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Jeb Bush, the 'joyful tortoise,' gives out tiny toy turtles on trail

Story highlights

  • Jeb Bush revealed on the campaign trail Wednesday that he carries little turtle figurines in his pocket
  • Bush has struggled to break through in national polls or polls in key states

Portsmouth, New Hampshire (CNN)Jeb Bush keeps turtles in his pocket.

The Republican presidential candidate, who early on in his campaign referred to himself as a "joyful tortoise," walked over to a 13-year-old boy here at a breakfast joint Wednesday and pulled out a tiny turtle figurine.
    "Slow and steady wins the race," Bush told the seventh grader.
    It was a moment that surprised the press corps that regularly follows Bush and hadn't seen the turtle before. Bush has long embraced the tortoise symbol as a metaphor for his position in the presidential race, believing his slow rolling campaign will win in the end.
    "I give them out to kids. Slow, steady progress -- that's what that means," he told reporters, as he pulled out more turtles from his pocket. "I have a bunch of turtles. I got the little baby Jesus, I got my rosary beads and I got three turtles."
    According to the campaign, Bush gets the turtles from New Hampshire state Rep. William Gannon, who endorsed Bush back in August.
    But with a little more than a month before the New Hampshire primary, Bush is still mired in the polls, finding himself behind several rivals in the crowded GOP race. In his three-day swing in the state this week, he's been expressing confidence that Granite State voters won't go with the current front-runner, Donald Trump.
    "First in the nation means you get to take this more seriously than people in other states," he said Tuesday night at a town hall in Dover. "What I've seen is that you do take it seriously -- that you're not going to vote for the bombastic because it's bombastic and interesting, that you're going to vote for someone who walks on the hot coals, who takes your questions, who you get to listen to and who listens to you and builds a support based on interacting with real people and real concerns and real issues."
    Zacharie Morrow, the 13-year-old boy who was given the turtle, said he thought Bush was "pretty amazing." Minutes before he was gifted the tiny figurine, the two had a long chat about their shared love for space and disappointment over the shutdown of the space shuttle program.
    "It makes me sad that NASA is kinda like closed right now," said Morrow, who's from Kittery, Maine, just across the border from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
    "It's not closed, but ... there's no big aspirational purpose," the former Florida governor said, as he sat down next to Morrow in a booth with the boy's mother. "The President decided to shut down the shuttle and (didn't) allow for an expendable launch vehicle to replace it, so now we have the Russians basically holding us hostage. I mean if they wanted to, they haven't yet, to be able to launch into space to go to the space station -- I think that's wrong."
    Bush described what it's like to watch a launch from Cape Canaveral and told the boy to email him if he's ever in Central Florida.
    "The whole world vibrates and you're a few miles away and there's a lagoon in between you and the launch," Bush said, growing with excitement. "And the light shines on the lagoon and there are like thousands of fish that are jumping because of the vibrations."