Contoocook (US): Days after going toe-to-toe with Donald Trump on the debate stage, Jeb Bush seemed to relish his new role as the Republican front-runner’s chief critic while campaigning in New Hampshire.
“I’ve got to get this off my chest: Donald Trump is a jerk,” Bush said yesterday, unprompted, between answering two voters’ questions. Then he slammed the billionaire businessman for insulting women, Hispanics and people with disabilities during the campaign.
“Who is he kidding?” Bush asked the crowd. “I gave myself therapy there. Thank you for allowing me to do it,” he admitted, half-jokingly.
Bush’s frustrations with Trump are not surprising. The former Florida governor, the son and brother of former presidents, was once considered the establishment favourite for the party’s nomination, but Bush’s policy-heavy campaign has been sagging for months and failing to break into double digits in preference polls.
Trump, by comparison, continues to dominate the field, seemingly becoming stronger with each new, inflammatory statement he makes, the latest calling to ban Muslims from entering the US.
Bush isn’t the first Republican presidential candidate to swing at Trump. Ohio Governor John Kasich and an outside group backing him, for example, have attacked Trump for months in press releases and digital advertisements. But as Bush engaged repeatedly with Trump in Tuesday’s debate, Kasich largely avoided taking on the real estate mogul.
Bush, for his part, says he’s stepping up his criticism of Trump now because Trump is displaying shallow ideas on foreign policy.
“Did you hear him talk about foreign policy in the debate?” Bush said, referencing Trump’s garbled answer on modernising the nuclear triad intercontinental ballistic missiles, strategic bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. “He has no clue.”
Of Vladimir Putin, Bush said, “he will respect strength, not a clown show.”
Trump leads the polls in New Hampshire, where success in the February 9 primary could make or break Bush’s ability to continue running. Bush is competing with Kasich, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Florida Sen Marco Rubio to carry the party’s establishment mantle.