Jeb Bush wants conservative Iowa voters to know one thing: Donald Trump is not like you or me.
After weeks, even months, of restraint, the Bush campaign released a new ad Tuesday morning that zeroes in on the “liberal things” that Trump has said over the years—and which the campaign asserts he truly believes.
“I’ve lived in New York City and Manhattan all my life,” Trump says in an interview played at the top and bottom of the ad. “OK? So, you know, my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa.”
Over bouncy music, the ad outlines what those views look like, with clips of the mogul praising single-payer health care and tax increases on the rich, among other policy points in the just-over-a-minute spot. The ad says nothing of Bush until the very end, pointing viewers to a Web page describing Bush’s conservatism.
The ad is almost as anti-NYC as it is anti-Trump, painting the GOP front-runner as an East Coast elite hiding his liberal views from the good people of the heartland. (Nevermind that Bush represented scores of retired New York ex-pats as governor of Florida—or that his national-finance chairman owns the New York Jets.) In two clips, Trump is seen praising Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who lives in NYC-adjacent Westchester County.
“Hillary Clinton, I think, is a terrific woman. I mean, I’m a little biased because I’ve known her for years,” Trump says in the ad. “I live in New York, she lives in New York, and I’ve known her and her husband for years, and I really like them both a lot.”
Criticizing Trump for an elite brand of liberalism isn’t particularly new this election cycle; even yesterday, Bush foreshadowed his ad, called “The Real Donald Trump,” with a tweet targeting past—and likely hollow—Trump praise for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. (Though he and the Donald have exchanged social-media barbs in recent weeks, Tuesday marks the first time a real, non-Instagram ad has been dropped from either camp directly and exclusively attacking the other candidate.)
But going after Trump for his shifting viewpoints hasn’t been particularly effective in changing Trump supporters’ minds. Tuesday’s ad, for example, shows clips of Trump’s past abortion-rights support in a play to horrify evangelicals. But those conservatives already seem to buy Trump’s explanation that he changed his mind and has redeemed himself. And some conservatives just don’t seem to care at all about his flip-flopping. They ignore his liberal past because they dig his populism and are, to quote the National Review, in a “rebellious mood.”
Either way, Bush’s ad targets those voters who haven’t yet absolved Trump of his political evolution, and doubles-down on Bush’s desire that Trump be taken seriously for his policy positions. The longer Bush targets Trump—and the bigger the Trump bubble grows—the longer Bush doesn’t have to address the more mainstream candidates who’re his more natural competitors in the race.