The wheels came off the Republican presidential bus in Thursday’s debate on CNN. It looked more like a drunken bar room brawl than a reasoned discussion of issues unbecoming of men wanting to become president. Pundits say Marco Rubio won, but the actual winner was everyone not running for office as a Republican. Donald Trump looked like the reasonable candidate. Dr. Ben Carson, ignored all night, asked at one point “Can someone please attack me?”
Calling this a debate is a complete misnomer. The word “debate” implies a reasonable and thoughtful discussion of issues. This was four men talking at the same time, each raising their voices louder and louder like drunks in a bar. It came off like three kids in a school yard ganging up on a bully because none are strong enough to take him down alone.
Former GOP Chairman, Michael Steel, said on MSNBC Friday that he was “very disappointed” in the debate. He said America and conservatives were not served and nothing in that display looked presidential. Senator Lindsay Graham described the situation best when he said “the Republican Party is going bat-**** crazy.”
Republicans have finally come to grips with the fact that Donald Trump is most likely going to be the person who heads up their ticket in the fall. Thursday, we saw their desperation. Cruz and Rubio have spent millions of dollars in attack ads against each other, and virtually none against the Republican front runner. Four days before Super Tuesday, they decided to attack Trump. Although they landed a few punches, it may be too little too late.
Ted Cruz had bromance with Donald Trump for months. Just before the Iowa caucus, the bromance ended in a public, soap-opera-like breakup. Cruz has attacked Trump to some degree, but had saved his worst attacks for Marco Rubio. Rubio previously left Trump alone, focusing on Cruz instead. When the Republican establishment decided to back Rubio with high-level endorsements and millions in contributions in the last few days alone, they strongly encouraged Rubio to take the gloves off against Trump.
Rubio called Donald Trump a “con artist.” He accused him of committing fraud. He said the billionaire used illegal immigrant labor to build Trump Towers. He attacked Trump over Trump University, and his several bankruptcies. Rubio repeatedly stated Trump was against Israel because he contributed money to Jimmy Carter and other Democrats. The Florida senator said that Hillary Clinton would “shred Trump to pieces” in the general election. Rubio asserted he was the only Republican who could beat Clinton, even though he has yet to win a single election thus far.
Cruz attacked Trump as well, often times talking at the same time as Rubio. Cruz stated that he was the only one who could beat Trump, because he has already beaten Trump. Cruz claimed that is why he was the one who could beat Clinton. Cruz tried to pain Trump as a left-wing liberal.
“Trump took some punches but was never put on the canvas, much less knocked out,” Niall Stanage wrote in The Hill. He said Trump was less volatile than at the GOP debate just before the Republican primary in South Carolina. In fact, Trump got off some decent shots of his own, painting his verbal assailants as practitioners of politics-as-usual. Twice in the debate, he enunciated the central theme of his candidacy — that conventional politicians are “all talk, no action.”
By most accounts, Cruz under-performed at the debate. He was on his home field in Texas, a state he must win. Although he is the most experienced debater, he got bested by Rubio. He took a major blow when Trump said that he was a “basket case” who was not liked, and not endorsed by a single Republican senator.
Republican strategists feel that the debate underscores the fact that the other candidates need to drop out so Rubio can face Trump one on one. Trump addressed that saying that one cannot add up all the supporters for other candidates and assume Rubio would get them all. “I’ll get a lot of those voters,” Trump said.
Friday, an energized Rubio remained on the attack. He can’t find enough negative adjectives to describe Donald Trump. Will it work, or is it too little too late? It is clear that Rubio will soon feel the wrath of Trump. So far, Trump’s wrath has been deadly. We will see.