It’s been a bad week for Jeb Bush.
First, he announced he was laying off more than 40% of his campaign staff—in an effort to cut costs, because of underwhelming fundraising hauls and collapsing poll numbers.
And now, he botched a debate that was widely seen as a do-or-die moment for his candidacy.
Nearly 60 percent of the post-debate POLITICO Caucus, which surveys top political operatives in key states, said that Jeb blew his last chance. And the response from pundits and viewers wasn’t much better.
Now, the question is whether or not Jeb would drop out. Many are now calling for him to do so.
Jeb, who was criticized for being “low-energy” by frontrunner Donald Trump, had attempted to come out swinging—but the former Florida governor (and onetime Republican frontrunner for President) failed to land any blows.
His worst moment came when he attacked fellow Floridian, Senator Marco Rubio, for missing too many votes while serving in the Senate and calling for his former protege to resign.
Rubio slammed back with an eviscerating line that left Bush stunned and silenced.
“The only reason you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position and somebody has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you,” Rubio said.
“Here’s the bottom line. My campaign is going to be about the future of America. It’s not going to be about attacking anyone else on this stage.”
Bush and Rubio, despite their warm relationship in the past, have long been seen as natural rivals—as they both compete for the “establishment” vote, as well as key Florida donors.
There’s also a practical reason for Bush dropping out, best articulated by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out last month: the establishment needs to consolidate around one candidate if they’re going to have a chance to stop the juggernaut candidates of Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson in a close-fought primary.
It’s clear, after last night, that Bush will not be that candidate. Coupled with the fact that he’s already slashing staff means that Bush may face pressure to drop out sooner rather than later.