The battle between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush just got real.

Bush has over the last 24 hours made a concerted effort to mix it up with the GOP frontrunner, going after Trump repeatedly and in no uncertain terms. It's a striking turn for the normally low-key and cerebral (Trump would say "low-energy") former Florida governor.

Bush clearly does so from a position of weakness. As Trump has risen in the polls, Bush not only hasn't kept pace; he's actually lost a significant amount of ground. The most recent Iowa polls put Bush at 5 or 6 percent, and an automated Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday showed him dropping to 7 percent in New Hampshire. And this is the guy who was supposed to be the nominal favorite for the GOP nomination. He raised $100 million last quarter!


(It's also worth noting here that Trump has gone after Bush repeatedly, so it's not like Bush is starting it.)


So, like many before him, Bush has decided he's got to come at the king. And in the video above, his campaign succinctly summarizes some of the many liberal things in Trump's record, including:

  • Being "very pro-choice"
  • Saying "single-payer" (i.e. government-run) health care has worked in Canada in Scotland
  • Wanting to raise taxes on the wealthy
  • Praising the 2009 stimulus package
  • Wanting Hillary Clinton to be his lead negotiator with Iran and saying nice things about her
  • Having been a registered Democrat and saying "I have no idea" why he was, at one point, registered as a Republican
  • Having lived in Manhattan "all my life"

None of these are news-flash material — at least to readers of The Fix — but they are being presented in a new way by the guy who was supposed to be the GOP front-runner. Bush is newsworthy because he's struggling, and while he's said critical things about Trump before, it has never been a full-fledged and sustained attack. Hence, we're likely to start having a conversation about these things in a way we haven't before.


So can Bush makes the "liberal" label stick to Trump? And will it hurt?

It would seem to be a potent line of attack. After all, raising taxes, favoring government-run health care and supporting abortion rights (which Trump no longer does) are things that have long been anathema to the GOP base.


At the same time, as we have pointed out regularly in recent days, Trump's appeal has very little to do with his issue positions and much more to do with who he is and his personality. To wit:

  1. The new polling in Iowa shows just 41 percent of likely caucus-goers want a candidate to "be clear about specific policies."
  2. Another poll showed 69 percent of Republicans nationally say they could disagree with a candidate's stance on abortion and still support him or her.
  3. The Iowa polling shows two-thirds of these voters want someone from outside of government to be the next president

None of this bodes well for attacking Trump. And indeed, nobody who has done so in the past seems to have gained traction from it — not Rand Paul, not Rick Perry, not Lindsey Graham.


Then there's this: Trump will hit you back — hard.

Being a non-traditional politician means Trump isn't bound by the norms of political strategy. And his knee-jerk reaction is to ratchet up the rhetoric even more than his opponents. You come at him with a knife; he'll wield a hatchet.


And finally, there's this: Trump already has his detractors in the GOP. His lead is not built on being universally liked; in fact, about one-third of Republicans still don't like him. So perhaps this drives up his negatives, but does it actually undercut his base of support? Those are two different questions.

For Bush, going after Trump is very much a calculated risk — as well as a strategy of necessity rather than choice. We shall see how it pans out, but so far, indications are it'll be a tough slog.

Update 4:16 p.m.: Trump is now up with another Instagram post hitting Bush.

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No more Clintons or Bushes!

A post shared by President Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on