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Bush has been bashing Trump for months, and tore into him at Tuesday's debate

But it's unclear whether that strategy will pay dividends for Bush

Las Vegas CNN —  

A week ago, Jeb Bush was openly annoyed at reporters who asked him questions about Donald Trump, and he could barely stand to mention his opponent’s name during New Hampshire campaign events.

But at CNN’s Republican debate Tuesday, the former Florida governor tore into the GOP front-runner, solidifying himself as the establishment’s primary attack dog against Trump.

While Bush has been willing to bash Trump for months – firing off one of his biggest shots last week when he called his rival “unhinged” for proposing a ban on Muslims entering the country – Bush’s Tuesday debate performance showcased a new turbocharged offensive against the billionaire businessman.

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Bush now rests in the mid-to low single digits in national polls, while Trump has expanded his lead, coming in at 38% in an ABC News/Washington Post survey earlier this week. All other candidates came in at 15% or below. Bush had 5%.

So why does his campaign feel the new strategy will now work?

As one adviser put it, times have changed after the terror attacks in Paris and California, and Tuesday night was the first time that Bush could draw a serious contrast with Trump’s “erratic” statements in front of millions of voters.

“We’re looking at different stakes in terms of the commander in chief test,” said Bush adviser Michael Steel.

Taking on the ‘chaos candidate’

With more bravado than he’s shown in previous debates, Bush won acclaim for his mostly smooth, confident delivery. A self-described policy wonk who’s known to be long-winded, Bush spoke in sound bites and injected himself into conversations to get more air time.

But a large amount of that time was spent trying to frame Trump – whom he called “Donald” all night – as a flippant contender unfit for the oval office.

“He’s a chaos candidate,” Bush said. “And he’d be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe.”

He called Trump’s proposal to kill the family members of terrorists “crazy” and dinged him for saying he gets his policy advice from watching “the shows.”

“I don’t know if that’s Saturday morning or Sunday morning,” Bush said to laughs, referring to Saturday morning cartoon shows.

At one point, the two tangled after Bush tried to interrupt Trump.

“Am I talking or are you ta