In the end, he exited the presidential campaign with a whimper and not a bang. That was not the way it was supposed to go for Jeb Bush, despite his having been out of elective office for nine years and appearing to be, in previous presidential election years, a reluctant candidate.
He came into the 2016 race, however, dubbed a frontrunner. He evoked the compassionate conservatism of the father and the brother who had been president and a view on the part of even some of his political foes that he had been a competent governor of Florida – which also happens to be an important state for Republicans in electoral votes.
But despite early fundraising success, Bush seemed perplexed by Donald Trump, who labeled him weak, and by the more extreme right-wing candidates in the race, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, senators, with Rubio from his home state. Following a weak performance in early primaries, he was gone.
Bush never defined what he believed in, and the candidate and his campaign lacked energy, deficits effectively noted by Trump. It’s hard now to remember what Jeb Bush’s big issues were, so poorly did he define them. But he did not engage in the easy demagoguery about immigration, for example, that came naturally to Trump.