The tenth GOP debate gives the remaining five candidates a last chance to attack each other before Super Tuesday next week. CNN hosted the debate and situated the candidates from the middle out according to the results in Nevada on this Tuesday.
Donald Trump took the center of the stage since he won the Nevada Caucus and is coming off three victories with New Hampshire and South Carolina as well. He has won handily and has momentum going into the first multi-state vote. Many of the pundits and polls predicts that Trump could take a huge lead soon. He faced a lot of attacks from his two adjacent candidates but responded with the same brash and over the top comments that have pushed him to the forefront of the Republican party. He faltered a bit but it's hard to think this will have any shift with his supporters. He also shot back with statements aimed at discrediting and ridiculing the candidates beside especially Marco Rubio.
The candidate that seemed most effective against the frontrunner was Senator Marco Rubio, who has gained much of the support of the Republican establishment. Rubio knew this debate was his last chance to make a national pitch against the candidate who received more press. He landed a few successful jabs at Trump, smiled, and continued to push against his opponent. Rubio also got into arguments with the other candidates but probably performed the best. It will be hard for him to win as the states coming up don't favor him in many of the polls. He went all out but it will be surprising if it is enough.
Senator Ted Cruz attacked both Trump and Rubio battling mostly with Trump but also tussling over immigration with Rubio. Cruz talked up his religious conservatism and adherence to the Constitution hoping to at least win his home state of Texas. He often fell back on rhetoric but managed to make a few dents in Trump's armor. It will be interesting how he performs in his home state and the rest of the south next Tuesday but he may struggle in states in the future to gain enough delegates to receive the nomination.
The two candidates on the side were largely ignored at the beginning and got to pitch in only rarely. Governor John Kasich has had a second place victory in New Hampshire but has performed poorly in Nevada and South Carolina. He managed to seem a bit calmer and saner than the three fighters in the middle trying to bring a more reasonable approach to each issue. His lack of fireworks and relaxed demeanor did not gain him much time to explain his positions. Kasich will be hard pressed to continue especially if he does not take Ohio, the state of which he is the Governor.
Dr. Ben Carson has performed the worse but will most likely hold out on dropping out for a while longer because of some delusional belief that he has support. He has not gotten third in any competition and has no state to rely on. He has complained about his chances to speak but is often caught saying absurd things that have only hurt him. He got hot for a moment a long time ago but could not maintain the momentum when the spotlight was shined on him. He grew increasingly desperate the more he was ignored but this did not gain him any more attention than a bit of ridicule and laughs.
The Republican party is divided but they have more voters coming out than ever before. The record-breaking support comes from the high publicity and wild nature of this campaign. The establishment has not yet decided to rally behind any particular candidate but it looks more and more like Rubio is the only candidate that has a chance against Trump. Cruz believes he is the one to take the title but he also has upset many other Republicans. Trump has not been hurt by anything he has said or what has been said by him. He is the likely candidate to win but this was his poorest performance yet.
The issues ranged from immigration to foreign policy to taxes and healthcare. The views varied on the extreme right from more extreme to only slightly. Deportations was a center issue after Trump's big promises and Telemundo assisting in hosting duties. Rubio and Cruz bragged on their Hispanic heritage with Rubio even claiming the Republican party was more inclusive than the Democratic party. Trump was short on specifics and was booed often for repeating himself, which Rubio also pounced on.
All candidates took a hawkish approach to invading and fighting foreign countries or Islamic terrorism. It's disturbing to see all of them calling for another war without any real plan of avoiding the debacle of the Iraq war. Trump continued to insist that George Bush made mistakes though the other candidates did not give up on the former president.
Next Tuesday, Super Tuesday, will be the biggest vote yet. I will check back in this Sunday when the Democrats have a primary in South Carolina then post about all the states results either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning once it is all finalized. It will be interesting to see if the trends continue and the two candidates from each party emerge victorious.