COLUMBIA, S.C. — It just wasn't enough.
Jeb Bush wanted South Carolina voters to do for his campaign what they did for his brother's 16 years ago. But following a near-bottom finish in the Palmetto State, Bush ended his campaign.
The former Florida governor is projected to finish behind Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, and potentially even John Kasich.
“The presidency is bigger than any one person,” Bush said, when he took to the stage to announce he was suspending his campaign. "It is certainly bigger than any one candidate.”
“I’m proud of the campaign we’ve run to unify our country, but the people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken. I respect their decision,” he said at his election night party in a fairly small room at a Hilton.
"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. In this campaign, I have stood my ground, refusing to bend to the political winds,” added a very emotional Bush.
After a fourth place finish in New Hampshire, Bush pulled out the stops in South Carolina, emphasizing national security in this military-oriented state and bring his family to the state to campaign. Most of the Bush family — including his brother, former President George W. Bush, and mother, Barbara Bush — joined him on the campaign trail in the days leading up to the primary.
In a statement, George W. Bush said he congratulated his brother on the campaign.
"I told Jeb how proud I am of him and his staff for running a campaign that looked to the future, presented serious policy proposals, and elevated the tone of the race," he said. "Jeb's decision to suspend his campaign reflects his selfless character and patriotism."
The end for the campaign marks a much different finish than he and many members inside the Republican establishment predicted just a year ago, when Bush was the presumed frontrunner for the nomination. He struggled, however, to convert that early advantage into broad support as the campaign wore on, and faced mounting pressure to drop out so the establishment wing of the party could rally behind one anti-Trump candidate.
Ahead of Saturday's primary, Bush’s campaign had events scheduled in Nevada and denied reports that his campaign is running out of money. According to FEC reports filed just as Bush suspended his campaign, the governor raised just $1.6 million in January and had $2.8 million left at the end of last month.
But in an election cycle where outsiders appear to be dominating, voters rejected giving another Bush another chance. Billionaire Donald Trump — whom Bush increasingly attacked on the stump — won handily.
While hugging his supporters and thanking them, a teary-eyed Bush said he had made the decision to drop out just this evening, as reporters covering his campaign shouted out questions at him one last time.