Jeb 2016: A sad, disheartening spectacle to some who've followed his career

In many ways, though, Bush seems beyond his age, like a candidate from an earlier time — one that was politically kinder and gentler, to use his father’s phrase, and more like when he last ran for office, for reelection in Florida in 1998.

“Jeb and his team underestimated the difference from politics from 15 years ago, when he got out,” said a Bush family confidant, who agreed to speak but only anonymously to stay in their good graces. “No one used the word ‘liar.’ Nobody called people ‘stupid,’ or said the president was dumb. You’d get killed. The whole tone of language has changed because of texting, because of social media, because of reality TV.”

Perhaps Bush’s greatest political misfortune, though, is seeming like a voice of substance and seriousness at a time many in the GOP prefer more animal instincts.

Nothing seems to energize Bush more than a rigorous discussion of education policy, or his plan to revamp Social Security. But as Bush went on at length in Laconia, at a resort on Lake Winnipesaukee, the crowd of 125 or so sat mute, and the only sound was the whoosh of the ventilation system in a hotel function room.