The presidential campaign: Jeb Bush

  • Jeb Bush greets supporters at a South Carolina rally, Feb. 20, 2016. 
  • Jeb Bush greets supporters at a South Carolina rally, Feb. 20, 2016. 
  • Jeb Bush greets supporters at a South Carolina rally, Feb. 20, 2016. 
  • Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush arrives for a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016.
  • A sign supporting Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is left behind at a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016.
  • Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks during a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016.
  • Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks with a supporter during a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016.
  • Stickers for Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush are seen during a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016.
  • Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush cheer during a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016.
  • Jeb Bush arrives for the Politics and Eggs breakfast (founded in 1996 to provide New Hampshire and New England business leaders with a chance to meet with presidential candidates) at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., on April 17, 2015.
  • Jeb Bush speaks to reporters at the Economic Growth Summit in Florida. 
  • Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush waits to speak at the RedState Gathering in Atlanta, Ga., on Aug. 8, 2015.
  • Jeb Bush at the Economic Growth Summit in Florida. June 2, 2015.
  • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during the Iowa Agriculture Summit, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa.
  • Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the RedState Gathering in Atlanta, Ga., on Aug. 8, 2015.
  • Jeb Bush walks past a wall of pictures of past presidential candidates at the Politics and Eggs breakfast (founded in 1996 to provide New Hampshire and New England business leaders with a chance to meet with presidential candidates) at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., on April 17, 2015.

of

Updated

At the start of the Republican presidential primary race, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was widely viewed as the establishment candidate to beat. He had the largest fundraising war chest, polled well against his potential Democratic opponents and appeared to have the most polished resume in the crowded 2016 field.

However, Bush fell victim early and often to the firestorm of Donald Trump’s candidacy. The real estate mogul took glee in ridiculing Bush’s position on immigration as too moderate and he repeatedly linked Bush to his elder brother George W. Bush’s polarizing legacy. Bush struggled mightily to counterpunch, and by the time he did it may have been too little too late. He also grappled with whether or not to embrace the Iraq war policies enacted by his brother’s administration and failed to have breakout moments in the first prime-time debates in which he appeared. By the time he was telling late night host Stephen Colbert that the exclamation point on his campaign posters “connotes excitement,” several pundits were left shaking their heads about the state of his campaign.

Bush has since shed staff and tried to adopt a more aggressive demeanor on the campaign trail (although his claim that Syrian refugees can prove whether they are Christian was an embarrassing setback). Still he’s watched his once solid showing in the polls reduced to a consistent single digit status beneath far less experienced politicians like Trump and Dr. Ben Carson. His former protégé, Sen. Marco Rubio, has started to emerge as the establishment candidate du jour, leaving Bush’s campaign reeling and in desperate need of a comeback.

The good news for Bush and his backers is that he remains well funded, and the race for the Republican nomination remains extremely fluid. One need only look at the rise of Sen. Ted Cruz and the rapid fall of former candidate Gov. Scott Walker to see how quickly a candidate’s fortunes can change. Still, as time begins to run out in the run-up to Iowa, Bush must have a moment soon if he wants to shift the narrative away from the perception that he is at the helm of a sinking campaign.

These photographs were shot on assignment by photographer Mark Peterson for MSNBC Photography as part of his on-going body of work “Political Theater” which examines the landscape of the American political system.

Speak Out