COLUMBIA, S.C., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush all but announced his retirement from public office as he suspended his campaign for president. He received less than 10 percent of the vote for the third straight nominating contest in a row.
Bush hovered around 8 percent of the vote as returns came in Saturday night in the South Carolina primary, alternating between fourth and fifth place with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, before addressing his supporters.
"I'm proud of the campaign we won to unify our country, and to advocate conservative solutions," Bush said. "But the people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken. So, tonight I am suspending my campaign."
Bush has stumbled in recent weeks, while tangling over gaffes with Donald Trump and attempting to back up the record of his brother, former President George W. Bush. Although he had the support of party backers, and supporters raised more than $100 million for his super PAC, Bush did not gain the base of supporters many in the Republican Party thought he might when his campaign started during summer 2015.
"We put forward detailed, innovative, conservative plans. And despite what you've heard, ideas matter. Policy matters," Bush said. "I truly hope that these ideas we've laid out will serve as a blueprint for a generation of conservative leaders of government."
After congratulating his competitors in the primary "who remain on the island," Bush said he hopes to see "strong conservative leadership" win back the White House in the fall. He said his immediate plans were to spend time with his family and continue to serve the country "as a private citizen."
"Gov. Bush brought honor and dignity to the campaign" by running on policy and substance, Cruz said before pivoting to address his own third-place finish.
While serving in the state legislature, Rubio became close with Bush during his time as governor of Florida, and is often referred to as his protege.
"Jeb Bush has many things to be proud of," Rubio said, calling him the greatest governor in the history of the state. "I hope and I pray that his time in public service is not ending."