New Jeb ad: Trump’s a jerk, you know
posted at 10:41 am on January 14, 2016 by Ed Morrissey
Oh yeah? Well, your mama wears army boots! I’m so glad that our politics reflects our national maturity and perspicacity …
Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) says that Donald Trump is “a jerk” for his past remarks toward the disabled in a new online ad released Thursday.
“I’ve got to get this off my chest — Donald Trump is a jerk,” the GOP presidential candidate said in the spot titled “Enough.”
“I believe life is precious,” Bush continued. “I believe life is truly a gift from God [and] we’re all equal under God’s watchful eye.
“When anybody – anybody – disparages people with disabilities, it sets me off. That’s why I called him a jerk.”
I guess it beats running ads about Marco Rubio’s boots and making comments about his height. He’s going after the frontrunner rather than nearby challengers, which is another interesting and better choice, at least in principle. But this incident is two months old, and the time to run this would have been when Trump mocked Serge Kovaleski in November. There have been a few debates between then and now when Bush could have made this an issue. By now, it’s old non-news. So why now?
Besides, part of Trump’s draw is that he’s the Honey Badger of politics. He doesn’t care who he offends. Bush might get some draw among those already inclined to think of Trump as a vulgar demagogue, but this might just end up reinforcing support in Trump’s base. After all, the New York Times and several other media outlets went after Trump for this two months ago. Did it hurt his standing, or has it improved since then? Here’s the RCP average in national polling since roughly that time:
Why spend money on this kind of personal attack rather than on issues where Trump could be vulnerable? Trump has flip-flopped on a number of issues that are important to conservatives, and a sustained attack on a substantive basis might actually work. We don’t know, though, because the other candidates haven’t tried that strategy yet. They either ignore Trump and fight others on issues, or they focus on Trump’s antics without realizing that his supporters don’t care if he mocks anyone or everyone.
The acid test is this: Will Bush call out Trump as a jerk onstage tonight? Releasing the ad today certainly indicates that Bush will attack tonight. If not, it might be the final “ObamneyCare” moment for Bush.
Update: Chris Cillizza also questions the timing:
Here’s my guess at Jeb’s calculation for running this ad now. He and his team recognize that the end game of the Republican nomination fight will be Trump and a “not Trump” candidate. And that the best way to be the “not Trump” candidate is to be seen as the one willing to most aggressively take the fight to him.
That’s a savvy way to look at the field. Of course, it was also true a month or two ago — when Bush probably should have first put this ad on TV.
It’s not just about being aggressive, though — it’s about understanding the attraction of Trump and being smart and substantive about confronting him. He’s not going to lose votes because he mocked a member of the media, no matter how vulgar people might think it was.