- The Washington Times - Monday, February 8, 2016

NASHUA, N.H. — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has spent months trying to convince voters — with mixed results — that he is ready to win the fight against businessman Donald Trump in the GOP presidential primary and take out former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a general election matchup.

Mr. Bush is hoping that the fruits of his labor will be showcased in Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation primary here in New Hampshire, where a good showing could give him a boost of momentum heading into the South Carolina primary and a poor showing could sink his chances of becoming the third member of his family — following George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush — to win the White House.

With that as a backdrop, Mr. Bush delivered his closing argument here Monday, telling voters at a local rotary club that he has the leadership skills needed to fix the nation’s most pressing problems and the personality to rise above the slash-and-burn approach politics that has led to gridlock in Washington.

“It is not a sign of weakness to say I want to find common ground,” Mr. Bush said.

He also attacked businessman Donald Trump near the beginning of his remarks.

“I am tired of politicians that push down a group of people to make themselves look better,” Mr. Bush said, before taking direct aim at Mr. Trump. “The front-runner candidate for the Republican party is that kind of politician. Donald Trump organizes his campaign around disparaging people as a sign of strength.”

Mr. Bush said that “it is not strong to insult Hispanics,” “castigate Hispanics,” “ridicule the disabled” and call prisoners of war such as Arizona Sen. John McCain a “loser” people they got caught.

“I think we need a president that actually believes in the American people that won’t push everybody down to makes themselves look good,” Mr. Bush said.

About an hour later, Mr. Trump countered at a town hall meeting in Londonderry, New Hampshire, saying Mr. Bush has wasted millions of dollars on a sputtering campaign and describing him as a “very average guy or less than average guy” as well as a “lightweight.”

Mr. Bush, and Mr. Trump both have a lot riding on the results here in New Hampshire, where Mr. Trump has held a double-digit lead in the polls for months, and Mr. Bush is in fifth place, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls.

Mr. Bush and his supportive super PAC, Right to Rise USA, have invested heavily here, which appears to have given him an edge in the sign wars, as well as over the airwaves and when it comes to campaign mailers.

Still, Mr. Bush has struggled. He has faced a stiff headwind as the scion of the Bush family dynasty in a year where voters have been flocking in droves toward “outsider” and insurgent candidates that have vowed to take the fight to the political class and GOP establishment.

He also struggled to shake off the political rust after not running in a competitive election since 2002.

The stakes are also high for Mr. Trump, who finished second in the Iowa caucuses to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas after leading in polls.

So, the New York billionaire’s challenge is to convince voters that he can translate the success he has had in the polls into victories in nomination contests.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Trump traded barbs throughout the day Monday.

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Mr. Bush criticized Mr. Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who finished third in Iowa, for not taking on Mr. Trump over his temperament and his claim to be a conservative.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Mr. Bush said.” “I mean, he’s just a real estate guy. … He’s gone bankrupt four times. He’s a successful man, but he has had — he is not perfect, by any stretch of imagination, so why not confront him, challenge him?”

Asked to described Mr. Trump in a single word, Mr. Bush said, “loser.”

Mr. Trump called into “Morning Joe” minutes later, and shared his thoughts about Mr. Bush.

“Here is the story on Jeb,” Mr. Trump said.” “He is a stiff who you wouldn’t hire in private enterprise. This is a stiff. This is a guy that, if he came looking for a job, you’d say, ‘No, thank you.’ And that’s the way it is.”

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