Jeb Bush is planning to meet privately with top donors – and potential ones – in Raleigh and Charlotte on Friday before heading to the state GOP convention in South Carolina.
He’ll also meet and greet GOP supporters at the state party’s headquarters in downtown Raleigh in an invitation-only event. That is expected to happen at about 11 a.m. Friday.
Bush then is planning to meet with some of the biggest fundraisers in North Carolina at the two private gatherings – though no money is expected to be raised at them, according to organizers and several people planning to attend.
Fewer than 30 people were invited to each of the two private events, one in Raleigh and the other later in Charlotte.
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A spokeswoman for Bush, who was Florida’s governor until 2007, declined comment on the private events.
“This is just to meet people and get to know some folks,” said Dave Phillips, who is helping to organize the gatherings. “It’s about getting to know some people and giving him a chance to say what he stands for.”
Phillips and Raleigh’s Julia Daniels helped lead Mitt Romney’s fundraising efforts in North Carolina in 2012.
Phillips, a former state commerce secretary who was George W. Bush’s ambassador to Estonia, was at last weekend’s big-donor retreat with Bush.
He said he is supporting Bush, but that he expects others who will meet with Bush in North Carolina this week are not yet committed.
Two of the state’s biggest Republican donors – former state budget director Art Pope and Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy – tell Dome they are planning to attend.
Luddy mentioned Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as “all excellent candidates” along with Bush.
He said he is not sure Republicans would coalesce behind Bush “for a variety of reasons,” including perceived baggage from George W. Bush’s presidency.
“He has a hard road to go,” Luddy said of an expected Jeb Bush campaign.
North Carolinians should see a contested campaign – and frequent visits from presidential candidates. Barack Obama won the state in 2008 and Romney won it in 2012. In both cases, the state was each candidate’s closest margin of victory.
Cruz spoke in Raleigh earlier this month. Walker is planning to speak at the state GOP convention in Raleigh in June.
Latest polling on Bush in NC
The latest Elon University poll, conducted last week, produced mixed results about the Republican field. “On average, registered voters were not enthusiastic about any candidate,” according to the poll summary.
Among Republicans, Rubio, Walker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Bush had the highest favorability ratings, all between 62 and 66 on a scale of 0 to 100.
Bush was the best known candidate, with only 8 percent saying they could not rate him.
Among independents and Democrats, Bush’s favorability score was well below other Republicans.
The Elon poll also asked about a hypothetical Jeb Bush vs. Hillary Clinton matchup in 2016. Clinton outpolled Bush 47 percent to 44 percent, which is a statistical tie given the poll’s 3.77 percent margin of error.
* This post updated from original to reflect GOP HQ event is invitation only.