The battle for Iowa and New Hampshire kicked into high gear at Thursday’s Republican debate, featuring a smaller cast of candidates. Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush took the stage and engaged in one of the debate’s bloodiest battles as the Feb. 1 Iowa caucus looms.
Yes, this election starts in two weeks.
Bromance Between Trump and Cruz Is Over
Some of the debate’s most electrifying moments are when these two went head-to-head exchanging blows to win over the Iowa’s Republican base. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas came out on top in this battle, towering over a seemingly desperate Donald Trump. However, polls indicate Trump might still win the war for the early primary states.
The Texas senator’s citizenship has been in question lately, however this is more of an attempt to resurrect the birther movement than any real questioning of the Constitution. Let's not forget Trump was a major player in the birther movement against President Obama.
Section 1 of Article Two of the U.S. Constitution states:
“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
Cruz was a Canadian citizen born to an American mother and most interpretations would consider him “natural born.” However, there are some arguments against Cruz’s eligibility. The Constitution does not clearly define what natural born is.
Trump started using this against the Texas senator once he started gaining in early states, positioning himself as a heavyweight. However, to clear the air, the Fox Business moderators started the citizenship topic. This virtually cleared the stage; the only thing that mattered was Trump and Cruz.
“You know, back in September, my friend Donald said that he had had his lawyers look at this from every which way, and there was no issue there,” Cruz said referring to his Canadian birth. "There was nothing to this birther issue … Now, since September, the Constitution hasn't changed.”
When Trump was asked by a moderator why he was bringing up the citizenship issue now, Trump fired back with the kind of honesty we seldom get: “Because now he's going a little bit better [in polls]. No, I didn't care. Hey look, he never had a chance. Now, he's doing better. He's got probably a four- or five-percent chance.”
The Texas senator continued his fire against the real-estate giant, saying he “embodies New York values,” suggesting Iowa and New Hampshire voters should think twice about the billionaire’s roots.
“Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan,” Sen. Cruz said. He has also suggested Donald Trump is a New York liberal pretending to have conservative values.
Trump defended his hometown, reaching for a very cringe-worthy use of 9/11.
"We took a big hit with the World Trade Center — worst thing ever, worst attack ever in the United States, worse than Pearl Harbor because they attacked civilians," Trump said. "They attacked people having breakfast. And, frankly, if you would've been there, and if you would've lived through that like I did with New York people — the way they handled that attack was one of the most incredible things that anybody has ever seen."
While the bromance might be over going into Iowa, both candidates suggested they might pick the other one to be their vice president if they take the White House. Perhaps a Cruz/Trump is on the table for the future.
Sen. Rand Paul Goes Down Honorably
The Kentucky senator didn’t qualify for the main stage debate. However, he was invited to the undercard debate along with Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. Rand Paul refused to be seen as a second-tier candidate and didn’t show up to the lesser debate only to share a stage with reject candidates.
Sen. Paul hasn’t dropped out, but you might have had a better chance of winning the Powerball than getting a President Rand Paul.
This didn’t stop Paul’s fangirls from showing up in the debate’s audience, chanting “WE WANT RAND!” in the middle of the main debate.
Instead, The Daily Show was kind enough to offer the senator his very own “Singles Night” debate. Host Trevor Noah and Sen. Paul drank bourbon for 20 minutes and talked policy.
You can read CityBeat’s profile of Sen. Rand Paul here.
Dr. Ben Carson Is Over
When asked his first question on Thursday night, Carson responded, "I was going to ask you to wake me up," which might have been funny if he wasn’t the candidate known for looking like he is sleeping all the time.
The famous neurosurgeon has been an oddity this entire race. I covered Carson’s visit to Cincinnati last year and even had the privilege of meeting him. However, something felt off about him.
I’m less referring to the man’s politics and more about his mode of thinking. His arguments are typically muddled, and myself and most others covering this election are commonly left scratching our heads wondering what exactly Carson is talking about.
His supporters at the rally weren’t attracted to any specific policies of Carson’s, but literally everyone I interviewed said the same thing: They liked that he wasn’t a politician.
Wanting someone who isn’t a politician is attractive, but sometimes you need a politician to do politician things: like make a good case for why they should be president. Donald Trump isn’t a politician, but he is an excellent communicator and doesn’t fall asleep during debate.
Carson’s campaign has been a disaster. He was a GOP star for part of the summer, but his own staff says he’s difficult to work with and the brain surgeon has had issues with senior-level staff leaving.
During the debate, Carson described an ominous string of threats and fantasized a doomsday scenario of terrorists detonating a nuclear bomb, eliminating our power grid, setting off dirty bombs and unleashing ground attacks in the streets.
While that sounds like a plot to a Michael Bay movie, that scenario is technically possible but sounds a little off-the-rails. Perhaps doomsday scenarios should be debated in the Pentagon, not a mainstream debate.
“The fact of the matter is, [Obama] doesn't realize that we now live in the 21st century, and that war is very different than it used to be before,” Carson said. “Not armies, massively marching on each other and air forces, but now we have dirty bombs and we have cyber attacks and we have people who will be attacking our electrical grid.”
Carson might have had his 15 minutes of fame, and his polling has been in free-fall since the Paris attacks. This candidate isn’t just weak on foreign affairs — he is quickly losing relevance and will fade into political obscurity.
Where is Sen. Marco Rubio?
Marco Rubio has virtually forgotten he is a senator of Florida and debate viewers may have forgotten he was a contender.
Rubio wasn’t talking policy and was largely overshadowed by the boxing match between Cruz and Trump. However, the junior senator tried to bring attention his way with attacking Obama.
“I hate to interrupt this episode of Court TV. But I think we have to get back to what this election has to be about. OK? Listen, this is the greatest country in the history of mankind. But in 2008, we elected a president that didn’t want to fix America. He wants to change America. We elected a president that doesn’t believe in the Constitution. He undermines it. We elected a president that is weakening America on the global stage. We elected a president that doesn’t believe in the free enterprise system.”
As the debate came to its conclusion, Rubio engaged his competition on tax plans. As both Cruz and Rubio got lost in the weeds, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reminded the senators the topic was about entitlements.
Sen. Rubio said he would be happy to talk about entitlements.
“You already had your chance Marco,” Christie responded. “You blew it.”
The Florida senator had a quick rise in the fall, but has lost all of the polling support he gained. He is almost back where he was at the end of the summer coming in at a distant third with 12 percent average among national polling.