Republican presidential candidates, from left: Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie take the stage during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday in Simi Valley, Calif. Four of the candidates took part in a side debate prior to the main event. (Chris Carlson / AP Photo)
When Donald Trump showed up for the second Republican debate on Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Library, 10 other conservative presidential contenders were waiting for him—with their gloves off.
Although Trump struck his familiar pose, exuding extreme confidence and attempting to bulldoze the competition, this time his rivals were more able to pull the focus off of the billionaire entertainer who became an unlikely frontrunner over the summer.
The BBC summed up the early exchanges between Trump and some of his recent targets:
Rand Paul, a Kentucky senator, said Mr Trump’s “playground” insults made him unsuitable to be a president involved in international negotiations.
[...] Mr Bush demanded Mr Trump apologise to his wife for saying he was weak on immigration because she is Mexican. Mr Trump refused.
But the biggest applause of the night went to Carly Fiorina, when she responded to a recent jibe by Mr Trump over her looks.
Debate moderator Jake Tapper asked Ms Fiorina about an interview in which Trump was quoted as saying “Look at that face!” and said she could not be president.
Asked on stage, she said, to thunderous applause: “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr Trump said.”
Fiorina also used her airtime during the showdown in Simi Valley, California to speak out against government funding of Planned Parenthood and to advocate for veterans’ rights.
The Washington Post also caught on to the pattern of Trump-v-everyone-else in its own synopsis:
The night strayed into territory rarely seen in the polite environment of a presidential debate, where lines like “There you go again,” are celebrated as killer take-downs. Bush and Trump bickered like teenagers at times, cutting one another off and shushing each other. The main dispute was about whether Trump had tried to buy his way into casino gambling in Florida: Bush said he’d rejected Trump, Trump said he hadn’t really been trying.
“You’ve got more energy, tonight,” Trump told Bush. “I like that.”
The second-place figure in the race, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, was mostly a quiet presence in this debate, a low-key contrast to Trump and those throwing bombs at him.
The Post gave Sen. Marco Rubio credit for playing up his Cuban heritage in a manner likely to appeal to conservative Hispanic voters left cold by Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, which was also on display on Wednesday night. Rubio said he inherited his conservatism and patriotism from his grandfather, who immigrated from Cuba. “He taught me that in Spanish,” Rubio said. “Because that was the language he was most comfortable in.”
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush sparred with Trump over the Iraq war and foreign policy more broadly, as well as over the strategies Jeb Bush’s brother, George W. Bush, employed while he was in office. Forecasting what he would do as president, Jeb Bush said that his team would “be following the doctrine that I set up, and that will be peace and restraint.”
At that point, Trump seized the opportunity to distinguish himself from both Bush brothers, as well as the others gathered onstage at the CNN-sponsored debate, declaring, “I am the only person on this dais that fought very, very hard—and I wasn’t a sitting politician—against us going into Iraq.”
Bush wasn’t about to let Trump prop himself up with that claim, and he attacked what he characterized as Trump’s “lack of judgment and the lack of understanding about how the world really works. And this is really dangerous.”
Trump shot back, “Your brother and your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee got a few points in edgewise, including his restated support of Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who had recently granted Huckabee a moment high-profile publicity on the campaign trail with her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie piped up during an animated discussion about medical marijuana, claiming that he was in favor of using the drug in a clinical context but did not support its more widespread use.
That subject also provided the fodder for a clash between Sen. Rand Paul and Jeb Bush, whom Paul blasted for perpetuating the unjust incarceration of poor people for minor drug offenses. Rand also insinuated that the latest Bush to make a White House bid had been less-than-forthright about his past pot use.
Bush came clean on camera, taking back control of that conversation by admitting on the spot, “So, 40 years ago I smoked marijuana”—adding that his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, wouldn’t be thrilled by his performance at that particular moment.
The debate wound down with some fluffier questions, including one in which the candidates were asked to name the woman whom they’d choose to replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. Civil rights movement luminary Rosa Parks got Marco Rubio and Donald Trump’s votes; meanwhile, Jeb Bush’s pick of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher bordered on irrelevance, as did Dennis Kasich’s choice, Mother Teresa.
For his part, Christie name-checked America’s second First Lady Abigail Adams, Dr. Ben Carson chose his own mother, and Fiorina demurred from naming a replacement for Hamilton because, she said, “I don’t think it helps to change our history … This nation will be better off when every woman has the right to live the life she chooses.”
They just can’t do use Planned Parenthood’s services while they’re at it.
—Posted by Kasia Anderson
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