Jeb Bush is done ignoring the Trump threat.
That’s the unmistakable takeaway from a one-two punch the faltering former Republican frontrunner launched Tuesday against the contender who’s displaced him.
First, the Bush campaign released an 80-second online video that used old footage of Trump to call attention to his history of conservative apostasies. A succession of clips shows Trump describing himself as “very pro-choice,” a fan of single-payer healthcare, higher taxes on the rich and President Obama’s stimulus package, and a Hillary Clinton supporter. “I’ve lived in New York City in Manhattan all my life, so, you know, my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa,” Trump says in a snippet from a 1999 Meet the Press interview that the Bush campaign uses both to open and close the ad.
Bush himself later followed up from the stump, lacing into Trump as a phony conservative and a bully in remarks he made in Spanish to Spanish-language media in Miami. “He attacks me every day. He attacks me every day with barbarities,” Bush said, according to a Washington Post report that translated his comments. “They’re not true. What we did today was to put out in his words to show that he’s not conservative. He supports people like Nancy Pelosi. He’s given money to Hillary Clinton. He was a Democrat longer than Republican. He’s said that he’s more comfortable being a Democrat. He doesn’t have a record, because he hasn’t been a person who has served like me, who served for eight years as governor. He’s not a conservative. That’s my point.” Bush added that beyond his record, Trump “personalizes everything. If you’re not totally in agreement with him, you’re an idiot, or stupid, or you don’t have energy or ‘blah blah blah.’ That’s what he does. That doesn’t work – there are millions of people who today are thinking that their future isn’t the way it should be.”
Bush’s newly aggressive tack comes as polls show him lagging considerably behind the billionaire developer — both nationally and in the early proving grounds of Iowa and New Hampshire. And it marks a sharp strategic reversal. Less than two months ago, Bush swore off even discussing Trump, dismissing him as an unserious candidate and a distraction from the real contest. Several weeks later, as Trump has consolidated his lead and proved it more durable than the competition could have imagined, Bush no longer appears to have the luxury of a pay-no-mind attitude.
But the approach has pitfalls, too — as Trump himself was quick to point out:
Other candidates who hoped to gain by calling out the frontrunner— South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — have all seen their numbers slide since. It’s hardly clear there’s a causal relationship between the developments, but Trump is happy to make the link anyway. And Bush, more thinker than scrapper, risks losing his footing by stepping onto Trump’s turf. It may be he has no choice.