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Rubio, Cruz Dominate Rowdy Republican Presidential Debate

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Rubio, Cruz Dominate Rowdy Republican Presidential Debate


By Steve Holland and James Oliphant

BOULDER, Colo. (Reuters) — Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz emerged as the strongest challengers on Wednesday to insurgent front-runners Donald Trump and Ben Carson, in a fiery debate that may have marked a new phase in the 2016 race.

With time running short until the first nominating contest in three months, the 10 Republicans in the evening’s main debate were anxious to stand out. They frequently talked over each other and the moderators in a debate laced with personal attacks and clashes over tax policy.

In a dominating performance, Rubio, the U.S. senator from Florida, swatted away Jeb Bush when the former Florida governor attacked his attendance record in the Senate.

“Just resign and let someone else take the job,” Bush said, in response to a question about an editorial in a Florida newspaper that blasted Rubio for having missed about one-third of his Senate votes this year.

That prompted Rubio to scold Bush for aligning himself with the liberal media. The only reason Bush was making it an issue, Rubio said, was “because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.”

The exchange came on a night of heated clashes among candidates fighting to catch Carson and Trump, two upstart candidates who have tapped into voters’ frustration with the Republican party’s establishment. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, and Trump, a celebrity real estate developer, in a dead heat.

In a sign that the unpredictable Republican race might be entering a new phase, Trump and Carson, while not stumbling, were often eclipsed by Rubio and Cruz during the two-hour debate at the University of Colorado campus.

“Rubio won tonight with wit, good humor, great one-liners and substance,” said Ari Fleischer, who was press secretary to former President George W. Bush.

Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, scored by turning to a well-worn page in the Republican playbook: Attacking the news media. He ignored a question on the debt limit to criticize the CNBC debate moderators for the questions they had posed to candidates.

“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media,” he said. “This is not a cage match. How about talking about the substantive issues?”

The crowd gathered in an arena in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains roared its approval.

Cruz’s response laid bare that a debate that was supposed to be all about the U.S. economy had strayed from the theme repeatedly, so much so that the Republican National Committee took the extraordinary step of criticizing the TV network that broadcast it.

“The performance by the CNBC moderators was extremely disappointing and did a disservice to their network, our candidates, and voters,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

Social media gave Cruz a positive response. Zoomph, an analytics platform that tracks real-time date on social media, said Cruz scored the highest activity level.

For his part, Trump reiterated his pledge to be a great negotiator as president, pointing out he had persuaded CNBC to shorten the time of the debate “so we could get the hell out of here.”

The Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for the November 2016 election also clashed over their tax plans, with Carson defending his Bible-inspired proposals and former executive Carly Fiorina vowing to reduce the complicated tax code to three pages.

Carson said his plan, based on religious tithing principles, would get rid of deductions and loopholes and constitute a flat rate of about 15 percent that would be sufficient to fund a sharply reduced government.

“Remember, we have 645 federal agencies and sub-agencies. Anybody who tells me that we need every penny in every one of those is in a fantasy world,” Carson said.

Ohio Governor John Kasich was quick to go on the attack against Trump and Carson, calling their tax plans “a fantasy.” Trump’s plan for cutting taxes on individuals and corporations has been criticized as an implausible budget-buster by analysts.

“We are on the verge of picking, perhaps, someone who cannot do this job,” Kasich said. “You gotta pick somebody who has experience.”

The remark appeared aimed at Trump and Carson. But inexperience has been among the key questions hanging over the candidacy of the 44-year-old Rubio, who had struggled in previous debates to emerge from the shadow of other candidates.

He appeared better prepared on Wednesday. When questioned about his personal finances, he responded by pointing to his working-class roots as a Cuban-American in Miami, repeatedly using his personal story as a vehicle for connecting with people struggling to make a living.

“I’m not worried about my finances, I’m worried about the finances of everyday Americans,” Rubio said. “That’s what this debate needs to be about.”

(Additional reporting by Erin McPike, Ginger Gibson, Alana Wise, Megan Cassella and Emily Stephenson; Writing by Steve Holland and John Whitesides; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Ken Wills)

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate U.S. Senator Marco Rubio speaks as former Governor Jeb Bush (L), businessman Donald Trump (2nd R) and Dr. Ben Carson (R) listen at the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate held by CNBC in Boulder, Colorado, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking



  1. TZToronto October 29, 2015

    So Carson wants a 15% tax. A tax on what? Income earned from labor only? Income earned in any way? You can be certain that investment income, stock options, etc. will not be taxable at 15% or at any rate at all. Corporate execs will suddenly be working for $1 per year, taking their remuneration in some non-taxable form. Meanwhile, the poor slob who actually gets paid for his labors will somehow end up paying more than 15%. Even that won’t be enough to fund Carson’s bloated, but “reduced” government bureaucracy.

    1. latebloomingrandma October 29, 2015

      And eliminate all deductions? Who does he think will vote for that?

      1. TZToronto October 29, 2015

        The only tax plan that can get through Congress–whether authored by Republicans of Democrats–is one that benefits the few and harms the many. One thing that does need to be fixed, though, is the tax code. There are some IRS forms that are so obscure that you don’t even know what they’re asking for. The jargon related to IRS forms has gone through so many iterations that even a tax lawyer would have trouble figuring out what the forms are for. And much of the time the forms you think you’re supposed to fill out don’t even apply to you! If Fiorina can get the tax code into 3 pages, I’m for it–not for her, just for “it.” . . . How many yachts do the uber-wealthy really need?

  2. John Murchison October 29, 2015

    I figured Mario would make his move soon. He had a cushy spot in third letting the fantasy front runners take the brunt of the media storm. Look for him to emerge from their wake now or risk being lost in their backwash.

  3. bcarreiro October 29, 2015

    To implement a successful tax plan you have to eliminate corruption. When we abolish congress then we wouldn’t have any.

    1. Paul Bass October 29, 2015

      Um, so, since you know better than the Founders, with no congress, do you propose turning the President into a King? Or maybe you prefer anarchy? And our country hasn’t been successful for about 240 years because of our tax plan?

      Do you even engage your brain before you type, or are you always this unthinking?

      1. bcarreiro October 29, 2015

        Ending all affiliations in Congress would be fine. The founders would agree.

        1. Paul Bass October 29, 2015

          Please check your 7th grade civics. 3 Branches of Government, President, Congress, Judiciary. All supposedly equal.
          Again, are you proposing a monarchy? Most Americans DON’T want their president to be King.
          The founders would strongly disagree with your idea.

  4. Jinmichigan October 29, 2015

    Little Marco won the debate? That’s what the pundits say. Good for him. Better for the Dems.

    1. bobnstuff October 29, 2015

      Marco is right about Obama and Kerry missing votes, I looked it up. He started three months earlier but he is right. That being said I’m still not impressed with the man.

      1. Jinmichigan October 29, 2015

        I don’t doubt that most Senators running for president missed votes. That’s not my issue with Rubio. It’s his “Chicken Little” response concerning all the “bad things” out in the world. As if he has any foreign policy experience or military experience. And his tax plan would bankrupt the country in short order but make the rich, much richer. He’s a definite light weight.

        1. bobnstuff October 29, 2015

          Only one person on the stage has a back ground that could make him a reasonable president and no one gives him a chance of being nominated Kasich. Is this bunch really the best the republicans can come with?

          1. Jinmichigan October 29, 2015

            I tend to agree about Kasich. Especially if you look at Ohio right now and you ignore his social conservative actions as gov. And his Lehman Brothers role. I doubt he has the personality to break through in the this crowd.

          2. plc97477 October 29, 2015

            He’s not crazy enough for the base.

          3. bobnstuff October 29, 2015

            He believes in government as a force for good, The conservative would never go for him. I wish there were still enough old gaurd republicans to elect him but I fear the real republicans are a dying breed.

          4. Karen Bille-Golden October 30, 2015

            and that’s why he is being totally overlooked as the most electable candidate they’ve got.

      2. indiokie October 29, 2015

        Oh, that’s right, it’s OK for the repugs to reference the past. But the Dems best not try it.

        1. bobnstuff October 29, 2015

          I don’t trust politicians much and fact check a lot. When Rubio made the excuse I needed to check it and found it was true. I was surprised.

    2. Independent1 October 30, 2015

      That’s not what some online surveys by Time, The Drudge Report and CNBC say – they say Trump won the debate outright; all 3 polls which included over 1/4 million votes.

      See this from TheHill.com:


      1. Jinmichigan October 30, 2015

        I was questioning that rubio won too.

    3. Böcker October 30, 2015

      If the media thinks so, then both Rubio and the media are losers.

  5. alansnipes October 29, 2015

    In not answering a question about the debt limit, Cruz then accused the media of asking stupid questions.
    As far as blaming the media is concerned, there is only one candidate who can rightfully claim to have been treated unfairly by the media: Hillary Clinton.

  6. latebloomingrandma October 29, 2015

    I don’t think anyone “won” the debate. I found it difficult and frustrating to watch and had to mute or change the channel frequently. Is it just me or does anyone else find Cruz,s voice extremely annoying?

    1. plc97477 October 29, 2015

      Cruz’s, jeb’s, santorum’s, and trump’s.

    2. Independent1 October 30, 2015

      Would you be surprised to learn that – according to some online surveys by Time, The Drudge Report and CNBC – that Trump won the debate?? And that was with a sampling of 1/4 million online votes.

      See these excerpts from an article published by TheHill.com:

      Trump overwhelmingly won the contest in Boulder, Colo., according to online surveys from Time, The Drudge Report and CNBC, the network hosting the contest.

      Drudge conducted its post-debate sampling with an online survey of
      240,063 respondents. Time reported 11,775 votes in its own version of
      the poll and CNBC did not report its number of respondents. All surveys
      were among only the sites’ users and have unclear margins of error.

      Drudge has Trump beating his closest competition during the event by
      approximately 32 points among its respondents. He earned 54 percent
      compared to 22 percent for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Drudge’s second
      place Republican contender.

      Time, meanwhile, has Trump besting the rest of the GOP’s 2016 presidential field by 26 points among its participants.

      And CNBC has Trump leading rest of the Republican pack by approximately 26 points over second place. He takes 46 percent, compared with 20 percent for Cruz.


      Note that Carson didn’t do especially well in any of the 3 polls:

      Drudge ranks Rubio third overall with 11 percent, while Sen. Rand Paul
      (R-Ky.) takes fourth with 4 percent and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson
      finishes fifth, also around 4 percent.

      Time places Paul third with 8 percent voter support. Cruz is fourth
      with 7 percent, while Carson takes fifth there as well with 6 percent.

      Rubio takes CNBC’s third place with 15.4 percent, while
      Carson ranks fourth with 4 percent and Ohio Gov. John Kasich fifth with
      3.5 percent.


      1. Dominick Vila October 30, 2015

        What the on-line poll tells me is that Trump knows how to organize and motivate his supporters. Then again, the fact that the debate was not all about Donald Trump, and that he did not say much, may have been enough for thousands of devotees to endorse his performance.

      2. Karen Bille-Golden October 30, 2015

        I guess he won by default then. He was the candidate who said the least. Maybe his strategy has become let the other guy look foolish during these debates. I didn’t hear anything of substance from him.

    3. Karen Bille-Golden October 30, 2015

      I thought the hardest one to watch was Ben Carson. I kept thinking his eyes were going to roll back in his head and he was going to stroke out in front of us.

      1. latebloomingrandma October 30, 2015

        I know what you mean. I hope he didn’t do his medical lectures with that sort of affect. Can you see him across the table from Putin?

  7. FT66 October 29, 2015

    I think journalists are misguiding voters. We don’t tune in to watch who can throw a nice punch to the other. We want to hear what candidates have to offer. Trump and Carson won the debate as they behaved through out the debate.

    1. plc97477 October 29, 2015

      The journalists are certainly doing a disservice to serious voters.

    2. JPHALL October 29, 2015

      Most primary voters are not concerned about the truth. They want controversy.

  8. Eleanore Whitaker October 29, 2015

    Now, what’s that old saying, “When you have nothing nice to say, be quiet?”

    Watching these guys duking it out is Joe Frazier light.

    1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth October 29, 2015

      Joe Frazier Light—now there’s a deadly brew.

  9. Aaron_of_Portsmouth October 29, 2015

    A “rowdy Republican Debate” is too kind a description for the Shakesperean-like
    tragicomic drama we’re forced to endure for our past sins of voting twits into office, and allowing their toadies to follow in their footsteps.

  10. FireBaron October 29, 2015

    My observations.

    1. The guy who wrote Dubya’s tax policy and budgets claiming the other guys’ proposals were smoke and mirrors. I guess he’s the expert at that.
    2. The Senator who doesn’t realize he has a day job and the most ignorant (and intolerant) member of the Senate sparing with each other.
    3. JEB! getting bullied by someone NOT named Trump.
    4. Carly trying to run FROM her record.
    5. THE DONALD insulting everyone because Ben Carson led him in a poll.
    6. A group of “moderators” who shouldn’t be assigned to anything more controversial than a 3rd Grade Ice Cream Social.

  11. dtgraham October 29, 2015

    I never did get Carson, but get him even less now that he’s announced that he wants to end medicare. That guy never stops talking about his Christian faith (and the constitution). Why, he’s so spiritual and such a man of God that he wants to take medicare away from poor seniors.

    I don’t get that. I just don’t. Maybe some Republican NM reader can explain it to me. It’s likely that his true spirituality was revealed in his Popeyes story when he told the gunman, “I believe that you want the guy behind the counter.”

    1. Independent1 October 30, 2015

      The problem is the vast majority of Republicans that support the GOP and claim to be “Christians,” are neglecting to see that the ‘god’ they’re worshiping has horns on his head.

      1. dtgraham October 30, 2015

        As has also been noted by a few here Independent.

        If they had a rewrite, I think the Republican version of the First Amendment would be:

        “Congress shall make laws compelling the establishment of religion and demanding the exercise thereof; excluding Islam and Jesus’s true teachings notwithstanding”.

  12. Grover Syck October 29, 2015

    The inmates have taken over the asylum.
    There is not one qualified candidate in the bunch. You could glue them all together, and you would still have a looser.

  13. oldtack October 29, 2015

    In this media orchestrated show of the Republican challengers for the Nomination I did appreciate it when Ted Cruz lashed out at Mass Media. I thought he made a good statement.

    Showing my age, I remember when Richard Nixon put pressure on Reporters and demanded news and not concocted opinions. Like many, I was shocked at this movement from the President but now I see his concern.

    Except for many good news correspondents in the field we do not have News so to speak, Instead of News reports as in earlier time we have large Companies that have “24/7 News” but it is not news. It is highly paid “talking Heads” conducting Gossip shows and giving us, not the News, but their slanted version of events. This is rampant for Conservative shows and Liberal shows alike, The Talking Heads attract an audience and bring up the viewer ratings and this results in Advertisements. The Talkers make Millions and the Owners make Billions and we the public get nothing but slanted garbage.

    We have seen three “Debates” and we have seen three groups of moderators that were an embarrassment to the profession.
    No I am not a Ted Cruz supporter.

    1. bcarreiro October 29, 2015

      Bert and Ernie could have done a better job.

      1. oldtack October 30, 2015

        Much Much Better

      2. latebloomingrandma October 30, 2015

        And they’re actually entertaining.

  14. Böcker October 30, 2015

    Rubio got applause for not showing up for work?? Is that how this works?? Heaven help us.

    1. Independent1 October 30, 2015

      Where Rubio is out of bounds it seems to me, is that he’s comparing the records of missed Senate votes which he’s missed covering almost a 5 year (from 2011-2015), against the missed votes of other senators who were actually in the midst of running for president (during the actual election year). While Rubio is missing a large number of votes and we haven’t even reached the election year, in fact, we haven’t even reached the year of the primary elections. (See the link below to an article from CBS News.)

      Having said all that, unless legislation is going to be passed barring senators from running for the presidency, it’s not likely that senators would be able to run for the presidency without missing votes. And if they’re not going to devote the time really necessary to fully understand the ramifications of legislation coming up for votes, do we really want them voting purely based on ideology and not understanding the legislation being voted on??

      But even though I would rather they not cast votes of legislation they really don’t understand fully, it seems to me that those missed votes should only occur during a time of ‘serious campaigning’ for the presidency. To be quite honest, I think the debates being held months away from even the primary elections – are a total farce; and really not justifiable reasons for missing huge amounts of senate votes.

      I’m not certain that many of these quasi presidential candidates are not using running for the presidency as simply an excuse for not having to devote the time they should be to the senate jobs they were voted into office to do: Rubio has given the impression that he hates being a senator (if that’s the case, what makes him think he would really like to be president?? Being president involves multiple times more stress and backlash than being a senator.)


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