Jeb Bush has put himself out of his misery. After finishing in fourth place in South Carolina, with a fraction of his former protégé Marco Rubio’s share of the vote, Bush has suspended his cringe-worthy bid for the presidency.
“The people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken, and I really respect their decision,” Bush said in his concession speech, while holding back tears. “So tonight I’m suspending my campaign.”
When Bush announced his candidacy in December 2014, his party’s billionaire donors welcomed him with open wallets. The political media instantly declared him the GOP’s presumptive front-runner. But the conservative base did not take kindly to the establishment’s presumptions. And then a former reality star entered the race — one who decided to bully the former Florida governor like he was a seventh grader sitting alone in a middle-school cafeteria.
Bush became the embodiment of all that his party’s base longed to reject. After finishing as an “also ran” in Iowa and New Hampshire, Jeb’s last weeks of campaigning were the most painful in recent memory. “I can’t do anything about it. I’ve got to keep on talking,” Bush said at a town hall Wednesday afternoon. He was referring to his malfunctioning microphone, but the phrase seemed to speak to a broader affliction. He had become a candidate whose most reliable applause line was a request for applause. A candidate who couldn’t earn the support of South Carolina’s governor, so had to rely on the tentative endorsement of his own mother instead. One who projected a sense of failure so profound, his attempt to pander to southern gun owners came off as a desperate cry for help.
By bowing out now, Bush doesn’t just prevent himself from producing fodder for more mocking memes — he also gives Rubio a chance to consolidate the establishment vote and keep Donald Trump out of the White House.
On Saturday night, Bush described his campaign as a noble lost cause, telling supporters, “I’m proud of the campaign we’ve run to unify our country and to advocate conservative solutions that would give more Americans the opportunity to rise up and reach their God-given potential.”