Bobby Jindal on Thursday became the latest Republican presidential candidate to attack Donald Trump, calling the real-estate mogul “a carnival act” with “no understanding of policy” who lacked “the intellectual curiosity to even learn”.

Trump responded by brushing Jindal aside, saying: “I have never met him”.

In a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, followed Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham and Rick Perry in targeting Trump, who has become the clear frontrunner in polls concerning the 17-strong GOP presidential field despite a succession of controversies over his remarks and policy positions.

Jindal, who is attempting to appeal to those conservative voters who have embraced Trump, is gaining some ground in Iowa, polling in the top 10 in that crucial caucus state.

But in the most recent national poll conducted by CNN, he was only supported by 1% of Republican primary voters.

In a statement issued through his campaign in response to Jindal’s speech, Trump said: “He did not make the debate stage and therefore I have never met him.”

Trump was referring to the first Republican debate in Cleveland on 6 August, when Jindal did not make the primetime event, which was contested by the top 10 candidates in the polls.

“I only respond to people that register more than 1% in the polls,” he said. “I never thought he had a chance and I’ve been proven right.”

In his speech, Jindal called Trump a “narcissist and egomaniac”, whom he said was “unserious and unstable”.

“Donald Trump is for Donald Trump,” Jindal said, adding in reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan: “Donald Trump is not for making America great. Donald Trump is for making Donald Trump great.”

Jindal even dipped into some of Trump’s trademark insult comedy, saying: “You may have recently seen that after Trump said the Bible is his favorite book. He couldn’t name a single Bible verse or passage that meant something to him.

“And we all know why, because it’s all just a show, and he hasn’t ever read the Bible. But you know why he hasn’t read the Bible? Because he’s not in it.”

He also avoided a commitment to supporting Trump if he were to secure the Republican nomination, saying “he cannot be our nominee”, and predicted that if Trump did become the Republican standard bearer in 2016, he would “implode” and “hand the election to Hillary Clinton”.

If Trump were to “somehow magically win”, Jindal said, “we have no idea what he would do, what he stands for”.

Despite such strong lines of attack, Jindal also said “I like the idea of Donald Trump” and commended his disdain for political correctness and his hostility towards Washington elites.

The two-term Louisiana governor took pains to portray himself as “a politically incorrect, committed conservative … who will ignore the professional political class and make our country great again”.

Jindal also said that thanks to “the liberalism and incompetence of the Obama administration … you can literally see the idea of America slipping away”.

This article titled “Bobby Jindal hurls insults at Donald Trump: he is a ‘carnival act'” was written by Ben Jacobs in Washington, for theguardian.com on Thursday 10th September 2015 20.01 UTC

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