Jeb Bush formally ended his painful run for the White House on Saturday night, telling supporters that “our nation’s bright light has become little more than a flicker."
"Tonight I am suspending my campaign," the former Florida governor told a crowd of supporters. "The people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken. I respect their decision."
Bush had struggled in early primary states, including in South Carolina's vote on Saturday, which Donald Trump won. The full results had not even been announced when Bush took the stage to say he was suspending his campaign.
Even in exiting, Bush stood fast against the angry mood of the country that helped Trump log wins. If that’s what America wanted, then they’d have to look away from Bush.
"In this campaign, I have stood my ground. I have refused to bend to the political whims,” Bush said in a somber hotel ballroom in Columbia, S.C.
Bush acknowledged the campaign was brutal, especially in a year when all laws of political physics seemed to evaporate. He called his staffers and supporters "fellow grinders."
Many of Bush’s top advisers and aides were in the ballroom as he spoke. It was obvious some had been crying and others were visibly pained. South Carolina voters who came to support Bush were shocked by the news, letting out a gasp when he told them it was over.
“America is a country that thinks big, acts boldly and leads without apology,” Bush said. He said it was up for the next President to do that.
Bush's rivals for the Republican nomination offered praise for the governor in their more triumphant speeches on Saturday night.
"Governor Bush brought honor and dignity to this race," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said, adding that Bush "ran a campaign based on ideas, based on policy, based on substance, a man who didn't go to the gutter and engage in insults and attacks."