Two and a half years after Mr. Bush left the White House, the formidable network of Republican donors he assembled has largely melted away. Fewer than one in five of Mr. Bush’s Rangers and Pioneers, the elite corps of “bundlers” who helped Mr. Bush smash fund-raising records in his two runs for the White House and remain the gold standard of Republican fund-raising, have contributed to any of the current Republican candidates, according to a New York Times analysis....
In an economy that has drained pocketbooks and inhibited the emergence of a younger class of wealthy donors, no Republican candidate has yet been able to seize the imagination and loyalty of a new generation of financial supporters. While the eventual nominee will have an opportunity to unite donors now dispersed among the sprawling primary field and benefit from the pools of money backing conservative causes, none of the candidates have yet assembled the kind of big-check network that could be confident of keeping up with the fund-raising machine built by President Obama.
And some large bundlers, unsatisfied with the presidential field, are choosing to place their bets with the party’s Congressional wing or with independent expenditure groups, which offer them the ease of writing a single check instead of the grinding work of wrangling contributions from dozens of friends and business associates.
“Nobody is inheriting any kind of apparatus left over from the Bushes at all,” said Ray Washburne, a Dallas entrepreneur and former Bush Ranger who is backing Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor. “Everything’s going to have to be recreated. There are new players who want to play, and there are other people tired and done.”
A. Jerrold Perenchio, the billionaire founder of Univision, was a Bush Pioneer in 2004 and a national finance chairman of Mr. McCain’s 2008 campaign. Mr. Perenchio has not yet donated to any of the Republican candidates, but in April a trust he controls donated $2 million to American Crossroads, a so-called Super PAC founded by Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s former adviser.
Some Bush alumni said they believed many former Bush donors had decided to cast their lots with Mr. Rove early in the cycle, rather than with the still-fluctuating Republican field.
“I don’t think the Rangers and Pioneers aren’t playing, I think they are playing in a new way,” said Mark McKinnon, a former Bush strategist. “My guess is that many of them have determined their money is much better invested and spent in the Super PACs. A lot of them know and trust Karl Rove to give them a good bang for their buck. So that’s where their bucks are going.”