By Sam Shikora (Political Editor).
Thursday’s Republican Debate demonstrated that as primaries approach, the campaign trail is becoming a war against the opposing party rather than a war among candidates of the same party.
In the first GOP Debate of the year, top Republican presidential candidates, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush disputed popular issues that have been making recent headlines, like immigration policy and tax reform. Fox Business journalists Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo moderated the debate, which took place in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Less popular candidates Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul were downgraded to the “undercard” debate, which occurs before each main stage debate, during which lowest polling candidates have the opportunity to debate on a more level playing field.
Although Paul was invited, he never actually attended the earlier debate, in protest against Fox Business for making the decision to exclude him from the main stage debate. He was received with a lot of controversy because he made an obscene gesture to the media during an ABC News radio interview earlier on Thursday.
Paul said, “To be artificially designated in some kind of lower, second tier sends a signal to the voter that you’re not the same and don’t have a chance.”
Going into the debate, just four elite candidates, Trump (33%), Cruz (20%), Rubio (13%), and Carson (12%) were the only candidates polling above 10%, according to a recent Wall Street Journal poll.
The themes discussed were a wider variety than previously seen; they included national defense, immigration, tax reform, and foreign policy, among others, instead of just one or two, as has been standard fare this election cycle.
In one of the first questions addressed to him, Cruz was asked about his eligibility for the presidency, since he was born in Canada. He defended himself by making an example of Republican John McCain, who is an American citizen from birth but was born in Panama.
Trump argued against his eligibility, saying that Democrats would file a lawsuit if Cruz were to win the presidency. Likely as a result of his recent brusque and outspoken comments, the audience booed Trump every time that he tried to talk early in the debate.
This time, candidates seemed more united than previously. Specifically, they took to attacking Democrat Hillary Clinton, and to a lesser extent, Bernie Sanders.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush said, “instead of setting an agenda, she [Clinton] might be going back and forth between the White House and the courthouse,” in reference to her recent legal troubles.
Rather confidently, Ohio governor John Kasich said that the GOP doesn’t have to worry about competition from Bernie Sanders, because he said that if Sanders were to win the Democratic Party nomination, “we’re going to win every state.”
As one of the lowest polling candidates on the main stage, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made his mark by attacking President Obama. After calling Obama a “petulant child”, he announced that he hoped that Obama was watching, as he then said, “We’re going to kick your rear end out of the White House come November.”
Later in the debate, the topic shifted to the US’ unfair balance of trade with China due to the artificial inflation of the Yuan. During this time, Bush and Trump had a skirmish that reflected the argument seen in the last debate, during which Bush called Trump a “chaos candidate.” However, this altercation was short-lived and not as ferocious as those seen in the last debate.
When the topic shifted to tax reform, Carson suggested lowering regulations and cutting tax deductions, while lowering taxes. Similarly, Cruz said that if he were elected to be president, he would simplify tax code by imposing a 10% flat tax across the board and abolishing the Internal Revenue Service.
Marco Rubio argued that Cruz’s tax ideas echoed the value added taxes (VAT) present in nations with more liberal governments, particularly in Europe, which he says are used to “blindfold the people from the true cost of government.”
While some insightful things were said, one who was watching might have hoped to see more substance from the candidates. While this debate didn’t compare to the last one in terms of entertainment value, many small, brief quarrels filled up the two and a half hour timeframe.
The next Republican presidential debate will be in Iowa on Thursday, January 28th at 9 pm. The next Democratic Party debate will be on Sunday, January 17th at 9 pm, as well.