John Kasich is pushing back against recent attacks from Jeb Bush's allies, launching a new ad on Saturday morning that casts the former Florida governor as desperate and flailing.
The 30-second spot, airing online and aimed at New Hampshire, marks a shift in tone for Kasich and also intensifies the back and forth between the Bush and Kasich campaigns.
"What happened to Jeb?" a narrator asks in the ad. "He had the name, the money, the support. And yet a lukewarm message, weak debates, and sagging polls have left Jeb attacking John Kasich in desperation."
Bush campaign communications director Tim Miller fired back.
"I can't remember the last time Jeb mentioned John Kasich," he said in an e-mail. "That's because Kasich isn't even trying to campaign in most of the country because his liberal policy positions are so out of step with the party that he has no chance to be the nominee. Jeb has the most successful, conservative record in the field and the most detailed plans to reform Washington and get things done."
The ad marks a new phase for the candidates, and illustrates the increasing hostility among a quartet of Republicans who are attempting to emerge as a more mainstream alternative to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
In an interview on Wednesday, Bush was asked about all the recent squabbling among the more moderate candidates. Bush criticized stances taken by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, but he didn't mention Kasich.
Kasich, too, was reluctant to criticize his opponents.
"No. no. I don't talk about anybody else," he said in an interview. "I don't need to. I'm in my own lane."
But with attacks ramping up on all sides, that has apparently changed.
The new ad comes from the Kasich campaign directly, and follows other ads that began airing late in the week by Super PACs aligned with Bush and Kasich.
Right to Rise, the pro-Bush Super PAC, began airing ads on Thursday that criticizes Kasich's spending record, his decision to expand health care in Ohio, and congressional votes in favor of defense cuts that lead to the closing of Pease Air Force Base near Portsmouth.
"John Kasich: Wrong on New Hampshire issues," the ad says.
New Day for America, the pro-Kasich Super PAC, responded with a spot that shows a man covered in mud and wearing a Bush campaign button.
"Jeb Bush once stood tall, before his campaign sank like a rock and he started slinging mud at fellow Republicans," a narrator says. "That's not presidential, Jeb."
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.