After a hugely disappointing showing in the South Carolina primary, Jeb Bush announced Saturday he is suspending his campaign, effectively leaving the race.
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Bush pulled out all the stops in the Palmetto State, bringing in his brother and mother to campaign for him. But after finishing far in the back of the GOP primary pack, he has told supporters he’s done.
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“I congratulate my competitors that are remaining on the island,” he said in what might be interpreted as a subtle dig at front-runner Donald Trump, who hosted a reality TV show (“The Apprentice”) before launching his presidential bid.
Bush said the next president must realize that he is a servant, not a master. “I’ve had a front-row seat to this office for most of my adult life,” he said, referring, of course, to his father and brother.
Yet Republican voters in 2016 care little about pedigree or government experience. And the Establishment has lost the man it thought would lead them back into the White House, turning now to Sen. Marco Rubio instead.
The Bush family is wildly popular in South Carolina, and Jeb spent like mad in the state, doling out $18 million there, 10 times the $1.8 million spent there by Trump. Still, it wasn’t enough.
A Bush running for the presidency has never lost a presidential primary in the Palmetto State — until this year, breaking a long history of love in “Bush Country.” Many thought that if Jeb enlisted his brother and other family members to stump for him, he would have a real shot at winning the primary. But alas, the GOP Establishment was left bewildered.
When Trump decided to go after George W. Bush, some saw that move as politically dangerous. But it worked. Instead of boosting Jeb, the former president’s presence in the state allowed Trump to remind everyone that George W. had presided over the unpopular Iraq war.
This election has proven that big money and the Bush name are not enough to win. “It’s particularly striking for a Bush to do so poorly in South Carolina,” said Mark Peterson, a political science professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. “If you were going to write a book about the worst campaign for president ever run, it would be Jeb Bush.”
Trump’s victory in the Palmetto State is yet another blow to party elites. But it also accomplished something else that cannot be overlooked: After having a central role in American electoral politics for more than 35 years, the Bush family now has been relegated to the sidelines.
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Brendan Kirby contributed to this piece.