The Wednesday night GOP debate finally provided one of those firecracker moments, and it didn't fail to disappoint — Jeb Bush and Donald Trump's feud at the second GOP debate got awesomely heated on the topic of political donations, special interests, and, yes, Jeb's "energy." Suffice to say, it was a pretty stinging moment for both candidates.
The exchange occurred early on in the debate, and was set off by Bush remarking that he wasn't beholden to his donors, citing the fact that Trump donated to his Florida gubernatorial run, yet he still ultimately refused to permit casino gambling within the state. This clearly rankled Trump, which makes sense — he's never as happy and bombastic as when praising his own business savvy, and in particular his history of influencing politics through his strategy of widespread donations and glad-handing.
It was a telling moment in that regard — what Trump seemed most perturbed by was the idea that he'd failed to secure a deal he wanted, even saying, "If I wanted it, I would've gotten it, I promise." (For the record, according to NBC News' Tom Winter, Trump donated $500 to Bush in 2002.)
Then, as the pair began talking over one another and the tension ratcheted up, Trump unleashed a biting remark that seemed to draw a little blood.
More energy tonight. I like that.
It was probably the most blistering early moment, and like all great tense debate exchanges, it was because the talking points broke down into a moment of more or less raw contention and hostility. Trump also tsk-tsked Bush, throwing in a "don't make things up" for good measure.
Obviously, it's impossible to predict just how the viewing public will react to one of these toe-to-toe debate encounters, and sometimes it's not even a matter of the facts as much as the body language, assertiveness, and as Trump loves to say, "energy." On that front, Bush's cooler, straightforward criticisms definitely had some appeal, but if you're a Trump fan, those couple of jab lines had to feel invigorating.