Was it too soon for Tim Nicholls to reposition himself in voters’ minds as a potential premier, after a relatively recent stint as treasurer in one of the most tumultuous governments in Queensland history?
Or just too difficult?
“I wasn’t in charge then — next time I will be,” Mr Nicholls famously told the Queensland Media Club this year, trying to distance himself from the Newman term of 2012-2015.
It seems now there wasn’t enough space and time, and the Member for Clayfield bows out after an election loss that some will blame on him, some will blame on LNP strategists and others will put down to unfortunate or impossible timing.
Mr Nicholls’ 17 years in politics — six in Brisbane City Council, 11 in State Parliament — has often been illustrated glibly and falsely with a blue ribbon wrapped around a silver spoon.
The reality is no politician can be summed up in one sentence and Mr Nicholls is not the pin-striped, stuffed shirt, lawyer-turned-money man that Labor painted him as.
On the campaign trail he was affable, approachable and comfortable with almost anyone — even sometimes his ETU anti-asset sales nemesis.
But politics is a harsh world and the preferred premier score in the last Newspoll before the election told the story as it so often does: Annastacia Palaszczuk was clearly ahead as popular leader.
There’s a school of thought that Mr Nicholls should have bided his time and not challenged for the LNP leadership in May last year.
He wasn’t an overwhelming winner of that contest and at that stage it had been less than 18 months since his asset leasing plan was rejected by voters in the 2015 election.
However, it’s also possible the former treasurer was always doomed to fail, no matter when he timed his run, and that too many voters were never going to see past the “Grim under Tim” hyperbole of the ALP’s very effective campaign.
It’s been a rollercoaster of emotion for Mr Nicholls and his family in the six years since he was an integral figure in recruiting Campbell Newman to lead the LNP from outside parliament in 2011.
From the highs of the 2012 election triumph, through the stress of the subsequent three years to the stunning low of the 2015 loss; then back up to the optimism — or gamble — of having a crack for himself in 2017.