After 3 disappointing primaries, Jeb Bush quits White House race

Mr Jeb Bush pauses as he announces that he is suspending his presidential campaign, at his South Carolina primary night party. He kicked off his candidacy last June as the front runner for the White House.
Mr Jeb Bush pauses as he announces that he is suspending his presidential campaign, at his South Carolina primary night party. He kicked off his candidacy last June as the front runner for the White House. PHOTO: REUTERS

COLUMBIA (South Carolina) • Mr Jeb Bush has dropped out of the presidential race, ending a quest for the White House that started with a war chest of US$100 million (S$140.5 million), a famous name and a promise of political civility but concluded with a humbling recognition: In 2016, none of it mattered.

No single candidacy this year fell so short of its original expectations.

It began with an aura of inevitability that masked deep problems, from Mr Bush himself, a clunky candidate in a field of gifted performers, to the rightward drift of the Republican Party since Mr Bush's time as a consensus conservative in Florida.

"I am proud of the campaign that we have run to unify our country," Mr Bush said, his eyes moist, in an emotional speech here on Saturday after his third straight disappointing finish in the primaries.

"The people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken. And I really respect their decision."

Mr Bush's campaign had rested on a set of assumptions that, one by one, turned out to be flatly incorrect: That the Republican primaries would turn on a record of accomplishment in government, that Mr Bush's cerebral and reserved style would be an asset, and that a country wary of dynasties would evaluate this member of the Bush family, which has produced two presidents, on his own merits.

OUT OF THE RACE

I am proud of the campaign that we have run to unify our country. The people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken. And I really respect their decision.

MR JEB BUSH, in an emotional speech in South Carolina on Saturday after his third straight disappointing finish in the primaries.

"We have had enough Bushes," his mother, Barbara, observed, prophetically, before her son announced his candidacy last June.

Mr Bush, 63, a former governor of Florida, failed to inspire Republican primary voters whose mood and needs had changed dramatically since he left government in 2007.

In what turned out to be the year of the unconventional outsider, he conducted his campaign as the conventional insider.

In June last year, as current front-runner Donald Trump prepared to declare his candidacy with an incendiary speech in New York City about the criminal records of immigrants from Mexico, Mr Bush was in Eastern Europe, meeting heads of state and delivering calibrated remarks about US diplomacy. And as he stood on debate stages next to the likes of Mr Trump, Mr Bush never seemed to convincingly play the fighter figure.

After promising to conduct a "joyful" campaign, Mr Bush instead found himself locked in an ugly and dejected slog, under gleeful attack from his rivals and heightened scrutiny from the political world he had thought was rooting for him.

In a painful twist of the knife, he was overtaken by his former political protege, Senator Marco Rubio, whose career he had nurtured in Florida.

But by far his biggest liability, aides and advisers concede, was a pedigree he could do nothing to erase or dilute: He was a Bush at a time when voters sneered at the political and economic establishment that his family name embodied.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2016, with the headline 'After 3 disappointing primaries, Jeb Bush quits White House race'. Print Edition | Subscribe