Team Jeb poll-tested 'W kept us safe' line

In his continuing effort to reconcile himself with his brother's legacy, Jeb Bush used the Republican debate at the Reagan Library to unveil his argument that, whatever the problems of George W. Bush's White House years, he kept the country safe. "As it relates to my brother, there's one thing I know for sure," Bush said. "He kept us safe."

That was Sept. 16. On Oct. 16, Donald Trump did an interview with Bloomberg in which he challenged Bush's assertion. "When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time ... He was president, OK? Don't blame him or don't blame him, but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign."

A few hours later, Jeb Bush tweeted a response: "How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump to criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe." After that, the two engaged in an intense and much-reported back-and-forth about George W. Bush's record.

What was not known until now is that even before Trump spoke, the Bush team was testing the popularity of the "kept us safe" line with Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. According to a 112-page PowerPoint document that was presented to Bush donors in Houston last weekend (and leaked to U.S. News), the Bush team conducted a poll from Oct. 13-17 to test voter reaction to the assertion that "Former President George W. Bush was successful in keeping us safe while he was in office."