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Jeb Bush raised $13.4 million in the third quarter

He has $10 million cash-on-hand

CNN  — 

Jeb Bush has built a formidable campaign with top-flight staff in all the early states and announced a respectable third-quarter haul of $13.4 million. But with only $10 million cash-in-hand, the big question is whether he can sustain it.

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His fundraising total is in the neighborhood of the number that his allies and donors had expected for the third quarter, as he has struggled to get attention in the shadow of Donald Trump. Financial backers of Bush – many of whom chose the former Florida governor because they thought he was the most formidable contender – have been dismayed by his standing in the polls in recent months, despite his breakneck pace of campaigning.

With his campaign coffers flush and with ads on the air in New Hampshire introducing his record to voters, they expected him to be up in a far stronger position in the polls – not competing with Trump and other outsider candidates like Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson.

Bush raised more money in the third quarter than rivals Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz, but both have more money than him in the bank – Rubio with $11 million, Cruz with $13.5. And they have fewer mouths to feed with smaller campaign operations.

Still many Bush allies have said in interviews that while they would like to see progress, they are dealing with a new and unfamiliar phenomenon in Trump. That is why the campaign has spent so much time and money contacting voters in early states like Nevada and New Hampshire.

In interviews, Bush donors have said that while Bush has had his share of gaffes, he has been improving on the campaign trail. They see Rubio’s inexperience – and the inevitable comparisons to Barack Obama – as a major vulnerability in running a general election race against Hillary Clinton.

Rubio, however, has picked up the pace of his fundraising off his strong debate performances. Many voters in early states like Nevada count him among their top contenders in interviews. His campaign is spending carefully to avoid running out of money.

In a memo to Bush supporters, campaign manager Danny Diaz said the fundraising number is “particularly noteworthy given the depth of the current field.”

“We knew from the start this was going to be a hard fought and close race, but few could have anticipated just how volatile this field would be,” he wrote.

And he emphasized that the campaign is playing the long game. “The overall effort supporting Jeb will be better funded than any other in the entire field and the campaign has a formidable grassroots organization in the early states that is making thousands of voter contacts and recruiting volunteers for February,” Diaz wrote.

Brett Doster, Bush’s strategic lead consultant for South Carolina, noted the campaign is expanding its operation in the Palmetto State as part of the long-term plan. “This is part of a bigger strategy,” he said. “It’s impossible for a presidential campaign to be successful long-term if they don’t run a balanced campaign between air war versus ground game.”

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Doster added: “We have the resources we need to go deep into this primary process. “Nobody is going to have a headquarters in Columbia and three field offices this early in the campaign.”

CNN’s Elizabeth Landers contributed to this report.