Will Jeb Bush's Fight With Donald Trump Pay Off?

A week ago, Jeb Bush was openly annoyed at reporters who asked him questions about Donald Trump, and he could barely stand to mention his opponent's name during New Hampshire campaign events.

But at CNN's Republican debate Tuesday, the former Florida governor tore into the GOP front-runner, solidifying himself as the establishment's primary attack dog against Trump.

While Bush has been willing to bash Trump for months -- firing off one of his biggest shots last week when he called his rival "unhinged" for proposing a ban on Muslims entering the country -- Bush's Tuesday debate performance showcased a new turbocharged offensive against the billionaire businessman.

Bush now rests in the mid-to low single digits in national polls, while Trump has expanded his lead, coming in at 38% in an ABC News/Washington Post survey earlier this week. All other candidates came in at 15% or below. Bush had 5%.

While some of Bush's donors have been pressing for an aggressive take-down of Trump -- who also won praise for his debate performance -- it's unclear whether that strategy will pay dividends for Bush.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said Bush's pushback was strong, but appeared to be a last-resort tactic.

"He sees the writing on the wall, so now he's throwing caution to the wind even with respect to Trump mania and is trying to pull every rabbit out of the hat," he said. "The question is will it resonate with GOP primary voters? One thing is for sure: if this were a general election, Jeb would be in far greater shape."

Read more from Ashley Killough at CNN

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