Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

With no Trump, Cruz emerges as top target at GOP debate

Republican presidential candidates Rand Paul, left, of Kentucky, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, gather before Thursday’s debate in Des Moines, Iowa.

Getty Images

Republican presidential candidates Rand Paul, left, of Kentucky, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, gather before Thursday’s debate in Des Moines, Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The first Republican presidential debate without Donald Trump took on a Trumpian tone nevertheless, with the seven other top candidates here Thursday night at times sounding angry, talking tough and vowing to do away with political correctness.

As the defiant front-runner staged his own counter-program by rallying supporters a few miles away, Trump's absence left a vacuum on the debate stage. From the opening question, it was filled by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who has been locked in an intensifying duel with Trump for dominance in Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses only four days away.

Cruz began by mocking Trump's reputation for insults: "I'm a 'maniac' and everyone on this stage is 'stupid,' 'fat' and 'ugly.' And Ben, you're a 'terrible surgeon.' Now that we've gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way . . ."

From there, however, little more was said about Trump, and few direct attacks were leveled at him. That left Cruz as the top target as Sen. Marco Rubio and other opponents sought to puncture his appeal by trying to depict him as an inauthentic conservative.

"The truth is, Ted, throughout this campaign you've been willing to say or do anything in order to get votes," Rubio said. "You want to trump Trump on immigration."

Rubio and Sen. Rand Paul both attacked Cruz for having once supported an amendment that would have granted legal status, not citizenship, for illegal immigrants — though Cruz maintains it was a "poison pill" and that he has always opposed amnesty.

"He is the king of saying, 'Oh, you're for amnesty. Everybody's for amnesty except for Ted Cruz,' " Paul said. "But it's a falseness, and that's an authenticity problem."

Cruz was not the only candidate on the defensive on immigration, however. Rubio also came under fire for his role in the Gang of Eight crafting a comprehensive reform legislation in 2013.

The Fox News Channel moderators tried to challenge both Cruz and Rubio by playing archival video footage of the two senators. After showing the Cruz videos, co-moderator Megyn Kelly asked: "Was that all an act? It was pretty convincing."

In the absence of Trump, Cruz and Rubio had the most to gain or lose in Thursday night's debate. The second- and third-polling candidates in Iowa, Cruz and Rubio's strategies are predicated on being the last non-Trump candidate left standing to face off with the mogul in a long-slog primary season.

Both men emerged with scars.

Rubio appeared to struggle with explaining why he advocated a hard-line immigration approach as a Senate candidate, then pursued comprehensive reform that included a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and then reverted.

Rubio said he does not support "blanket amnesty," and focused on the need to seal the border with Mexico and improve security there.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush used the exchange to portray Rubio — his one-time protege when Rubio was a Florida state lawmaker — as weak for having reversed positions on immigration. After noting that he supported Rubio's work in the Gang of Eight, Bush said, "He cut and run because it wasn't popular among conservatives, I guess."

"You shouldn't cut and run," Bush said. "You should stick with it. That's exactly what happened. He cut and run, and that's a tragedy."

Rubio countered by saying that Bush had reversed his own position on citizenship and legal status in a book he wrote.

"So did you," Bush snapped back.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie used the back-and-forth over Senate votes and amendments to show the leadership differences between legislators and executives, and repeating his call for a governor in the White House.

Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who once led the polls but has seen his lead falter among heavy scrutiny of his policy knowhow, invoked his medical career as a credential for the White House: "I've had more 2 a.m. phone calls than everybody here put together, making life and death decisions."

With no Trump, Cruz emerges as top target at GOP debate 01/28/16 [Last modified: Thursday, January 28, 2016 11:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. A test the Rays haven't passed

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — I have no idea what to think about the Rays. Not a clue.

    Tampa Bay Rays players celebrate their 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning 2017-18 schedule: Stanley Cup champion Penguins, expansion Golden Knights among the coming attractions

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning's season schedule was released Thursday afternoon, and there are plenty of must-see matchups coming to Amalie Arena. Here are the home games with the most intriguing storylines:

    The champs

    (Oct. 12, Oct. 21)

    The two-time defending champion Penguins make two early trips to Tampa. [AP photo]
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning 2017-18 schedule

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning's Brayden Point celebrates a goal during a game against the Ottawa Senators in February in Tampa. [AP photo]
  4. Gay, black leaders speak about finding their place

    Relationships

    When Lillian Dunlap moved to Florida at age 52 in 1999 she could finally breathe. The journalism professor from the University of Missouri and the University of Indiana hadn't been able live openly as a gay woman until then. She had considered coming out before but never did.

    Terri Lipsey Scott (standing) welcomed panelists Bob Devin Jones, Desmond Clark, Lillian Dunlap, Trevor Pettiford and Sheree Greer. Moderator Nadine Smith not pictured.
  5. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.
  6. OCTOBER_cokwr_cpzh4_cre1l_chk2m