The waffling and word-mincing has stunned immigration reformers, frustrated his friends, and left Democrats relishing the public-relations disaster. “@JebBush a flip-flop-flip on immigration? Wow,” said Democratic National Party Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida on Twitter. “I fashioned you more of a baseball player than a gymnast. My bad.”

Bush’s closest allies insist that he hasn’t changed; it’s the immigration debate in his party that’s lurched forward. When he wrote the book with coauthor Clint Bolick last year, Republican nominee Mitt Romney was lashing out at his rivals for supporting “amnesty” and promoting “self-deportation.” Bush sent his book to the printer before Christmas, just as President Obama’s overwhelming success with Hispanic voters was prompting Republican leaders to reconsider their hardline stance against illegal immigration. In January, a bipartisan group of senators embraced a sweeping set of reforms, including a pathway to citizenship…

Bush’s consideration of a presidential bid in 2016 could be tripping him up, though allies insist his policy positions are impervious to any political ambitions. Perhaps after being out of office for more than six years, away from the daily media scrum and relying only informally on a handful of political advisers outside of his educational foundation, Bush is a little off his game. And perhaps his reputation in a party casting about for leadership had grown larger than life, like the guy or girl who got away that you always wonder about.

Jeb Bush, as it turns out, is a mere mortal.