The top 10 Republican presidential candidates squared off Wednesday night (October 28, 2015) in Boulder Colorado, in the third GOP presidential debate.
The 10 GOP candidates, who qualified for the debate, did so in accordance to how they stand in the polls, according to the Real Clear Politics average of five recent national polls: The candidates were:
• Donald Trump, real-estate magnate.
• Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon.
• Marco Rubio, US senator from Florida.
• Jeb Bush, former Florida governor.
• Ted Cruz, US senator from Texas.
• Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett Packard CEO.
• Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor.
• Rand Paul, US senator from Kentucky.
• John Kasich, Ohio governor.
• Chris Christie, New Jersey governor.
The debate started at the University of Colorado with John Kasich being critical of Carson and Trump as potential occupants of the Oval Office.
Kasich said: “My great concern is that we are on the verge, perhaps, of picking someone who cannot do this job,” he charged, adding, “We need somebody who can lead.”
Donald Trump held his own despite a slide to No. 2 in some of the most recent tests both nationally and in Iowa. He delivered his stock lines about taxes, immigration and badly negotiated deals on trade and foreign relations.
The new leader in some polls, Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, had less speaking time than almost any of the other candidates, and when he had the spotlight he did little to hold it. He seemed unsure of his footing at times when describing his tax rate plan and other economic matters.
The standout performer in the Sept. 16 debate, Carly Fiorina, managed to get more speaking time than any of her rivals — in part, by resisting the moderators. While she came across as self-assured and offered one of her best defenses of leadership at Hewlett-Packard a decade ago, Fiorina did not have a memorable exchange with Trump or any of the candidates.
The featured performer of the night was Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida who, at 44, is the youngest contestant in the field. Rubio became the debate’s focus largely because of tough questions from the CNBC moderators that he deftly turned into recitations of his talking points.
When other rivals tried to probe the same vulnerabilities, Rubio was quickly able to flip the polarity and deliver a put down in response.
Case in point: when Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor sometimes described as Rubio’s mentor, criticized Rubio, his response was “The only reason why you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.”
Bush was not able to establish much momentum after that, finishing near the bottom of the list in speaking time. It was his third flat performance in the debate series and the most damaging in its timing. Recently Bush has fired members of his advisory circle and has cut back in spending. He has also launched a new marketing campaign slogan & tour: “Jeb Can Fix It”, invoking former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, whom Bush said would have faced the same challenges Bush faces today.
Rubio, by stark contrast, was both sharp and focused with a cutting remark that showed his charming aside. Talking about a program for older people, Rubio beamed boyishly as he said, “I’d never vote for anything that would hurt my mom.”
Also acquitting themselves well were his Senate colleague, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Chris Christie, the oft-embattled governor of New Jersey. Christie’s shot at the CNBC moderators started a trend. “Even in New Jersey what you’re doing would be called rude,” said Christie, referring to CNBC moderator John Harwood.
The debate’s largest spark came when Ted Cruz fielded a typically combative question from one of the CNBC moderators and hit it out of the park. “The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media,” Cruz said. He added: “This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions — ‘Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?’ ‘Ben Carson, can you do math?’ ‘John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?’ ‘Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?’ ‘Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?”
Carson took the opportunity to push back on the CNBC journalists. When Carl Quintanilla asked about Carson’s association with a controversial maker of nutritional supplements, Carson flatly denied any involvement and called the assertion “pure propaganda.”
Several of the other Republican candidates tried to get in on the crowd’s appetite for media criticism before the evening was over. Their staffs were also complaining about the in-your-face tone of the CNBC crew. After the debate, some of campaign managers talked about renegotiating the terms of the remaining debates.
Rubio, Cruz and Christie seemed to be the ones who improved their standing as a result of this debate.