Posted: 11:41 pm Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
By Jamie Dupree
For a second straight week, Donald Trump found himself on the defensive in a Republican debate, as his opponents repeatedly attacked him over his past business dealings, his changing views on certain issues, whether he was suitable to be Commander in Chief and if he was a real conservative.
Trump once more tried to deflect those attacks, mainly by belittling his GOP opponents with boasts about his poll standing and personal insults, even bragging about himself.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) March 4, 2016
The debate did not seem to win rave reviews from many quarters.
Words used by my focus group to describe tonight’s #GOPDebate:
Get the idea?
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) March 4, 2016
Here’s a quick review on how the four Republicans did in the Fox News debate in Detroit.
DONALD TRUMP – Like the last debate, Trump faced attacks throughout the debate from both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz; Trump often fought back by labeling them, “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted.” Trump resisted a number of efforts by Rubio, Cruz and the moderators to pull more details out of him on certain policy issues, often resorting instead to insults and jabs, but avoiding direct answers. One example was when Rubio demanded to know when Trump was going to stop making his clothing line overseas – Trump never answered, but made sure to take a number of jabs at Rubio. Trump also doubled down on his assertion that he can order the military to follow through on orders that are illegal. Trump’s opponents will only see a candidate they can never support. His supporters will see someone who will shake things up in Washington, D.C.
MARCO RUBIO – For a second straight debate, Rubio was on offense against Trump, repeatedly raising issues about Trump University, Trump’s business practices, his changing stances on certain issues and his foreign policy inexperience. “He doesn’t have answers,” Rubio said at one point, as he argued that Trump is not ready to be the Commander in Chief, saying that Trump has no intellectual curiosity. Trump responded by repeatedly saying that Rubio is “not a leader.” Rubio also said Trump is “making promises he has no intention of keeping,” joining Cruz in the charge that Trump simply tells people what they want to hear, and has no intent to follow through as a conservative. Rubio’s debate ended with sort of a thud, as he and others grudgingly said they would support Trump, if he is the GOP nominee.
TED CRUZ – After being overshadowed by Rubio at the last debate, Cruz seemed to stand out more in Detroit, as he repeatedly zeroed in on Trump. “Donald Trump in 2008 wrote four checks to elect Hillary Clinton as President,” Cruz said – to which Trump replied, “It was for business.” Cruz also joined Rubio in focusing on how Trump has changed his opinion on a host of issues. “Donald has a tenuous relationship with the truth,” Cruz said. The Texas Senator also will have one of his sound bites played repeatedly, as he tried to silence Trump, who was interrupting him. “Learn not to interrupt, Donald, it’s not complicated. Count to ten. Count to ten,” Cruz said. Cruz and Rubio pressed Trump several times to release an off-the-record audio interview with the New York Times, which supposedly shows that Trump isn’t serious about being tough on immigration. Trump refused and then hit Cruz – “You’re the liar. You’re the lying guy.”
JOHN KASICH – As expected, Kasich stuck with his game plan of not getting into the attacks involving Trump, Cruz and Rubio. At one point, the moderators invited Kasich to attack Trump, and Kasich simply said, “I’m not biting.” Kasich tried to use the Trump-Cruz-Rubio cage match to his advantage, arguing that he was ready to present real solutions, as he said that voters at his events tell him that he seems “to be the adult” on the debate stage. There were no magic moments for Kasich that will go down in debate history, but just by being in the Final Four, that does lend an air of credibility to the Governor of Ohio, as he tries to rally support for the March 15 primary in his home state.
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.