For Republican front-runner Donald Trump, simply beating Jeb Bush in one poll after the next is not nearly enough. Instead, what the billionaire has in mind for the establishment candidate of choice is wholesale humiliation and mockery the likes of which has scarcely ever been witnessed in a primary election. His poll numbers suffering, Bush has been drawn into the fight, but has yet to engage Trump with the same relish that his nemesis takes in attacking him.
Here's a look back a few of the recent rounds fought between the two men atop the GOP field.
Mother knows best?
Trump's latest provocation, an Instagram assault that employs Bush's own mother as its messenger, hits at the former Florida governor's central vulnerability in succinct package so effective that other Republican candidates must be scratching their head and thinking "why didn''t my people think of that?"
So far, Bush's team has yet to directly respond to the inevitable looping of the former first lady's words declaring "we've had enough Bushes" in the White House despite the fact that Barbara Bush later reversed herself and said of her son's likely run, “our problems are so profound that America needs a leader who can renew the promise of this great nation.”
The black hand
On Aug. 22, Trump ridiculed Bush on Twitter over a Photoshop fail on a campaign mailer sent out by Right to Rise, the super-PAC supporting Bush, that appeared to show his rival with a hand that might have really belonged to an African American.
While Bush's campaign again remained mum, his supporters pointed out that the hand in question really did belong to their candidate.
The damage had been done, however, as the clumsy lifting and repurposing of Bush's image only proved The Donald's point, black hand or no.
Jeb Bush ... DOYYY!
Trump's attacks on Bush are sharp, mean, and, yes, sometimes funny, but Bush's supporters have begun to realize that the candidate can't always turn the other cheek. On Friday, Trump revved up a crowd in Alabama by knocking the Bush brand, starting off that attack by simply letting that famous last name do all the heavy lifting. “Jeb Bush … DOYYY!” he said derisively to the amusement of his fans.
After painting Bush, who has by far most successful Republican fundraiser in the field so far, as being in the pocket of those who have filled his campaign coffers, Trump lowered the boom with a hypothetical.
"Who would you rather have negotiating with China, Japan, Mexico, any of them: Trump or Bush?" the billionaire asked, giving his fans the opportunity to wave their Trump signs and scream out their disgust with the villain he had conjured.
Meanwhile, a small plane rented by Bush's super-PAC flew overhead dragging a message that read, "TRUMP 4 HIGHER TAXES, BUSH 4 PREZ".
Another clash on Friday between the two men took place on Twitter over the use of the term "anchor babies" to describe the children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States. Trump suggested a repeal of the 14th amendment in an immigration proposal released on Aug. 16. While Bush initially said he opposed Trump's plan, a day later he used the term "anchor babies" when vowing to tighten enforcement of existing laws that he said encouraged immigrants to come to the U.S. That gave Trump his opening.
This time, Bush fired back directly.
Were that the end of that particular round, one might have been tempted to call it a draw, but when pressed by reporters during a Monday tour of the U.S.-Mexico border on whether he stood by his use of "anchor babies," Bush gave trump more trolling fodder.
"What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there’s organized efforts—and frankly it’s more related to Asian people—coming into our country, having children in that organized effort, taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship," Bush said. That remark didn't go over very well with Asian Americans, and Trump quickly capitalized.
Mind the enthusiasm gap
What distinguishes Trump's constant attacks on Bush from those, say, that Rand Paul or Carly Fiorina routinely level on Hillary Clinton, is how much joy the real estate developer seems to take in launching them.
“You know what's happening to Jeb's crowd right down the street?” Trump taunted Bush at a New Hampshire town hall . “They're sleeping now.”
Twenty miles away from where Trump spoke to 2,000 wildly enthusiastic supporters, Bush held his much more sedate town hall before a crowd of roughly 150 people, and began testing out his uncomfortable new strategy of firing back.
“He was a Democrat longer than he was a Republican,” Bush told his audience, many of whom said they had not yet decided who to support in the primary. “He's given more money to Democrats than he has to Republicans.”
Though Trump likened himself to Ronald Reagan over the weekend in that he, like the Gipper, has become more conservative with age, he has showed no inclination to follow Reagan's 11th commandment. While that edict forbidding one Republicans from speaking ill of one another may have kept the other GOP candidates from landing blows against Bush in the early months of the race, Trump has upended the contest by, as many of his fans have gushed, "telling it like it is."
The strategy has worked wonders. As the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll found, Trump's lead over the field has grown. He now leads Bush, his closest competitor, by a margin of 32—16 percent.
What's more, ditching Reagan's dictum in favor of Trump theatrics has been great for ratings, and that seems to have left Republican party unwilling to stand up for the son and brother of two former Republican presidents.
“I think it is a positive for our party," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said over the weekend of Trump's tactics. "When you have 30 million people watching, not to mention the fact that we have 16 other incredible candidates out there I think we are showing America that we are the young, diverse party, offering a whole slew of options for people and that’s a good thing.”