For the first time in the 2016 primary season, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz took the fight to frontrunner Donald Trump, attacking him almost constantly. Previous debates had been characterized by a large field of Republicans going up against each other, hoping to survive as the last candidate acceptable to the GOP establishment and general election voters. Donald Trump had profited massively from this strategy, and while his opponents kept taking each other out, he cruised from victory to victory in early primary states.
Not any more. Suddenly appearing to take seriously Trump’s lead in both the polls and the delegate count, Cruz and Rubio pounded on the businessman all night long.
The result was that the debate at time devolved into a chaotic shouting match as Cruz and Rubio refused to back down when Trump started one of his rants. It might not have been pretty but it was important for both candidates not to be seen as backing down.
Her are the biggest fights of the night:
Rubio vs. Trump over immigrants.
It started when Mr Rubio pointed out that Trump, who has made his anti- immigrant stance a centerpiece of his campaign, had hired illegal immigrants when building Trump Tower and had been fined $1 million for doing so.
“If you’re going to claim that you’re the only one that lifted this into the campaign, that you acknowledge that, for example, you’re the only person on this stage that’s ever been fined for hiring people to work on your projects illegally,” Rubio said. Trump responded by touting his experience as a businessman: “I’m the only one on this stage that has hired people. You haven’t hired anybody!”
Cruz vs. Trump over supporting Democrats
Meanwhile, Ted Cruz has picked up on a line of attack that has been used against Trump earlier in the campaign, albeit ineffectively: For years Trump has been financially supporting Democrats and Republicans alike. But among those Democrats he gave to, are some who count among the most hated human beings for the republican base: people such as Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and John Kerry. Pointing this out could be a successful strategy to cut Trump down to size and expose the fact that his campaign does not rest on conservative principles (or any principles) but instead relies on pure demagoguery and showmanship.
Cruz vs Trump over being part of the elite (banks)
Attacking Trump over his close ties to the New York world of business and finance, Ted Cruz tried to land a punch by associating Trump with elitist circles and painting him as a man beholden to pure capitalist interest.The move backfired, when Trump brought up Cruz’s on relationship with Goldman Sachs:
“But in the meantime, he’s borrowed from the banks, he’s personally guaranteed, and he didn’t put them on his personal financial disclosure form, which is a tremendous sin. I mean, that’s a horrible thing he did. And he didn’t disclose all of this information.”
Rubio vs Trump on Healthcare
The night’s biggest fight came, when Marco Rubio found the ideal tactic to go after Trump: Just ask him the specifics about his policy positions. Since in most cases there are’t any, Trump will get in trouble. Rubio tried this out with healthcare, where Trump had said many times that his plan was to increase competition across state lines, but not much else.
Prompted by Rubio to expand on his plan, Trump choked and mumbled something about “many plans“, before angrily conceding that there was not that much more to it, and braking into his usual routine of him being great and everybody else losers.
This gave Rubio the opening to mount what was most likely the sharpest attack of the night, saying something that many viewers have been waiting for ever since this travesty of a primary season began:
(Trump)“says five things. Everyone’s dumb. He’s going to make America great again. We’re going to win, win, win. He’s winning in the polls…“
Finally somebody had the good sense for calling Trump out by simply summarizing his entire campaign in one sentence.