So, Jeb! Bush’s exclamation point finally withered into a semicolon and then into an ellipses and then finally into a period when the final Bush admitted defeat at last and resigned from the 2016 presidential race. “I’m proud of the campaign that we’ve run to unify our country,” Bush said. “The people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken, and I really respect their decision.”
Upon announcing that he was suspending his campaign, one supporter could be heard crying in disappointment, “NO!” There is no truth to the rumor that this person was Mike Murphy, the head of the Jeb! super PACs, who reportedly walked away with $14 million after leading the worst presidential campaign in American history, blowing $100 million to finish sixth in Iowa, fourth in New Hampshire, and fourth in South Carolina.
Predictably, many commentators tipped their caps to Jeb! after his announcement. They said that his decision to withdraw demonstrated class and decency – after all, he wasn’t holding up the race any longer, and therefore could clear the way for an alternative nominee.
But here’s the truth: Jeb!’s exit means nothing now. Exiting after New Hampshire would have been the classy move – it would have meant a recognition that Jeb!’s continue presence in the race could do nothing but hold back a Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) or a Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). And Jeb! might have had some political capital to expend at that point, coming off a decent finish in New Hampshire. His 8 percent in South Carolina could have gone to someone like Rubio, making that race suddenly competitive.
But as it is, Jeb! simply played out the string, then declared defeat once defeat was already inevitable. He has nothing to give to any of the anti-Trump candidates. His money was already leaking away to Rubio; his voting base has been nonexistent (he doubled his national average with 8 percent in South Carolina). So Jeb!’s exit is merely a sad sack exiting a sad race after a sad performance.
All of which is to say that Ohio Governor John Kasich needs to leave now, and the interminable Ben Carson campaign needs to go, too. They’re prolonging the inevitable, prevent the consolidation of the field, and thus handing Trump an easier shot at victory. If those candidates truly wanted to be classy, they could follow the leads of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), who both got out when it became clear they were no longer viable options.
We’re down to the wire, and there are still too many candidates. All the candidates should take a long look in the mirror and decide whether they want to go out the way Rand Paul did, with some dignity, or go down the way Jeb! did – like the Titanic.