Columbia, South Carolina (CNN) – Jeb Bush always remained optimistic.
From the beginning of his candidacy last June, he pledged to run with “joy” and adopted a tortoise-and-the-hare strategy, earnestly believing that he would prevail in the end despite a crowded field of candidates.
Even as his chances became grim over the past eight months, he started handing out tiny toy turtles from his pockets to children, telling them that “slow and steady wins the race.”
But in 2016, “slow and steady” was the opposite of what the country wanted.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for Bush’s fall, but the central theme is the failure to read the mood of the GOP electorate that was angry and wanted change. Voters responded to Donald Trump, who Bush both underestimated and whose appeal he didn’t understand.
Bush was out of practice on the campaign trail, something evidenced by his early stumbles answering questions on his stance on the war in Iraq — a question that should have been anticipated with an answer ready. He declared early he was his “own man,” but also highlighted his connection to his father and brother, presidents both. And he raised over $100 million between his campaign and super PAC, but it didn’t scare anyone out of the race.