Prior to the debate, senior Bush aides began looking into the possibility of making a clear break with Trump – potentially with the candidate stating that, if Trump were the nominee, Bush would not support him.
The former Florida governor didn’t go that far but the option may still be on the table. The Bush campaign has already examined whether such a statement would disqualify him from certain state primary ballots, some of which demand that candidates sign a loyalty pledge declaring that they will support the eventual Republican Party nominee…
Those who’ve been with Bush over the last week say he’s been raring to go. At a Republican Party of Florida event at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tampa last week, Bush went on such an anti-Trump tear that Bush advisers were shocked it didn’t leak. From then on, tackling Trump head on was the debate game plan – and became a central part of the former Florida governor’s preparations.
Bush has ramped up his rhetoric in private and public since – calling Trump “unhinged” after his plan to bar Muslims from entering the country. At a fundraiser in Las Vegas the day before the debate, Bush previewed for donors his planned aggressive posture, according to one attendee. Talking points circulated to surrogates indicated his plans to take on Trump and emphasize “the need for a commander-in-chief.”