Jeb Bush and key members of his national finance team addressed top donors on Wednesday in a conciliatory conference call during which he expressed dismay over the outcome of the race.
“I’m sorry that it didn’t turn out the way that I intended when I launched the campaign,” Bush said.
The former Florida governor said he saw a path to winning the nomination by running as a “reform-minded conservative,” but he acknowledged that wasn’t what the electorate was looking for in 2016.
“The reality is we’ve had a year of disruption, a year of outsiders making a compelling case to people who are deeply disaffected and angry,” Bush said. “I just didn’t get the breakthrough I needed in early states and felt it was important to not move on without a clear path to winning."
Bush sounded happy to be off the campaign trail, saying he was hitting the gym, sleeping well and content to be spending time with his wife, Columba, back home in Miami.
Bush didn’t signal whom he'd support in the race or urge donors to get behind any of the candidates. But he said he intended at some point to do what he can to ensure that a conservative wins the White House.
“I intend to do whatever I can to make that happen now as a private citizen,” he said.
Bush took a few parting shots at the media, saying he was baffled by the constant stream of negative coverage he attracted.
“I enjoyed the campaign,” Bush said. “I was amazed at the press coverage of the campaign and lack of reality to how I felt the campaign was. To me, it was an incredible joy and incredible honor and privilege to be a candidate for president.”
He also whacked at the media’s focus on what he saw as trivial political battles instead of policy.
“I learned that people are looking for leadership now and are a lot more concerned about the student loan problem than they were about who was winning and who was losing,” Bush said. “They were concerned with how we get jobs back into our country much more than about the latest insult in the campaign.”
Some Bush donors have already moved on to help Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement Florida looms large in Republican 2024 primary How a nice-guy South Dakota senator fell into a Trump storm MORE (R-Fla.) raise money in the GOP race, although a strong contingent remain on the sidelines plotting their next move.
Also addressing donors on Wednesday’s conference call were Bush national finance chairman Woody Johnson, who owns the New York Jets, and former finance director Heather Larrison.