Jeb Bush, five years out of office as Florida governor but still a towering figure in Republican politics, yesterday flatly ruled out becoming the running mate of the party's presumptive nominee Mitt Romney in November.
And in remarks that will surely both tantalise and infuriate many in his party, he admitted that he should have run for the White House himself this year. "This was probably my time," he told CBS television.
With those words, Mr Bush acknowledges what was obvious to almost everyone: that in a year that produced the weakest Republican field in memory, the nomination might have been his for the asking. But despite a battery of pleas, both public and private, from party elders, Mr Bush stayed out of the race. Now it would seem he regrets that decision.
"There's a window of opportunity in life, and for all sorts of reasons," he told CBS interviewer Charlie Rose, acknowledging, perhaps, that the window had closed.
Even so he did not rule out a presidential run in the future – a factor, almost certainly, in his insistence that "under no circumstances" would he accept the vice-presidential nomination even if offered it by Mr Romney. Mr Bush instead declared he had "not made a decision" that he did not want to be president.
The phrasing may be enigmatic, but the calculation behind it is clear. If Mr Romney were to win the White House with Mr Bush at his side, the latter would not be able to make his own bid until 2020 at the earliest. But a Romney loss would enable Mr Bush to run in 2016, when he would be 63 and still at the height of his powers.
By then though, the window of opportunity might have shut. Successful presidential runs are all about timing. A younger generation of Republican leaders is emerging, and by 2020, or 2016, a window may open for one of them, just as it did on the Democratic side for Barack Obama in 2008.