The old adage that the personal is political is ringing true in the Republican race for the White House.
The sheer size of the GOP field, as well as the outsized personalities of some contenders, has led to the most fractious contest in years.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Florida rivalry with Sen. Marco Rubio is heating up, while Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulWe can put America first by preventing public health disasters Conservative activists want action from Trump McConnell: 'Big challenge' to pass ObamaCare repeal in Senate MORE (Ky.) is taking shots at Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzWeek ahead in tech: Trump's antitrust pick heads before Senate Week ahead: Senate panel to vote on Trump's FDA pick Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (Texas).
Democrats have — so far — been left behind when it comes to feuds and furors. But that could change if Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi: 'Of course' Dems can be against abortion Kasich: 'I think political parties are on their way out' Sanders: Democratic Party's model is 'failing' MORE (I-Vt.) keeps gaining ground on frontrunner Hillary Clinton, or if Vice President Biden enters the race.
Here are some of the most compelling showdowns to date.
Donald Trump vs. Jeb Bush
The antipathy between Trump and Bush seems real and intense.
The Bush team was reported to be especially irked by the businessman’s description of their candidate as “low energy,” — which, of course, only prompted The Donald to continue with that line of attack. He later released an Instagram video suggesting Bush could help cure insomnia.
The former Florida governor has hit back. He said in August that certain, unspecified candidates “think that volume in their language is a kind of a version of leadership.”
He noted that you “can’t helicopter in and leave” after Trump did just that at an event in Iowa.
And, this week, he suggested that Trump was too thin-skinned and needed to “put on his big boy pants.” The Trump-Bush tensions were on visual display on at least one occasion. At the second GOP debate in Simi Valley, Calif., the candidates were asked to suggest a Secret Service codename for themselves.
Bush suggested “Everready,” saying to Trump, who stood alongside him, “Very high energy, Donald.” A smiling Trump held out a hand toward the former Florida governor, who smashed his palm down on Trump’s with conspicuous vigor.
Rand Paul vs. Ted Cruz
Although Paul and Cruz were once supportive of each other — ABC News noted on Thursday that Paul had campaigned for Cruz during the latter’s Senate run in 2012 — those days are long gone now.
In recent days, the Kentucky senator has lacerated Cruz in unusually personal terms over the Texan’s accusation that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had been dishonest on the issue of the Export-Import bank.
Paul told Fox News Radio that Cruz’ was “stifled” and “done for” in the Senate, adding “it’s really because of personal relationships or lack of personal relationships, and it is a problem.”
The following day, during an appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Cruz suggested that Paul had hit out at him because of the endorsement the libertarian-minded Kentuckian had received from McConnell. “But I have no intention of responding to Rand’s attacks in kind,” he added.
Jeb Bush vs. Marco Rubio
The relationship between the one-time mentor and protege is several steps short of a full-blown feud, but there has been a notable ratcheting up of tensions between the two Floridians, especially as Rubio threatens to eclipse Bush in the polls.
Rubio has risen in part because of how he has portrayed himself as an advocate of fresh thinking and thus a break with the past. This is often interpreted as a jab at Bush, the son and brother of past presidents, as much as at Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
On Thursday, Bush struck back more directly than before, underlining his seniority to Rubio during an interview with MSNBC. “Marco was a member of the [Florida] House of Representatives when I was governor, and he followed my lead and I’m proud of that,” he said.
Asked whether Rubio had the leadership skills to be president, Bush responded, “It’s not known.”
Carly Fiorina vs. Donald Trump
The businesswoman was widely perceived to have got the better of Trump during the second Republican debate after he prompted controversy with comments on her appearance.
The flap began when Rolling Stone published an interview with Trump. The businessman, glimpsing Fiorina on television, was reported as saying, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?! I mean, she’s a woman and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
Fiorina first told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly — another focus of Trump’s ire — “I think those comments speak for themselves.” A Fiorina-aligned super-PAC released a video that also sought to turn Trump’s comments in her favor.
But the debate was Fiorina’s best moment, as she told the audience in Simi Valley, Calif., “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”
“I think she’s got a beautiful face and I think she’s a beautiful woman,” Trump interjected, coming closer than he normally does to walking back contentious remarks.
Chris Christie vs. Rand Paul
Paul and Christie have radically different views of many things, including how to balance national security and civil liberties. Christie has in the past called for Paul to be called before Congress if the United States were to be hit in a terrorist attack, citing the Kentuckian’s opposition to the bulk collection of phone records by the NSA.
At the first GOP debate in Cleveland in early August, Christie defended his earlier statements, prompting Paul to insist that he merely wanted “to collect more records from terrorists but less records from innocent Americans.”
Christie panned him for “a completely ridiculous answer” and derided Paul for “sitting in a subcommittee just blowing hot air about this.”
Not to be outdone, Paul accused Christie of having too much faith in President Obama, and alluded to his embrace of the president after Superstorm Sandy in the days before the 2012 presidential election.
“I know you gave him a big hug. And if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead,” Paul said.
Correct the Record vs. Bernie Sanders
The Democratic primary has, so far, had little of the personal enmity that has marked the GOP race.
The one obvious exception came not from Clinton but from a close ally. A pro-Clinton super PAC, Correct the Record, circulated an email last month seeking to highlight purported similarities between Sanders and British politician Jeremy Corbyn, a left-wing Labour Party MP who had, at the time, just won his party’s leadership.
The email included some of Corbyn’s most incendiary comments, including his belief that the killing of Osama bin Laden was “a tragedy” because it foreclosed any possibility of a trial for the al-Qaeda founder.
The Sanders campaign sought to turn the furor to its advantage via a fundraising email in which the candidate said the attack was “the kind of onslaught I expected to see from the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson.”