As the 17 Republican candidates face off in their first round of debates on Thursday night, Hillary Clinton continues to target one in particular: Jeb Bush.
The Democratic frontrunner launched a a five-figure online national advertising campaign on Wednesday targeting Bush and his recent comments about funding for women's health. The ads will run on social and search sites, according to a Clinton aide.
The ad buy marks the latest development in a back-and-forth between the two candidates. On Tuesday, during a speech at an evangelical conference in Tennessee, Bush told an audience of 13,000 that he would cut the $500 million in federal funding allocated to Planned Parenthood. "I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars for women's health issues," he said.
The Bush campaign released a series of statements attempting to clarify the remark, eventually saying the former governor "misspoke" — and that his comments were directed at Planned Parenthood specifically, not funding largely for women's health. Clinton, meanwhile, saw an opportunity: "You are absolutely, unequivocally wrong," she tweeted in reference to the remark, tagging Bush's Twitter account.
Later that evening, at a campaign event in Denver, Clinton addressed the incident again: "I would like to ask him, 'Gov. Bush, try telling that to the mom who caught her breast cancer early because she was able to to get screening in time. Was her health not worth the money?" she said. "Tell it to the teenager who avoided an unintended pregnancy because she had access to contraception. Tell it to everyone who was protected by an HIV test."
The ads, the first known online buy from Clinton targeting a single Republican, urge supporters to sign up for her campaign to "tell Jeb Bush and the rest of the Republican candidates that they are absolutely, unequivocally wrong on women's health."
Clinton, who leads the rest of the Democratic field in polls and fundraising, has targeted other Republicans before. At her first major economic speech last month, she mentioned Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Scott Walker by name, in addition to Bush. And many of her campaign speeches, particularly those at state Democratic Party events, have sought to frame Republicans as "the party of the past."
But the running debate with Bush — including the latest ad buy on Wednesday — signals the extent to which her team views the former Florida governor as a formidable opponent in a general election.
Clinton referenced him without prompting in a national televised interview, her first of the campaign, and last week, while both attended a National Urban League conference in Miami, she flipped his super PAC's name, "right to rise," into an attack on his conservative positions.
Her focus on Bush and Republicans more broadly is about as far as Clinton goes in engaging with other opponents. She does not mention the other Democrats by name. On the campaign trail, when asked about one in particular — be it Bernie Sanders of Vermont or Martin O'Malley of Maryland — Clinton is ready with a muted reply.
"We each run our own campaigns."
Ruby Cramer is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Ruby Cramer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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