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Jeb Bush Ends His Presidential Campaign

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush listens to a question during a campaign stop at Wade's Restaurant on Friday in Spartanburg, S.C.
Paul Sancya
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush listens to a question during a campaign stop at Wade's Restaurant on Friday in Spartanburg, S.C.

Jeb Bush is ending his campaign for president after a disappointing showing in the South Carolina primary.

"The people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken, and I really respect their decision," the former Florida governor told his supporters gathered in Columbia on Saturday night. "So tonight, I am suspending my campaign."

"I congratulate my competitors, that are remaining on the island, on their success in a race that has been hard-fought, just as the contest for the presidency should be because it is a tough job," he continued.

The son and brother of the past two Republican presidents entered the race with all the signs of the classic front-runner: endorsements from other top officeholders, a massive campaign war chest and name-brand campaign consultants.

Bush sought to campaign as an optimistic champion of pragmatic conservative values — but his positions in favor of overhauling immigration laws and educational standards put him out of step with an increasingly conservative Republican electorate that was hungry for an outsider, not the ultimate insider.

His perceived momentum quickly stalled as it became clear that voters in both parties are shunning experienced politicians. Onetime protege Marco Rubio passed him in the polls, and Bush moved farther and farther to the side of the stage in the candidates' presidential debates.

In New Hampshire last week, Bush was left defending his family to voters eager for a change. "I'm proud of my dad. I'm proud of my brother. I'm proud of being a Bush," he told a crowd in Derry. "The Bush thing, people are just going to have to get over it," he said at a later town hall in Portsmouth.

South Carolina this week felt like it was do or die for Bush, and indeed it was. In retrospect, his campaign had the aura of a farewell tour as he brought in his brother, former President George W. Bush, and his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush to try to catch fire. He hoped to do well in the military-friendly state, which both his father and his brother had carried. Instead, the Palmetto State marked the end of the road for the once-promising candidate.

Despite spending far more money than any other campaign on television advertising and his allied superPAC dropping millions to attack his rivals, Bush garnered less than 3 percent of the vote in Iowa and placed fourth in New Hampshire. He's on pace to finish a distant fourth or fifth in South Carolina.

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Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.

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