The Bush political dynasty ended in South Carolina Saturday night. Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, had been seeking what his father and brother had done previously; become President of the United States. That all disappeared after a long year-long slide in the polls and a disappointing showing in the South Carolina primary. After the returns were counted, Bush suspended his campaign.
Looking tired and expressionless, Bush gave his final election 2016 speech. He said, “I’m proud of the campaign we won to unify our country, and to advocate conservative solutions. But the people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken. Tonight I am suspending my campaign.”
The ballroom where he spoke was standing room only as they gave a unified cry of “No!” But Jeb responded quickly with a “yeah” before the entire room burst into applause. He said, “I congratulate my competitors that are remaining on the island.” Nowhere in his farewell speech did he mention any of his opponents by name.
Bush’s decision was not unexpected. He could have very well ended his quest after the poor showing in New Hampshire, but unlike other second-tier candidates, Bush still had a war chest of millions and millions of dollars. However, South Carolina was his total collapse after promising he’d win the primary; “You can take that to the bank.”
The Palmetto State had previously been a successful battleground for both his father and brother. But the political winds had shifted since George W. Bush’s victory in the 2004 primary. Jeb Bush was also under intensifying pressure from party leaders to clear the field so they could coalesce around a challenger to Donald Trump aka Marco Rubio.
The consequences of the governor’s decision will reverberate in the dollars and cents now freed for other candidates. That would be tens of millions of dollars in financial support to other Republican presidential contenders. Senator Marco Rubio seems like the obvious establishment choice since he has strong ties to several of Bush’s top bundlers. Their overwhelmingly second choice after Bush is the Florida senator.
In the end, Jeb Bush retreated to familiar surroundings with his family close to him on the campaign trail in South Carolina. Former president George W. Bush joined his younger brother at a rally for him outside Charleston this past week. Meanwhile, his mother Barbara joined him on his final trek across the state to no avail.
Perhaps nothing summed up the Bush campaign better than remarks he made to reporters earlier in Iowa. “I’ve had 62 years of life that’s been jammed into my DNA that when somebody asks you a question, you’re supposed to answer it. I’m learning the new art of acknowledging the question, being respectful of the questioner, of course, and then answering what’s on my mind.” Jeb Bush was never able to master the new art successfully.