I'm watching the GOP debate, and I'm noticing that some candidates are picking on Hillary.

Is there a verb for an act where a person castigates someone else in hopes of making that person his or her personal rival or enemy?

  • I'm under the impression candidates were mudslinging. More details of the conversation would make for a clearer question. – Neptunian Nov 11 '15 at 10:21

It sounds like baiting. American Heritage Dictionary defines bait as

To entice or provoke, especially by trickery or strategy: He baited me into selling him my bike by saying how much I deserved a better one.

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to make (someone) unfriendly : to cause (someone) to stop being friendly, helpful, etc., towards you

Or similarly, estrange:

to cause someone to be no longer friendly or close to another person or group

These words typically indicate that at least a cordial relationship existed previously, but actions are taken to cause that relationship to cease.

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  • Estrange is a near perfect word for this question. – Neptunian Nov 11 '15 at 10:22

Both "challenge" or "call out" fit your case extremely well; Both can be used to refer to a call to a fight, figuratively or literally. "Singled out" or "gunning for" have some of the same connotations, too.

If you're on the hunt for a term with negative denotations or connotations, you could lean more towards "bully", "sniped", or "picked a fight with".

Something along the lines of "declaim" would also fit, but has no rivalrous aspect to it.

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You could say, some candidates were riding roughshod over (or dumping on) Hillary.

ride (or run or roll) roughshod over someone: to treat someone roughly or without care, respect, moderation, or control; to act in a bullying manner toward someone Wiktionary

dump on someone: criticize someone severely and unfairly The Amercan Heritage Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs

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Sounds like provoking, with meaning defined by M-W under "to provoke":

: to cause (a person or animal) to become angry, violent, etc.

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"Antagonize" is broadly used in that context which means:

Cause (someone) to become hostile:'It is spending astronomical amounts of money, alienating allies and further antagonizing opponents.'

Or you could consider using "make an enemy of".

Cause (someone) to start feeling hostile to one: 'you really don’t want to make an enemy of your girlfriend’s best mate'

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

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