Posted: 11:20 pm Thursday, March 10th, 2016
By Jamie Dupree
From Coral Gables, Florida
After two very testy debates, the four remaining Republicans in the race for President toned down their debate exchanges, instead delving into policy differences, as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz tried to make the case that Donald Trump is all talk and little substance on key policy matters.
“The numbers don’t add up,” Rubio said at one point, when Trump said he would make no changes in the Social Security program.
Trump was calm from the outset, not letting himself get dragged into sharp exchanges with his GOP opponents, as from the start he called on the Republican Party to unify around him, arguing that he has brought many new voters into the political process.
Let’s take a look at how the Republicans fared in this debate:
DONALD TRUMP – It was a completely different Donald Trump in this GOP debate, as the Republican front runner steered away from personal insults and putdowns. There was no, “Little Marco” or “Lyin’ Ted” attacks from Trump; instead, he was more subdued from the start of the debate, as Trump talked about the need for Republicans to come together for the November elections. “The Republican establishment should embrace what’s happening,” Trump said in his opening statement. Trump repeatedly responded to questions by saying he would negotiate a better deal, whether with Iran, China on trade, or a number of other issues, as his GOP opponents tried to show they were much more grounded in details about American policy choices. If you like Trump, there’s no reason to think this debate worked against him.
That debate was terrible. The consultants who told these guys not to hit Trump shd be punched. Trump was leading, didn’t get hurt. He won.
— Jordan Gehrke (@jmgehrke) March 11, 2016
TED CRUZ – The game plan for Cruz was a familiar one, as he went after Trump not only on specifics – or the lack thereof on certain issues – but also once more raised the red flag about Trump and his past connections to Democrats, making the case that Trump is not a real conservative. “There’s a real difference between us,” Cruz said at one point in the debate, “Donald supported Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.” Cruz also chided Trump over his mock pledge at rallies, saying the GOP candidates should be making a pledge to the voters when it comes to change.
Cruz did join Trump at one point in arguing that only the two of them have a realistic path to the Republican nomination; we’ll see if that’s confirmed in the next round of primaries.
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) March 11, 2016
MARCO RUBIO – After two debates in which he went after Trump repeatedly, Rubio kept up his criticism, but toned it down, focusing like Cruz on policy matters and making the case that Trump does not have much in the way of substance on most issues. Rubio directly addressed his recent campaign troubles, saying that his wife reminded him on Tuesday night that he must fight on for people who support him, as the Florida Senator told the story of an older man who waves a Rubio sign every day. “That gentleman has not given up on me, and I have not given up on him,” Rubio said to cheers from a home field crowd. In terms of pure policy, you could make the case that Rubio had the best night, but that type of debate was not happening at the right time to be a game changing moment.
Agree w/ CNN commentators…Rubio (yet again) had the best night. If it gives him a win in Florida, well worth it.
— Brandon (@Brand_Allen) March 11, 2016
JOHN KASICH – In a debate just days before his last ditch effort to win his home state of Ohio, Kasich did not veer off of his script for the last 10 debates. He emphasized his record as the Governor of Ohio and a member of Congress. He noted that his campaign was a positive one, and would remain that way. Asked about his very limited path to the Republican nomination, Kasich basically argued that most delegates still haven’t been selected, and that there is no reason for him to give up before a number of states have voted. Kasich not only mentioned Ohio in his final closing statement, but also Illinois, where he campaigned earlier this week. “Gov. Kasich continued to hit his stride with another positive, policy-focused debate performance,” was the memo sent to reporters by the Kasich camp.
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.