Via William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection, who calls this “Willie Horton part two.”

Trump clearly does mean to imply that murder is what Bush has in mind when he talks about “acts of love,” which of course is false. The lawbreaking that Jeb’s talking about in the ad is a reference to crossing the border because you can’t find work to feed your family back home. You can read the “act of love” comment in context here. And here’s the thing: If you do, you’ll see that Bush wanted people to notice it and remember it. “I’m going to say this, and it’ll be on tape and so be it,” he told the audience before making his “act of love” point. That was in April 2014, when he was quietly planning his presidential run and expecting that hundreds of millions of bucks from the donor class would clear the field of centrist rivals and give him the freedom to say stuff like this without having to worry much about it damaging his chances in the primary. He was the guy, remember, who vowed to “lose the primary to win the general” election, meaning that he wouldn’t run as some pretend hardline conservative in the primary only to revert to his true centrist nature in the general to try to appeal to swing voters. With Jeb, it was going to be a WYSIWYG approach from day one.

Fast forward 16 months and there is indeed a candidate who’s willing to “lose the primary to win the general.” But, says Ethan Epstein, it ain’t Jeb:

Bush seems to have jettisoned his strategy before he could even implement it. Aside from his wan countenance, which some see as evidence of “moderation,” and his minor heresy on Common Core, Bush is running pretty much as a down-the-line conservative, trumpeting his record cutting taxes, defunding Planned Parenthood, and blaming Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the sorry state of Iraq. Note to pundits: wearing glasses and speaking softly does not a RINO make.

There is, however, one candidate who has implemented the Jeb strategy: Donald Trump. While he’s been widely derided by liberals for his tough stance on illegal immigration, many of his positions stand markedly to the left of the rest of the GOP field. He’s defended Planned Parenthood; trumpeted his early opposition to the Iraq war; and supported a wealth tax. There’s a cunning political logic at work here: Because of his tough position on immigration and his take-no-prisoners aura, Trump can count on the continuing support of some on the hard right, including among talk radio hosts. But, at the same time, he can appeal to the general electorate; Trump’s support for taxing the rich, for example, is wildly popular in every segment of the population except the GOP base.

Trump’s populist cred, especially on immigration, is giving him the same sort of freedom to buck GOP orthodoxy on certain issues that Jeb thought $100 million in “shock and awe” fundraising would give him out of the gate. I think Bush expected to bounce out to 30-40 percent in the polls early and hold steady there while Walker, Rubio, Christie, and (to a lesser extent) Ted Cruz duked it out to see who’d emerge as the conservative or “somewhat conservative” challenger to the centrist king in waiting. In the meantime, Jeb could run steadily to the center, courting Latinos, and then trust that his money machine would propel him down the stretch to the nomination. As it is, thanks to Trumpmania and the willingness of candidates like Rubio to run this year notwithstanding Jeb’s financial advantage, Bush is now forced to find a new niche in the race on the fly, with populist anti-illegal sentiment swamping all the establishment candidates in the race. In fact, via the Standard, here’s his statement this afternoon replying to Trump’s ad by emphasizing his record on … cracking down on illegals:

“While Donald Trump was still supporting liberal, soft-on-crime politicians, Jeb Bush accumulated an eight-year record of cracking down on violent criminals as governor of Florida. Mr. Trump’s immigration plan is not conservative, would violate the constitution and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, which he will likely attempt to pay for through massive tax hikes,” said Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell in an email.

A more confident Bush sitting at 35 percent in the polls would have waved this ad off as “demagoguery designed to divide us” or whatever by confusing illegals who work hard and stay out of criminal trouble with the gangsters and other violent degenerates whom everyone (well, almost everyone) agrees need to be deported ASAP. Instead he’s trying to out-hawk Trump. Think it’ll work?

Update: Er, didn’t Trump say just this past weekend that he didn’t want to run any attack ads on TV? Why run them on the Internet, then?