Former Florida governor Jeb Bush suspended his presidential campaign in South Carolina today after coming in fourth place — well behind first-place winner Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Sen. Marco Rubio.
Bush made a last stand in South Carolina — campaigning heavily on the family name, with his brother George W. Bush and his mother Barbara Bush, just after he beat his former protege Marco Rubio in New Hampshire.
“I’ve had a front row seat to this office for most of my adult life,” Bush said during his speech in South Carolina. “I’ve seen fallible men rise up to the challenges of our time, with humility and clarity of purpose to make our nation safer, stronger and freer.”
Once the frontrunner in the campaign, Bush faded after billionaire Donald Trump entered the race, attacking the third member of the Bush family to run for president as “low energy.”
He never recovered from the attacks, but worked hard to remind Americans of the seriousness of the presidency, and the responsibility that the early states had to elect someone with integrity. “Ideas matter, policies matter,” he said during his speech, expressing hope that some presidential candidates would seize his ideas for fixing America and restoring it.
He alluded to Trump in his speech, reminding Americans again of who deserved to be the president of the United States. “I firmly believe the American people must entrust this office to someone who understands that whoever holds it is the servant, not the master. Someone who will commit to that service with honor and decency,” he said.
His campaign and aligned Super PAC spent millions trying to bring him back to the forefront of the race — attacking his rivals with scores of negative ads that distraught many of his establishment competitors. Bush defended his campaign as one that refused to change to meet the politics of the moment and to react to Donald Trump. “In this campaign, I have stood my ground, refusing to bend to the political winds,” he said.
Bush coughed uncomfortably and teared up after announcing his decision to quit, prompting applause and sympathy from his supporters.
He failed to name Trump as the victor in South Carolina, but congratulated his Republican competitors “remaining on the island,” referring to the reality TV show Survivor with his characteristic gallows-humor.
But Bush was comforted by the fact that he would return home with a career in public service and a strong campaign. “I’ve had an incredible life, and for me, public service has been the highlight of that life,” he said.