to Rise USA spokesman Paul Lindsay said Tuesday. “We think Jeb’s conservative record and his message of disrupting Washington will resonant in the state, and these early TV buys show how serious we are about spreading that message.”

As of early July, Bush’s super PAC had amassed a $100 million war chest to run TV ads helping him win the Republican presidential nomination. Super PACs are only required to file semi-annual reports, so the public won’t get another glimpse at the fund-raising and spending activities of these groups until Jan. 31.

Despite his fundraising juggernaut, Bush’s campaign for president continues to lag in polls conducted nationally and in states that vote before Michigan.

The use of a super PAC to accept unlimited donations from wealthy donors for funding TV ads for candidates has one glaring down side, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Television stations are charging super PACs three to four times more than the rate presidential campaigns are charged, Sabato said.

“You get the lowest rate as a candidate,” Sabato said. “PACs get the full rate. They stick it to the Super PACs.”

Right to Rise USA made the ad buys at Metro Detroit stations on Nov. 12 — the same day Bush stumped for votes and GOP donor support in Grand Rapids.

Bush has vowed to campaign heavily in Michigan, which is splitting its 56 GOP primary delegates proportionally based on candidates who win at least 15 percent of the statewide vote.

“We have a lot of friends and a good organization here, so I’ll be here a lot,” Bush told reporters after a town hall event last week at the Kent County Republican Party headquarters.

Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, won Michigan in 1988 and was the last Republican presidential candidate to carry Michigan in a general election.

Jeb Bush’s brother, George W. Bush, lost the state twice in 2000 and 2004, while winning the presidency.

In 2016, Bush argues GOP leadership of Michigan state government could help the eventual Republican nominee win the state’s 16 electoral votes.

“We haven’t carried Michigan or Pennsylvania, states that have really been a great comeback because of conservative principles by and large — good leadership here,” Bush said. “And I think there’s that can be made that a Republican can carry these states. We have to expand the map to win.”

“... Michigan should be in play because of the economic ... renewal here — and it isn’t because of Washington’s top-down policies.”


(517) 371-3660