Normally, the GOP debates leave me feeling even more despondent about the future of our country. It’s been a non-stop character attack of calling people liars, pathological and losers- and that’s just a few of the choice words from Donald Trump.
Last night, however, it was clear that some of the candidates had changed their strategy, particularly Marco Rubio. Instead of wasting his time going after Cruz, who’s falling behind Trump in key states Cruz thought he had locked down, Rubio went after the Donald. After the first few punches, Donald Trump turned a shade of red and went on defense. What everyone saw next was a smiling Rubio who seemed to realize the key to defeating this bombastic businessman: kick Trump where it counts.
It began when Rubio cited Trump’s position shift regarding immigration. Rubio continued saying that in 2011, Trump expressed the need for a pathway to citizenship, a stark contrast to today’s position. Trump begins to explain that the jobs he provided were ones that most didn’t want and that he had projects that had to be completed quickly.
Rubio continues to hammer the nail, citing the 200 undocumented Polish workers that Trump brought in to demolish the Bonwit Teller building, site of Trump Tower today. Trump tells him he’s wrong (he isn’t), but it’s too late because Rubio has already uttered the words: Google it and “Trump Polish workers”.
A good indicator of besting someone in any match is when they start reaching for the bottom of the barrel and pulling up “be quiet”. Rubio wasn’t having any of it.
Cruz then used the momentum from Rubio’s attack to get a jab in:
“And in 2013, when I was fight against the “gang of eight” amnesty bill, where was Donald? He was firing Dennis Rodman on “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Most of the night, Cruz focused on exposing Trump as a financial backer of liberal politicians like Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer.
… you know, it’s interesting now that Donald promises that he will appoint justices who — who will defend religious liberty, but this is a man who, for 40 years, has given money to Jimmy Carter, to Joe Biden, to Hillary Clinton, to Chuck Schumer, to Harry Reid.
Nobody who supports far-left liberal Democrats who are fighting for judicial activists can possibly care about having principled constitutionalists on the court.
This isn’t a bad point to make, but it is one that Trump easily uses to his advantage saying that he’s friends with everybody while nobody likes Cruz.
Rubio understands. In round two he reminds Americans that Trump is just a spoiled brat who inherited his $200 million dollars:
RUBIO: Here’s a guy that inherited $200 million. If he hadn’t inherited $200 million, you know where Donald Trump would be right now?
TRUMP: No, no, no.
RUBIO: Selling watches in (inaudible)
The conversation turns to the open position on the Supreme Court. Cruz has the opportunity to attack Trump here as well, but spends too much time talking about what’s at stake when the audience wants him to follow Rubio’s lead. His shining moment here is when he responds to Trump’s request for an apology for criticizing his sister.
“Let me tell you right now, Donald, I will not apologize for a minute for defending the Constitution. I will not apologize for defending the Bill of Rights.”
I personally think Carson’s shining moment was when he explained that he’d look at a Supreme Court candidate’s past decisions, using what is now one of my favorite sayings:
“The fruit salad of their life is what I will look at.”
Rubio continues to get his punches in, pointing out that Trump doesn’t have a specific or comprehensive plan for healthcare. Rubio goes in for the kill, pointing out one of Trump’s weaknesses:
RUBIO: … What’s your plan… TRUMP: … You know, I watched him meltdown two weeks ago with Chris Christie. I got to tell you, the biggest problem he’s got is he really doesn’t know about the lines. The biggest thing we’ve got, and the reason we’ve got no competition, is because we have lines around the state, and you have essentially….
RUBIO: … We already mentioned that (inaudible) plan, I know what that is, but what else is part of your plan…
TRUMP: … You don’t know much…
RUBIO: … So, you’re only thing is to get rid of the lines around the states. What else is part of your healthcare plan…
TRUMP: … The lines around the states…
RUBIO: … That’s your only plan…
TRUMP: … and, it was almost done — not now…
RUBIO: … Alright, (inaudible)…
TRUMP: … Excuse me. Excuse me.
RUBIO: … His plan. That was the plan…
TRUMP: … You get rid of the lines, it brings in competition. So, instead of having one insurance company taking care of New York, or Texas, you’ll have many. They’ll compete, and it’ll be a beautiful thing.
RUBIO: So, that’s the only part of the plan? Just the lines?
TRUMP: The nice part of the plan — you’ll have many different plans. You’ll have competition, you’ll have so many different plans.
RUBIO: Now he’s repeating himself.
TRUMP: No, no, no.
(LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)
At this point, it doesn’t matter what Trump says regarding healthcare. The audience loved the exchange. As much as they love seeing someone rise to the top, they love seeing someone get knocked down more.
The debate went on like this with the questions being focused on the top three candidates and most of the crowd wondering why Kasich and Carson are still in the race. Cruz could have gained more points if he’d attacked Trump’s character more, like Rubio, but he didn’t. Rubio seemed to be the winner, showing that the bloviating bully can be knocked down- you just have to hit him where it counts.