Almost all presidential campaigns end in failure. But few complete an arc as dramatic as Jeb Bush’s bid: Once considered a highly unlikely candidate, Bush surged almost immediately upon his entry into the pole position, then almost as quickly fell out contention and became a punch line.
Bush announced on Saturday night that he would leave the race, after a disappointing finish in South Carolina on Saturday. “The people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken, and I really respect their decision,” he said. “So tonight I am suspending my campaign.”
It followed an excruciating week of campaigning—a week in which the Jeb finally brought his brother to campaign as a desperation step, tried contacts for the first time in his life, lashed out at pundits and his rivals, and practically begged voters to believe in him.
It’s almost incredible to remember that when Bush first announced he was considering a run, in December 2014, it was seen as a gamechanger. He was instantly declared the frontrunner. Scores of anguished thinkpieces lamented the corrosive effects of the presumed Bush-Clinton dynastic rematch. Yet Bush could have left the race even before the Iowa caucuses and it might not have altered the course of the race: he finished sixth in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire. All that despite bringing in more money (between his super PAC and campaign) than any other Republican candidate. What happened that Bush, once the brightest scion of a storied political dynasty, and one of the nation’s most acclaimed conservative governors, should fall so far?