Jeb Bush ended his bid for president Saturday in South Carolina, the state that helped clinch the Republican presidential nomination for his father and brother.
“The people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken,” the former Florida governor told a modest group of supporters, many of them from Miami and Tallahassee, gathered at a downtown Columbia Hilton hotel.
Bush’s voice caught immediately after he announced the suspension of his campaign. The crowd stepped in to save him. “We love you, Jeb!” a man yelled, beginning a round of applause and chants of “Jeb!”
Early results showed Bush battling for fourth place with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who had invested little in South Carolina. Donald Trump won the state in a rout, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz running neck-and-neck for second place.
Bush, having already finished sixth in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire, couldn’t effectively carry on without a strong South Carolina showing — either top three or close to Rubio, his most immediate rival. He was already relying on a super PAC, Right to Rise USA, to fund his television ads. Right to Rise reported Saturday it raised only about $378,000 in January, though it still had about $24 million left in the bank.
Bush was introduced by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former presidential rival who had given emotional pleas over the last few days on Bush’s behalf.
“Thank you for running a race for the presidency that we can all be proud of,” Graham said.
The presidency, Bush said, “is bigger than any one person. It is certainly bigger than any candidate.”
“Our country deserves a president for everyone,” he said, congratulating his competitors and underscoring his focus on policy.
“I have stood my ground, refusing to bend to the political winds,” Bush said.
He ended on a note of praise for his wife, Columba.
“No matter what the future holds, here’s the greatest safety landing you can imagine,” he said. “Tonight I’m going to sleep with the best friend I have, and the love of my life.”
Miami Herald Political Writer Patricia Mazzei is in South Carolina for the primary. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @PatriciaMazzei