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National

Jeb Bush Drops Out Of Presidential Race

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As we heard, Jeb Bush suspended his presidential campaign after another loss, in South Carolina this time. Here's a bit of his speech to his supporters last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEB BUSH: I thank all of the Jeb alumni, many of them who are here, that have been going door to door all across the country, who have put their lives on hold for this cause. And I want to thank my mom and brother who came here to South Carolina. America truly loves them and respects them, and so do I.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: We're going to turn now to Mark McKinnon for his perspective on the Republican presidential race and the Bush family legacy. McKinnon served as the former chief media adviser to John McCain and George W. Bush.

Thanks so much for being with us, Mark.

MARK MCKINNON: Hey, thanks for having me. Good morning.

MARTIN: Jeb Bush had the money. He had the name recognition. He had the resume. What happened?

MCKINNON: Well, he's part of a political establishment that's been in politics for about 50 years, and that's the last thing Republican voters want right now. I mean, they are angry and mad. And they don't want to see anything that they've seen before, so they overthrew the dynasty and voted (laughter) for a guy who took on the Vatican this week.

MARTIN: Did the Bush campaign just see the writing on the wall? Or do you think the Republican National Committee exerted some pressure to get him to drop out so voters can coalesce around other candidates?

MCKINNON: Oh, no. I think it was quite clear to Jeb and the rest of the campaign. They knew they had to do well coming out of South Carolina. Otherwise, there was no rationale for donors to carry on beyond South Carolina.

MARTIN: Do you think Donald Trump is on his way to becoming the nominee?

MCKINNON: Pretty good chance. I mean, he comes out with a significant victory out of South Carolina. He's shown now that he's won two out of three states. (Laughter) You know, in order to get the nomination, you have to win states, and he's now won two. And he also benefits from the fact that he has a divided field now between Cruz and Rubio. They're going to divide up votes and - which allows him to coalesce the rest of those votes and have a good chance going into Super Tuesday and the larger states in the South.

MARTIN: So do you think there are conversations among some so-called establishment Republican Party leaders who are saying we have to get one of these two men to leave the race? There must be one established alternative to Donald Trump.

MCKINNON: Well, the problem with that is that Ted Cruz is not an establishment candidate. I mean, he - although he's been in the Senate, there's been nobody that's been more antiestablishment than Ted Cruz. So there's not going to be any deals between the Cruz and Rubio supporters at all, which makes it problematic for them, and it benefits Donald Trump.

MARTIN: What are you learning about the Republican Party in this election that you didn't know before?

MCKINNON: Well, it makes me think about 1992 when Ross Perot ran. You know, you looked at the - sort of what the country was going through at that time, and people felt pretty bad about politics and the direction of the country. And so it created a huge opening for a businessman outsider. Well, if you look at those fundamentals today, they're, like, 10 times worse than they were in 1992. So you know, the fact that the country's in the shape that it's in - it really shouldn't be a surprise that a businessman outsider's having such an appeal to Republican and independent voters. So you know, it says that the Republicans - you know, I think the Democrats - with Hillary Clinton winning - are, you know, they're on their way to probably a coronation and, you know, a third term for Obama. What the Republicans want is a revolution.

MARTIN: Lastly, just briefly - final thoughts on what this means for Jeb Bush and his family and that legacy?

MCKINNON: You know, it's - it was bittersweet last night. I mean, it was great to see my former boss 43 (laughter), George W. Bush, come out and Barbara Bush come out and the whole family come out. You know, it's a great political family. And I think even if you disagree with their politics, there's just a lot of goodwill for the Bush family. And it was hard to see somebody go through what Jeb went through. But he was - you know, he was very dignified last night. And I think he goes out with a lot of goodwill, although not a win.

MARTIN: Mark McKinnon is a GOP strategist and the co-executive producer and co-host of a weekly documentary series about the election. It's called "The Circus." It airs on Showtime. Mark, thanks so much.

MCKINNON: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.