The Fox News Channel hosted its second Republican presidential primary debate at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday, moderated by Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, and of course, Megyn Kelly. The Republican candidates, seven of them, included Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Megyn Kelly started by addressing the “elephant not in the room tonight,” the absence of Donald Trump, who mistakenly skipped the debate allowing others to step up. And step up they did, as Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush were the big “winners” of the night.
The debate actually was a policy discussion and did not deteriorate into a Trump style evening of bashing his opponents. It did slip a bit at the beginning when Cruz said, “Let me say, I am a maniac, and everyone on the stage is stupid, fat and ugly. And Ben [Carson], you’re a horrible surgeon. Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way…” Cruz said laughter and applause. But it wasn’t enough to save Cruz.
Rubio engaged in one of the most heated exchanges according to Fox News, accusing Cruz of falsely describing himself as the most conservative candidate, and changing his position on immigration. “This is the lie that Ted’s campaign is built on,” said Rubio. “Throughout this campaign, you’ve been willing to say and do anything in order to get votes.” Adding that Cruz wants to “trump Trump on immigration.”
The Washington Post declared Jeb Bush the winner of the GOP debate in Des Moines. “Bush called for pumping up the military — but also establishing a no-fly zone, creating safe zones for refugees and training a Sunni ground force to retake territory,” report the Washington Post. Bush’s plan is “roughly what Hillary Clinton wants to do.” Bush also called for a path for citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Bush also slammed Trump’s anti-Muslim talk. “We should be a welcoming nation. Our identity is not based on race or ethnicity; it’s based on a set of shared values. That’s American citizenship,” Bush said. “You can deal with the threat of terror and also recognize that this country should be aspirational.”
Ted Cruz was relentlessly attacked all evening, even accusing the moderators of ganging up on him. According to the Hill, Cruz laid into the Fox News’s moderators, jokingly (maybe not) threatening to leave the stage if they keep asking “mean” questions. Turning to moderator Chris Wallace, Cruz said, “I would note that the last four questions have been, ‘Rand, please attack Ted. Marco, please attack Ted. Chris, please attack Ted. Jeb, please attack Ted.’ Gosh, if you guys ask one more mean question, I may have to leave the stage,” the Texas senator added, in a shot at front-runner Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Republican debate over his battle with Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
For that, Cruz looked small.
As for Trump, he non-appearance at the debate was most certainly a “yuge” mistake. Even the harshest critics of Donald J. Trump will acknowledge his greatest asset is his show of strength in the face of the enemy, regardless of whether the show of strength is real or just bluster; the perception is the reality with the Trump followers.
Trump promises to get in the face of the enemy and make them squirm by the sheer force of his personality. In other words, Trump has no fear and that is what America hungers for in a president, so goes the Trump narrative. It mattered not to Trump if the enemy were the Mexicans, the Chinese, the Muslims, ISIS or even Russian leader Vladimir Putin. But the latest Donald Trump decision not to face the enemy in the form of “Public Enemy Number One,” Fox News, and more specifically, Megyn Kelly, is a “yuge mistake.”
Above all, “fear mongering” seemed to be off the table at the debate and legitimate debate about the issues of the time on the table.