Jeb Bush, the one-time Republican front-runner who now trails Donald Trump, puts the blame on President Barack Obama for the rise and popularity of the brash billionaire.
Calling Trump a “creature of Barack Obama,” Bush told NPR that were it not for Obama “Donald Trump’s effect would not be nearly as strong as it is.
“We’re living in a divided country right now and we need political leaders rather than continuing to divide as both President Obama and Donald Trump, to unite us,” Bush said.
Bush said people are “legitimately angry with Washington, D.C. “ and with Obama, whom he said has “divided the country up in all sorts of disparate parts."
Though many Republican voters have embraced Trump’s call to bar Muslims from entering the U.S., Bush predicted that opinions will change. He told NPR that Trump’s plan would be counterproductive to U.S. efforts to destroy the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
“It's beyond ridiculous; it's quite dangerous,” he said.
But he said he expects voters to change their minds: “We're living in this reality TV political environment where [Trump] fills the space by saying outrageous things,” Bush said. “People, based on their emotions, will express support for the sentiment, not necessarily the specifics, because there are none and then he'll backtrack. And he'll move on the next thing and he fills the space.”
He said he believes voters are worried about national security and a “visa waiver program that wasn't designed for people being radicalized,” -- an apparent reference to the fiancé visa that allowed Pakistani national Tashfeen Malik to enter the country to marry Syed Rizwan Farook, with whom she launched a terrorist attack earlier this month in San Bernardino that killed 14 people.
“They're scared, and the job of a president — or a candidate, for that matter — isn't to scare them more; it's to give them solutions, and that's what I'm trying to do,” Bush said.
The remarks come as Bush continues to hammer on Trump, releasing a video Wednesday that accused him of being the “chaos candidate.” But it’s uncertain how much Trump supporters are listening. A focus group of supporters earlier this month found support for the Republican Party presidential front-runner only intensifying with every provocation.
Bush is trailing in most polls behind Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is rising in Iowa, which on Feb. 1 will be the first state to hold a contest in the presidential primary. The interview with Bush came as his campaign said it would cancel its Iowa television advertising and shift money to double staff on the ground.
Talking to NPR, Bush insisted none of the early states are must win: “The good news is, expectations are low for me, and I'm definitely gonna beat those," he said.
Bush’s dismissal of Trump’s candidacy came as Trump continued to unleash on the former Florida governor, telling a South Carolina crowd on Wednesday that Bush is languishing in the polls despite a massive campaign chest.
“He’s spent $59 million on this campaign, and he’s down in the grave, he’s nowhere,” Trump said. Trump, however, told reporters this week that he plans to spend at least $2 million a week on campaign ads in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
“I don’t want to take any chances,” Trump said, as he pledged to spend “a lot of money” to attack any candidate who attacks him.