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WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has reserved $7.8 million in air time in January and February for TV ads in the key states of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, the Bush campaign said on Monday.

The ad buys are a sign of the financial strength of Bush, who was once considered the heavy favorite for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and is now fighting to stay among the leaders.

The Bush campaign reserved $1 million in air time in Iowa, which on Feb. 1 holds the first nominating contest on the road to the November 2016 election, and another $4.6 million for New Hampshire, which votes on Feb. 9.

The ad buy also included $2.2 million for air time ahead of the South Carolina primary on Feb. 20.

Former Florida Governor Bush has led the 15-candidate Republican field in fund-raising, but lately that has not translated into additional popular support.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released over the weekend had him in fifth place with 7 percent support among Republican voters, as New York billionaire Donald Trump continued to lead the field.

The Bush campaign described the ad buy as a “first pass for our long-term approach.”

“As voters in early states and beyond get to know Jeb Bush’s record and vision, he is building support. Our campaign will have the resources needed to be competitive throughout the calendar, ensuring Governor Bush is the nominee,” said Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Alan Crosby)

Photo: Former Florida Governor and U.S. presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks during the Heritage Action for America presidential candidate forum in Greenville, South Carolina, September 18, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Keane

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