The Republican 2016 contenders battled over money on Thursday, jockeying to cast imperfect third quarter fundraising reports in the best possible light.

In a series of afternoon press releases and snarky Tweets, the campaigns attempted to outflank each other on metrics like money raised, money banked and money spent (or, "burn rate") plus investments in grassroots organization, data analytics and other items they claim will position their candidates for victory when the voting starts on Feb.1. Strengths and weaknesses dictated the message, as they aimed to intimidate rivals, impress neutral deep-pocketed donors and assuage nervous supporters.

"The whole idea that you could shock and awe folks with money is dead. People are responding much more to being shocked and awed by message," said a Republican insider advising one of the candidates.

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Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, raised $13.4 million from July 1 to Sept. 30, closing the three-month period with $10.3 million. Given Bush's fundraising prowess earlier this year, when he raised around $100 million for a political group that became his independent super PAC, Right to Rise USA, after he became an official presidential candidate, opponents sought to paint Bush's third quarter numbers as disappointing.

But in a lengthy campaign memo, Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz made the case that his candidate has spent wisely to build a superior political machine and grassroots organization that will carry him to victory in the early primaries and crucial states that vote in March and beyond. As if on cue, Right to Rise USA revealed that it was placing an initial television ad buy of $16.8 million in eight March states.

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