MANCHESTER, New Hampshire -- A frustrated Jeb Bush denounced Donald Trump as a “blowhard” at an event at a law firm on Tuesday and said his rival’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States played into the Islamic State’s hands, violated American principles and bolstered Democrats. But Bush refused to answer whether he would still support Trump if the polls hold and the real estate mogul wins the party’s nomination.
“What we shouldn't do is to just, you know, say all Muslims aren't coming into our country,” Bush said. “You've got to find the proper balance of believing in American values and being serious and real about keeping us safe.”
According to Bush, Trump’s ideas not only hurt Republicans politically, but also threatened to alienate Muslim communities in America in ways that could make them easier targets for radicalization.
“This is serious business, and we shouldn't along the way do exactly what these radical Islamic terrorists want,” Bush said. “They want us to marginalize Muslims so that they move in their direction rather than in our direction. That's what they're doing in Europe, and we do not need that in the United States.”
He said Trump's plan was an example of "blowhards out there just saying stuff" rather than proposing realistic plans.
After the event, Bush repeatedly ducked questions from reporters as to whether he would support Trump, who leads Bush in state and national polls by a wide margin, should the billionaire earn the GOP nomination.
“Look, he’s not going to be the nominee,” Bush said.
“But if by some chance--“ a reporter began before being cut off.
“He’s not going to be the nominee,” Bush said.
Bush was later asked whether the current front-runner was “a better choice than Hillary Clinton.”
“He’s not going to win the nomination,” he said. “As people in New Hampshire get closer to this they’re going to want to know who has the capability of winning the general election and who can be president.”
“But a yes or no, is he a better choice than Hillary Clinton?” the reporter asked again.
“I just answered the question,” Bush said.
He complained that Trump was sucking up attention that should be going to more serious topics like confronting ISIS abroad and reducing entitlement spending at home.
"He's playing you guys like a fine Stradivarius violin," Bush told the press gathered around him. "This is what he does. He’s an expert at this. He’s phenomenal at garnering attention."
A super PAC supporting Bush, Right to Rise, recently launched a new ad campaign attacking Trump – but also Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – as weak on national security. The group has spent nearly $32 million on ads so far, but they’ve so far shown little impact in state and national polls. A USA Today/Suffolk poll this week found Trump in the lead nationally with 27% support among likely GOP voters with Bush stuck in a distant fifth place with 4% support.