A Several Source Roundup of the GOP Debate


Republican U.S. presidential candidates Marco Rubio (L) and Donald Trump react to each other as they discuss an issue during the debate sponsored by CNN for the 2016 Republican U.S. presidential candidates in Houston, Texas, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Stone

We begin the GOP’s 10th debate roundup with Philip Elliott and Zeke Miller’s analysis at TIME on last night’s Republican debate brawl:

Donald Trump’s history in business and politics is pocked with bankruptcies and fraud allegations, illegal immigrants on his payroll and donations to Democrats from his checkbooks. All were used against him during Thursday night’s debate, but it’s entirely possible none of it mattered.

Trump has comfortable leads in the polls heading toward Super Tuesday, just five days away, and his campaign so far has weathered all kinds of bad news. After months of leading the pack, Trump seems immune to those who would challenge him on positions and statements that, for anyone else, should have proved disqualifying. […]

It made for a remarkable night of television, but might once again prove that the typical rules of politics do no matter in a year when a former reality TV host who promises mass deportations emerge a favorite among Christian conservatives in South Carolina and among Hispanics in Nevada.

Alexander Burns at The New York Times compares the Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz strategies against Donald Trump:

The debate revealed the acute urgency each candidate now feels in making his case, and captured how Mr. Trump’s opponents are approaching what may be their last really good chance to slow his political momentum. […]

Mr. Trump’s opponents have struggled to make a sustained case against him, experimenting with a range of punchy attack lines that failed to stick.

A different dynamic governed Thursday’s debate. As Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz assailed him, they often used similar or even identical language and themes. After Mr. Rubio attacked Mr. Trump for having paid a hefty fine for hiring illegal workers, Mr. Cruz took up the same set of facts as a cudgel. Both men raised the issue of Trump University, a defunct educational company over which Mr. Trump is currently being sued.

Elias Isquith at Salon analyzes the healthcare attacks on Trump:

[P]erhaps the weirdest twist of the night, the Republican Party’s elevation of unfeeling into a political virtue was never more obvious than when it was Trump playing the role of bleeding heart. More than once, Cruz and Rubio teamed up to bash the Donald as insufficiently devoted to repealing the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s heresy? He wanted to ensure that no poor, sick American was “dying in the street.”

Opposing a needless, sociopathic indifference to the suffering of the most vulnerable among us; this is the Republican Party in 2016. Maybe Trump isn’t the one we should worry about after all.

Peter Weber at The Week, meanwhile, believes that Trump will still lead the pack and that the debate was a lesson for Democrats in how to handle him:

Will Trump suffer in the polls or lose voters next Tuesday, on Super Tuesday, when 11 states vote in primaries and Alaska Republicans caucus? Maybe not — nothing seems to have hurt Trump so far. But you can bet that the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton campaigns will be watching the results and studying Thursday’s debate like a football team analyzing the footage of recent games of their upcoming opponent.

Trump is very probably going to be the Republican nominee, and for political scientists and pollsters and political strategists, his success is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, as Winston Churchill once said of Russia. If Rubio or Cruz is going to take Trump down, they need to experiment with what works when they face him in these increasingly gladiatorial debates. That’s a godsend for the Democrats.

Brian Hanley at The Huffington Post agrees:

Wolf Blitzer lost control. Donald Trump took over. Marco Rubio dripped in sweat. Ted Cruz looked lost at home. Ben Carson seldom spoke but produced the wittiest zinger of the night. “Can someone please attack me,” he begged, in an effort to be noticed amidst the massacre.

1. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama

Tonight’s debate was an inter-party feud. While the Democrats all came up, there wasn’t much time spent critiquing them. Instead, Rubio took on Trump and Trump made fun of him then Cruz took on Trump and Trump made fun of him.

Gerald F. Seib at The Wall Street Journal writes what a lot of people are thinking — were these attacks on Trump enough to take him down this late in the process?

Eight months after Donald Trump declared he was running for president, six months after the first debate and two weeks after Mr. Trump began reeling off three primary-season victories—Sen. Marco Rubio decided to go after him Thursday night.

Having waited that long to launch an attack, Mr. Rubio brought it on with not just two barrels but an Army brigade’s worth of barrels. […]

Only a few days remain before those Super Tuesday primaries. If Thursday night’s performance is any guide, Mr. Rubio will spend those days attacking Mr. Trump. And if history is any guide, Mr. Trump will be launching a ferocious counterattack.

We end today’s roundup with Jill Lawrence at USA Today:

GOP elders were sure they knew what to do to win after Romney’s 2012 loss. The 2013 party “autopsy” advised outreach to minorities, passing comprehensive immigration reform, and tempering positions that turn off young voters, such as opposition to gay rights. Pollster Whit Ayres’ book 2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America warned of sweeping demographic changes and the need for, as the Amazon blurb aptly put it, “new candidates, new messages, and a new tone.”

Trump has delivered on all of that. Unfortunately for all of us, Trump’s the exact opposite of what Ayres and his party had in mind.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos