By Sam Shikora (Political Editor).
After months of being accused of being low-energy by Donald Trump, Jeb Bush finally showed up to a debate and gave it everything he had. Unfortunately, while Bush figuratively “showed up”, Trump literally did not show up to see Jeb rise above.
Thursday night’s GOP debate in Iowa showed just how different the Republicans’ campaign trails could be if outspoken billionaire Donald Trump had decided not to run. Trump neglected to attend the debate in protest of Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly, who accused him of sexism in an earlier debate.
Instead, Trump campaigned at Drake University, just miles from where the debate was held.
The Iowa campaigns are ramping up, since the Iowa Caucuses meet on Monday, February 1st.
Many candidates rejoiced over the elephant in the room – the lack of an elephant in the room, Donald Trump. Texas senator Ted Cruz began the debate by imitating Trump. He said, “let me say: I’m a maniac. And everyone on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly. And Ben [Carson], you’re a terrible surgeon.”
Cruz then added, “Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way, I want to thank everyone here for showing the men and women of Iowa the respect to show up and make the case to the people of this state and the people of the country why each of us believe we would make the best commander in chief.”
Many of the topics discussed were discussed in previous debates already, such as ISIS, immigration and healthcare. When talk of immigration reform and a “legal path to citizenship” arose, Florida senator Marco Rubio was received with the criticism that he is accustomed to seeing, however from a different opponent this time.
In the past, Rubio has taken a more liberal stance toward immigration – he was one of the sponsors of the 2013 bipartisan “Gang of Eight” bill, however, his stance on immigration became more stringent before he announced his candidacy.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush made sure to capitalize on an opportunity to accuse Rubio of going back on his beliefs. Bush said, “I’m kind of confused because he was the sponsor of the ‘Gang of Eight’ bill that did require a bunch of thresholds but ultimately allowed for citizenship over an extended period of time. I mean that’s a fact.”
He then added, “Then he cut and run because it wasn’t popular amongst conservatives, I guess.” Rubio responded with a weak rebuttal, which is surprising since he has been one of the hardest-hitting in the recent debates.
According to Stephen Stromberg of The Washington Post, Bush “spoke with more conviction and dominated the stage at several points in the debate. And he used some of those moments to bring policy specifics and high principles into an otherwise dismal conversation.”
Given how tough Bush seemed in this debate, especially in comparison to how ineffective he’s seemed in the past, it’s hard to argue that he wasn’t a winner. Chris Christie also showed his strength, evident especially from his hits at Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Cruz and Rubio fared similarly, since they both took attacks from their colleagues and had few words to return. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio governor John Kasich were allotted little time to speak, so little was said between either.
Instead of being in the ‘undercard’ debate like he would have been earlier this month, Rand Paul was promoted to the main stage debate. However, Paul didn’t say much apart from that military intervention in Iraq and Syria is necessary, but should not be prolonged and should not be for the purpose of installing new, US-friendly governments, but rather for restoring stability.
The next GOP debate will be held in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Saturday, February 6th, in preparation for New Hampshire’s early primary on Tuesday, February 9th.