Jeb Bush’s supporters thought he was not doing enough in the final days of his presidential campaign, and sought to revive his faltering chances by offering pleading advice to the candidate during a townhall forum.
“You are the best qualified to be president of the United States,” one audience member at an event in Summerville, South Carolina told the former Florida governor and the latest member of the Bush clan to seek the presidency.
“But you get knocked off center because of insults to you and your family.”
Another man told Bush his effort had been “co-opted by the PT Barnum of our time,” comparing rival Donald Trump to the 19th showman and circus pioneer known for promoting celebrated hoaxes.
They urged Bush to do more to attack Trump, but just days later he would quit the presidential race he had once looked likely to lead.
Bush secured just 8 per cent of the vote in South Carolina, putting him in fourth place among six candidates, after poor showings in the Iowa and New Hampshire. And though the other bottom finishers, Ohio Governor John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, vowed to soldier on, Bush had had enough.
“Tonight I am suspending my campaign,” he said. “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.”
Without mentioning Trump by name, Bush again made the case for keeping the bombastic billionaire out of the Oval Office.
“Our country deserves a president for everyone,” he said, in a veiled swipe at Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim policies.
“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 honour and decency.”
Bush entered the presidential race in June, and Trump would follow just one day later. At the time, Trump was seen as just a blip on the political landscape, while Bush had amassed a huge campaign war chest of donations and courted the party’s big names.
Early polls had given Bush an edge before he even entered by the race, but Trump began to surge ahead within weeks of launching his campaign. During debates and on Twitter, Trump went after Bush ferociously, calling him a “low-energy” candidate who lacked the drive to be president.
Bush ran up against the wave of anti-establishment anger that propelled Trump as the ultimate political outsider to the top of Republican polls and has also seen Hillary Clinton battling in an unexpectedly tight Democratic Party primary race with Bernie Sanders.
“This was the year of the insurgent candidate. This was the year of the let’s blow up everything in Washington and put a non-politician in place, and he got caught in that,” said Andy Shain, who reports on South Carolina politics for The State newspaper.
Bush was also obscured by a crowded Republican field that at one point included 16 candidates who divided the support he badly needed.
He faced the hurdle of overcoming the lingering unpopularity of his brother George W Bush’s 2001-09 presidency, which saw the start of the global financial crisis and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jeb Bush emphasised his own life experiences and role as governor of Florida, making scant mention of his family except to cast himself as his own man.
But he faltered on questions about he would have handled the Iraq war and later went on the offensive, defending his brother in Republican debates.
As his campaign continued to slide in South Carolina, Bush brought George out to campaign for him.
His mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, also appeared alongside the candidate, prompting jeers from Trump about Bush needing help from his mommy.
“I know there are some people who don’t want another Bush in the White House,” Kelly Browder, a 58-year-old retired teacher, said at a Bush rally this week.
But she said she disagreed and thought he could beat the Democrats in November presidential elections.
In the end though, not enough other voters agreed.Anne K. Walters, "Wrong man at the wrong time: Jeb Bush exits presidential race," Business Recorder. 2016-02-22.
Keywords: Political science , Presidential candidates , Political landscape , Financial crises , Energy development , Neurosurgeons , Politicians , Donald Trump , Iraq , America