But this time she was there.
The former first lady came in with her son, pushing her walker, adorned with her Jeb! sticker to wild applause as the Beach Boys played in the background.
“Wow, mom, my crowd sizes normally aren’t this large. I wonder why,” he joked. He then told an old anecdote that, tonight, took on new life.
"I jokingly say that when we were growing up in Midland, in Houston, that mom was fortunate not to have a child abuse hotline available cause the discipline of learning right and wrong was her doing,” he said.
As she took the microphone, she praised her son.
"I didn’t really plan on this, but Jeb is the nicest, wisest, most caring, loyal, disciplined, that’s good,” she said.
But ‘The Enforcer’ added, "Not by me, but he’s not a bragger, we don’t allow that, but he’s decent and honest. He’s everything we need in a president.” She added that she and her husband were very proud of him.
Bush displayed rare moments of emotion, Bush choking up as he spoke of his dad.
“My dad was this perfect idyllic man who to this day is the greatest man alive,” he said, his voice cracking.
Even the usual phrases that pepper his stump felt more poignant, as his mother proudly looked on. Tonight, she was just a proud mother taking photos on her iPhone; forgotten was the time she said that America had seen enough Bushes.
As she smiled behind him, he took the moment to apologize.
"I apologize mom, I called Donald Trump a jerk when he disparaged -– when he disparaged people with disabilities, it’s just not right,” he said.
For Laurie Urquhart, of Hollis, NH, seeing the former First Lady was a must. Seated next to her husband, Wayne, who donned a Reagan/Bush t-shirt, she opined on the impact of her presence.
"I think for the primary she’s fostering that love for people who like the Bush/Reagan, that whole era, reminding them of what they liked, that kinship,” she said, adding, “But I think in the major election that's probably not a kinship you may not want to reignite."
Nevertheless, the crowd was super-charged, cheering at parts of his stump that he’s delivered a dozen times.
This was the town hall he needed, a jolt of life into this campaign that desperately needs it.