Huckabee Is New Fulcrum in Republicans’ Inner Battles

NYT FDMaggie Haberman 7/28/2015

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Good Tuesday morning from Washington, where the summer heat and the race to make the cut for the presidential debates seem to have made tempers short. With less than two weeks before the first debate and 16 months before the election itself, candidates have already been accused of breaching the proper bounds of political discourse.

Until Monday, most of the Republican-on-Republican violence in the 2016 presidential contest had been along familiar lines — Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey against Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky; Donald J. Trump against almost everybody.

But the impending first Republican debate, which has a 10-candidate limit that has already prompted some attention-getting stunts, is quickly turning the race into a food fight.

Jeb Bush has largely refrained from overtly engaging with his Republican rivals, including doing his best to ignore Mr. Trump early on. But on Monday, he responded to comments from Mike Huckabee, who has been struggling to gain a toehold in the race, criticizing President Obama over a nuclear containment deal with Iran by invoking the Holocaust in graphic terms.

Mr. Bush suggested that divisive speech was bad for the party, making it harder for a Republican to win the general election. Even as he did it, he couched his disagreement in terms of respect for Mr. Huckabee.

But the reality is that, with just over a week until the debate and with a lack of clarity about who will make the cut, the internecine squabbling is only going to get worse.