Posted: 11:07 pm Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
By Jamie Dupree
From Las Vegas, Nevada
Nine Republicans on the main CNN debate stage in Las Vegas sparred for two hours on Tuesday night over an array of issues, differing over how best to defend the United States from terrorist attacks and which GOP hopeful would be the best to take up that mantle as President.
Here’s a quick look at what went on in the debate on the Las Vegas Strip:
Donald Trump – As he had predicted, Trump found himself under fire from all sides of the debate, but maybe most surprising was that the bulk of those attacks came from Jeb Bush. Trump shrugged off the attacks; “You’re a tough guy, Jeb,” Trump said with evident disdain. The GOP front runner made news by promising not to run as an Independent in November of next year. Trump was very pleased with his debate performance, as he once again had a debate that had no major errors, and while many in the press room seemed to think that Bush got the better of Trump, it may not be that way at all for voters. One consultant though thought Trump still needs to be careful:
Donald Trump has got to stop making faces. 🎭 It's entertaining, but it's not presidential. #GOPDebate
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) December 16, 2015
Ted Cruz – While many predicted that Cruz would lock horns with Donald Trump, Cruz made sure that did not occur, as he bypassed that chance several times. Instead, Cruz repeatedly battled with Marco Rubio over both immigration and terrorism surveillance. “Marco knows what he saying isn’t true,” Cruz said at one point, accusing Rubio of aligning himself more often with Democrats. More than anything, that confirmed maybe the biggest fight right now is between Cruz and Rubio to see who can take on Trump.
THIS is the heavyweight fight in the GOP.
— Stuart Rothenberg (@StuPolitics) December 16, 2015
Ben Carson – Ben Carson has promised for months that he would be ready for a debate on foreign policy, but has struggled at times on those issues. Early on in this debate, Carson complained that he wasn’t getting enough time. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer immediately gave Carson the chance to weigh in on the debate between Rubio, Paul and Cruz over NSA surveillance – Carson quickly sidestepped and refused to take sides. Conservatives noticed.
To confirm all the questions I’ve gotten on radio today, yes this is the end of the Ben Carson campaign.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) December 16, 2015
Marco Rubio – Even more than Donald Trump, Rubio may have faced the most arrows from fellow Republicans, mainly on terrorism surveillance and immigration. On immigration, Rubio would not rule out allowing a path to citizenship for the millions of people here in the U.S. illegally – in his response, Rubio pointed out that Ted Cruz has never taken a formal stance on that issue, as Cruz and Rubio moved into a new and maybe more testy phase of their political relationship.
Cruz and Rubio may very well be debating the future of GOP platform on major issues like immigration/US intervention/surveillance.
— JaredHalpern (@JaredHalpern) December 16, 2015
Jeb Bush – After few even discussed what Bush might do in this debate, the former Florida Governor took the fight to Donald Trump and seemed to prevail in several of those exchanges. “Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the Presidency.”
But while Jeb’s supporters felt like he won those exchanges, a focus group run by polling guru Frank Luntz saw it much, much differently.
The crowd may be applauding, but my focus group is laughing at Jeb. 22 of 26 members said Donald Trump won that exchange. #GOPDebate
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) December 16, 2015
Chris Christie – Back on the main stage, Christie several times belittled the fighting between Senators Cruz, Rubio and Cruz, as the New Jersey Governor repeatedly emphasized the issue of terrorism. Christie has been on the move up in New Hampshire, and with terrorism back in the news, he’s hoping to capitalize on that. “I will help protect America from the wars on our doorstep,” Christie said. Christie will be spending most of the next seven weeks in the Granite State, in hopes of victory on February 9.
Carly Fiorina – After several good debate showings, Fiorina seemed to struggle at times to stay in the main fray, as several times she sparred with the CNN moderators while trying to get recognized during different parts of the debate. It didn’t seem to work this time around. Fiorina has done well in past debates, but then disappeared in between. She didn’t seem to have a snappy debate moment this time around.
Fiorina trying to barge in – worked in past – rebuffed this time #GOPDebate
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) December 16, 2015
Rand Paul – Once again, Sen. Paul was on the attack in this debate, as he used his opening remarks to smack both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. Paul’s attacks on Rubio over both terrorism surveillance and immigration went right along with those by Ted Cruz as well, but it wasn’t clear that this debate would give any boost to Paul, who was lucky to even make it on to the main stage. Paul still faces an uphill fight to stay in touch with the top tier of the GOP.
John Kasich – After using the last two debates to go after Donald Trump, Gov. Kasich changed strategy for this debate, again making an appeal for unity in confronting major issues in America. But Kasich’s answers didn’t generate much in the way of buzz, as this debate really didn’t seem to alter the narrative about the Ohio Governor’s bid for the GOP nomination.
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.