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Who benefits most from the end of the Jeb Bush campaign?

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during a campaign stop at Wade's Restaurant, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016 in Spartanburg, S.C. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

With Florida Governor Jeb Bush's exit from the 2016 Republican presidential primary, the question becomes which candidate will benefit from the termination of his lackluster campaign.

Bush has yet to endorse any of the politicians who continue on in the race, but experts believe that certain candidates are bound to benefit from Bush's departure.

Describing Bush as a politician who "brings new meaning" to the phrase "establishment candidate," Professor Glenn C. Altschuler, Dean of the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions and the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University, speculated that "it stands to reason that his supporters would be inclined towards the establishment candidates."

Following that logic, both Marco Rubio and John Kasich would be expected to benefit.

"The conventional wisdom is that Rubio is likely to benefit the most from Jeb's departure," Dr. Jeanne Zaino, Professor of Campaign Management at New York University explained.

That scenario is likely Zaino said, but she cautioned that exit poll data doesn't necessarily suggest that all of Bush's supporters will go to Rubio.

"Bush's vote will splinter between Rubio and Kasich," Altschuler suggested, with the candidates picking up small percentage points from his supporters.

"Since Kasich hasn't withdrawn there is the possibility that some or maybe a lot of Bush's voters might gravitate towards Kasich and not Rubio given the well-known antipathy between Rubio and Bush."

As the public has seen, the two Florida law-makers once held a mentor-mentee relationship, something that soured as the two ran against one another.

Recalling a time at which a Rubio candidacy seemed unlikely, Zaino described how "there were many people who were shocked," when he entered the race.

"Bush took it [as] a little bit like a slap in the face," Zaino said, given the fact that he had mentored Rubio.

"When it was [Bush's] time Rubio stepped up and challenged him."

The conflict between the two, Altschuler suggested was "exacerbated because Jeb Bush believes this was his moment to run for president and here was this young upstart from his own state challenging him."

"There's nothing worse than the hatred that follows a love affair between a mentor and a mentee," Altschuler said.

"That is clearly what's happened in Florida."

Zaino described how we saw the back and forth between the two on the campaign trail, with Bush hitting Rubio on not being on the right side of some issues and painting "a narrative [Rubio] is still trying to overcome."

Though Zaino mentioned that Rubio "did come out strongly and defend the Bush family," when Donald Trump attacked George W. Bush's legacy during a CBS News debate.


Rubio also spoke highly of Bush during his speech in South Carolina over the weekend.

"Jeb Bush has many things to be proud of," Rubio said, calling him "the greatest governor in the history of Florida," after declaring the contest a "three-person race."

Though Rubio was not alone in singing Bush's praises. Zaino noted that Ted Cruz also mentioned the former Florida Governor.

Both delivering speeches in which they sounded like they had won, Zaino described it as "telling," that both Rubio and Cruz mentioned Bush, though she does not believe there is some sort of "natural relationship between a Jeb Bush and a Ted Cruz."

"I think the likelihood of Cruz picking up Jeb Bush supporters is low," Altschuler said.

Reiterating that Bush brings "new meaning to the term establishment," Altschuler said by comparison, Ted Cruz "brings new meaning to the phrase loathed by the establishment."

"In that sense the two are polar opposite."

Regardless, Zaino said Cruz will continue his "happy warrior routine," in an effort increase his appeal.

"That's a huge challenge for him," Zaino said speculating that if he doesn't do well on Super Tuesday, "especially in Texas," questions regarding how he does moving forward will arise.

Altschuler pointed out that it will be worth watching to see how Cruz and Rubio do in their respective home states of Texas and Florida.

"If Donald Trump appears to be running the table and has a very good performance on Super Tuesday, Altschuler said the likelihood of a Cruz or Rubio nomination becomes less likely.

Altschuler described something to watch out for which could increase the likelihood that Trump will become the nominee.

"If in the month of March, in the upcoming primaries, Cruz cannot win his home state of Texas and Rubio can't win his home state of Florida, and Trump wins both those states, the likelihood of a Trump nomination skyrockets," Altschuler said.

Trump has momentum going into Super Tuesday, having just won a decisive South Carolina primary.

"I think the important thing to say here that the average person should know, Altschuler said is that "South Carolina was a winner-take-all primary," as a result "Trump got all of the delegates."

"Most of the primaries for the Republicans are not winner take all primaries," Altschuler explained.

"Therefore if three or more candidates stay in the race over the long haul," Altschuler said, it is possible to head into the convention with no candidate having a majority of the votes.

"That has not happened in decades," Altschuler added, noting it is unlikely to occur.

Zaino questioned how long the candidates other than the leading three could even stay in the race. While she agreed that John Kasich may pick up "a bit of support," by Bush in some states, she said "I do think this is quickly becoming a three person race."

Describing that Kasich "doesn't appear poised to make a good run at this," Zaino speculated that Kasich will find himself in a similar situation as Bush, with party elders saying "for the good of the party you've got to turn this over to Rubio."

If Bush were to come out and endorse a candidate, Altschuler suggested it "it would be helpful to the extent that whatever is left of the Republican establishment really needs to coalesce very quickly around a single candidate," something they have failed to do thus far.

"An endorsement of Jeb Bush of even Rubio, would be a good step in that direction," Altschuler said.

Altschuler emphasized that "the establishment has shown an unwillingness or inability to get its act together behind a single candidate," adding that "it may been too late or very close to too late, for them to do so."

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