During Saturday's GOP debate in South Carolina, Jeb Bush more boldly criticized Donald Trump than he has in the past, really turning up the heat in his campaign. Early on in the 2016 race, Bush was attacked for going easy on Trump, but all that changed on the debate stage Saturday. Bush said Trump wanting the U.S. to work with Russia in the fight against ISIS is "ludicrous," asserting that Vladimir Putin is not an ally and is attacking America's team in the Middle East.
In response to Trump's comments on Russia, Bush said: "It is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that Russia could be a positive partner in this. They are on the run." Going head to head with Trump on how the country should handle ISIS worked out well for Bush, with Trump getting booed by the crowd multiple times.
The real estate magnate made the mistake of attacking the Bush family, saying George W. Bush didn't protect America because the World Trade Center came tumbling down while he was in office. Bush stood by his brother and turned the tables on Trump by pointing out that he was filming a reality TV show while his brother was protecting the nation as president. The former Florida governor also called out Trump for insulting his mother, who he called a strong woman he was lucky to be born to.
Later on, after Trump claimed Bush had the weakest stance on illegal immigration, Bush fired back saying it's weak to denigrate women and Hispanics. He had a snappy comeback for everything Trump threw his way.
A week out from the South Carolina Republican primary, Bush desperately needed a stellar debate performance to convince voters in the state to give him the victory he couldn't generate in Iowa or New Hampshire. Standing up to Trump more strongly than in the past allowed him to show America that he can handle loud opponents who try to silence him and cast doubt on the GOP frontrunner's campaign. Trump tried to fight back with more attacks, but boos from the crowd made it clear that Bush was winning the one-on-one tussle.
Bush hasn't been able to break out from Trump's, Ted Cruz's, and Marco Rubio's shadows so far in the election, and he's clearly changing his tactic and using more force against his opponents. Only time will tell if it pays off in the polls in South Carolina, but the debate audience seemed to enjoy Bush's stronger attacks on Trump.