Dream of Bush dynasty ends abruptly as Jeb folds
Confronting insulting ‘bully’ Trump could not hoist contender into White House
South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham kicked his heels outside a school near Charleston while Jeb Bush, the presidential candidate Graham has supported since he dropped out of race, met voters inside.
“It is a Sunni-Shia thing here within the party,” Graham told two Irish journalists on Saturday lunchtime waiting, with the media pack, for the former Florida governor to emerge.
There was a long queue of people here on Daniel Island, a mixed-party residential area, waiting to vote in South Carolina’s Republican primary, the third heat in the presidential race.
“There is a fight here in a big evangelical church,” Graham said, explaining the deep chasm among Republicans that businessman Donald Trump has profited from.
“He is the bridge between the two,” Graham added of his guy, Bush. “He is the Iraqi Christian who can get along with everybody.”
The senator told us that he is a regular visitor to Ireland, stocking up on bottles of Bailey’s Irish Cream (“it’s like old, sour milkshake”) at Shannon as he passes through on his return trips from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as playing golf at Doonbeg golf course in Co Clare. He joked that he won’t play there again now that Trump owns the place.
Graham was hoping Bush would get better as the field of Republicans becomes smaller; that he will be “getting more comfortable being Jeb Bush” when the wonkish former governor will come into his own.
Policy does matter
Moments later, the man who has two former presidents in his family and was hoping to become the third left the school.
“No, he [Trump] is just a bully,” said Bush, when asked if the campaign was as draining as it looked. “Bullies need to be confronted, and I’m the only guy who did it.”
Asked if he has a vision of what life would be like with Trump as president, Bush replied: “He is not going to win.”
Nobody knew then, though most suspected it, that these were the final moments of Bush’s campaign. Eight hours later, he announced he was dropping out after coming a distant fourth in South Carolina, at 8 per cent, trailing Trump by 24 points and 14 behind his one-time protégé, Florida senator Marco Rubio, and Texas senator Ted Cruz.
“The presidency is bigger than any one candidate. The people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken,” said a crest-fallen and emotional Mr Bush.
The favourite to take the Republican nomination a year ago, Bush was unable to fire up conservatives with a spluttering campaign. Humiliating losses in the three races were a sign that Republicans have simply had enough of the Bushes.
In a final act of ignominy, South Carolina, the state that set his brother on a course to the White House 16 years ago, handed Jeb his final defeat and a victory to the insulting billionaire who claimed last week that George jnr should have been impeached over the Iraq war.
South Carolina spelt the end of the Bush dynasty’s presidential dreams, at least for this generation.
“But, unfortunately, in this mix I don’t think he has a prayer of getting there,” Roberts added. “He has trouble connecting with people – unlike his brother.”
Asked on Saturday whether he would consider being Trump’s vice-president, Bush quickly shot down the idea.
“No,” he said. “And let’s be clear: I don’t think he would ask me either.”