Bush's dignified exit opens way for field to shrink to three

By Jennifer Rubin

In a classy and dignified speech, Jeb Bush announced, after his poor finish in South Carolina, that he would suspend his campaign. Photo / AP
In a classy and dignified speech, Jeb Bush announced, after his poor finish in South Carolina, that he would suspend his campaign. Photo / AP

Jeb Bush finally managed to upstage Donald Trump. In a classy and dignified speech, he announced, after his poor finish in South Carolina, that he would suspend his campaign.

His failure demonstrated money is not everything, and that, this time, solid, innovative policy is not a ticket to the nomination. He remained a politician from another era - one when candidates did not use profanity, insult the Pope or wade into the swamps of conspiracy theory.

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Trump, with his win in South Carolina, has consistently captured about a third of the Republican electorate. Nevertheless, mainstream Republicans can breathe a sigh of relief.

The best news for non-Trump Republicans is the gap between third and fourth place in South Carolina, which forced Bush's exit and will put intense pressure on Ohio Governor John Kasich and Ben Carson to join him and get out of the race.

There are three viable candidates at this point with the money, organisation and political skill for a nationwide race.

Marco Rubio's camp can breathe a sigh of relief for several reasons. First, he defeated, probably for good, the attack that he is insufficiently prepared to be president. The exit polls show he won a plurality (36 per cent) of those who said the best preparation was political experience. He does have the most experience, concrete proposals and the best grasp of foreign policy.

Second, a very large share of Bush and Kasich voters find Trump and Ted Cruz entirely unacceptable. Bush and Kasich supporters and donors will build up Rubio's advantage with "moderate" and "somewhat conservative" voters. Cruz's support rests on a thin slice of the electorate. He has not been able to lock up evangelicals. (Trump won them in South Carolina.) And he is unable to break into the share of the electorate that is not "very conservative".

Third, party insiders, including donors and elected officials, will soon rally to Rubio. If Rubio captures the lion's share of Bush voters, he should be able to pass Trump. At least, that is the theory.

- Washington Post, Bloomberg

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