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Harvard Republicans report “mourning” Jeb Bush’s candidacy as businessman Donald J. Trump continues to dominate the Republican field after successive wins.
Bush dropped out of the presidential race amidst the flurry of the South Carolina Republican primary. Trump ended the night with a resounding victory, gaining all 50 of South Carolina’s delegates.
The former Florida Governor had a relatively disproportionate following within the Harvard Republican Club. Almost 50 percent of Club members voiced their support for Bush in an internal straw poll conducted last November.
Bush supporters on campus, like Gwen R. Thomas ’17, Harvard Republican Club president, called Bush a “compassionate,” “good man,” who was eclipsed in an election season dominated by Trump.
“Jeb, and every candidate, got steamrolled by Trump, which was completely unexpected,” Thomas said.
“I really did really think he would be a great president. I think that America missed out a little bit with him,” Declan P. Garvey ’17, who campaigned for Bush, said.
Despite his disappointment, Kent Haeffner ’18, who led Harvard Students for Jeb Bush, praised Bush as “admirable” for leaving the race at this stage.
“I think he realized that if he stayed in the race, he would have taken votes away from folks, like Rubio and Kasich, who would be able to take down Trump,” he said. “I think he cares enough about our party and our country that he was willing to put the own personal ambitions aside to do what’s best.”
Bush’s withdrawal was worrisome for his supporters on campus, who generally reject Trump. After he won in Nevada and New Hampshire, pundits have already started to call the race for the controversial real estate mogul.
“I have promised that I will not cast a vote for Donald Trump,” Garvey said.
As the race narrows down, most of Harvard’s former Jeb supporters have turned to Senator Marco Rubio, another strong performer in the Republican Club straw poll, in the hopes that a mainstream Republican can bring Trump down.
Aaron I. Henricks ’16, former president of the Republican Club, said he will “go through a phase of mourning,” but will likely vote for Rubio, or another candidate who he thinks can bring down the reality T.V. star.
“People need to wake up and drop out and support one person or something,” he said. “Things could be really bad with Trump.”
The Harvard Republican Club will not endorse a candidate during the primary season. Given the “exceptional circumstances,” they won’t rally on the streets “to make America great again” anytime soon, Thomas said.
“I’m very sad about it because I think Jeb’s a good man. Jeb’s a man of character,” Thomas said. “He stood up to Trump and stood up for what he believed in even if that wasn’t popular. I think it takes a lot of courage and a lot of conviction to do that.”
—Staff writer Daniel P. Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DanWood145.
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