Jeb Bush cast as ‘villain’ in GOP fight for recognition

Published 2:01 PM EDT, Thu June 25, 2015
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(CNN) —  

Bobby Jindal took some veiled swipes at his Republican presidential rivals Wednesday night, but in a rare move for an announcement speech, the Louisiana governor singled out one opponent by name: Jeb Bush.

“You’ve heard Jeb Bush say we need to be willing to lose the primary in order to win the general election. We’re going to help him do that,” he said, referring to a statement Bush made last year.

“Let me translate that political speak into plain English,” Jindal continued. “What Jeb Bush is saying is that we need to hide our conservative ideas, but the truth is if we go down that road again, we will lose again.”

Jindal’s jab adds to the list of punches thrown at Bush from Republican candidates in recent weeks, a trend that’s growing in intensity and frequency as the GOP field becomes more crowded.

As someone who’s consistently stayed in the top tier of national polls, Bush is a natural target for lower-tier candidates in need of more publicity and name recognition, Republican strategists say. For Jindal, the strategy worked and generated a lot of headlines.

“When you’re a candidate out the gate and not that many people know you and you’re trying to craft a narrative of your campaign, you need a hero – which is the candidate – and a villain, which in this case was Bush,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

Bush hasn’t always been a villain for Jindal, though. In Jindal’s first term nearly eight years ago, the governor started a monthly speaker series for his Cabinet secretaries and staff and invited Bush to be the first guest speaker, The Associated Press reported.

But the two have been on a collision course ever since Jindal became one of the most vocal governors against Common Core, despite first supporting it, while Bush has been a strong advocate of the standards.

Others have also piled onto the former Florida governor recently. Like Jindal, Donald Trump named Bush in his kickoff last week, attacking the former governor repeatedly, as well as other candidates by name. He later regretted being hard on Bush, only to attack him again a few days later.

A pro-Rand Paul super PAC released a web video earlier this week of a faux-infomercial selling “Bailout Bush” dolls, a satire on Bush expressing support for the 2009 financial services bailout and on his ties to Wall Street. (Bush in 2012 said the the bailout “right thing to do” in the short term but did not approve of what he called “massive” regulations that ensued.)

Matt Mackowiak, another GOP strategist, argued that attacking someone who’s considered to be the overall frontrunner is a well-worn strategy, and he expects to see Bush continue to take more hits in the coming months as the contest becomes more competitive.