Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton Keep Their Jabs to Each Other

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Candidates try to stay above the primary fray to focus on potential general-election foe.

Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, facing stiff competition for their parties’ presidential nomination, are looking over the heads of their immediate rivals to trade barbs with each other.

Mr. Bush, a former Florida governor, used a policy speech Tuesday night to argue Mrs. Clinton is partly responsible for the rise of the Islamic State militant group from her time as secretary of state.

His speech follows broadsides from Mrs. Clinton about Mr. Bush’s stance on women’s health, immigration, his comment that Americans should “work longer hours” and his call to repeal the 2010 health law.

“People can’t rise if they can’t afford health care,” Mrs. Clinton said at a recent gathering of the National Urban League, mocking Mr. Bush’s “Right to Rise” campaign slogan.

The back-and-forth helps both candidates present themselves as leaders despite the very real threats from within their parties that could block their route to the nomination. It also offers a preview of what the general election would look like if, in fact, they become the nominees.

In recent weeks, Mr. Bush and Mrs. Clinton have traded long-distance jabs over taxes, federal funding for Planned Parenthood and college affordability. Earlier this week, the two campaigns engaged in a tit-for-tat on Twitter about education policy in which they superimposed new graphics on each other’s messages.

Mrs. Clinton also regularly hits other Republicans that her campaign sees as potential rivals, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida over abortion on Monday and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on higher education the following day.

“Bush figures that one of the best ways to position himself with Republican primary voters is to focus his attacks on their common enemy, and that’s Hillary Clinton,” said Kevin Madden, a senior strategist for 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

The verbal jousting took a more serious turn on Tuesday when Mr. Bush blamed Mrs. Clinton, in her role in President Barack Obama’s administration, for the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, which, in his view, laid the groundwork for Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

“That premature withdrawal was the fatal error, creating the void that ISIS moved in to fill—and that Iran has exploited to the full, as well,” Mr. Bush said in the speech. “ISIS grew while the United States disengaged from the Middle East and ignored the threat.”

Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., the former governor went on to criticize Mrs. Clinton for making only one official visit to Iraq during her tenure.

For Mr. Bush, any talk of Iraq and the Middle East is bound to provoke delicate questions about the controversial war his brother, former President George W. Bush, initiated in 2003.

President Bush signed an agreement that called for the withdrawal of all combat forces from Iraq by the end of 2011, leaving to his successor the task of negotiating a new deal to keep a residual troop presence there. But the Obama administration’s talks with the Iraqi government collapsed over an impasse about legal immunity for American soldiers, forcing the withdrawal of all U.S. troops.

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