Quick takes from the GOP debate

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From Houston, Texas –

With just days until Super Tuesday, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz joined forces in a CNN debate at the University of Houston on Thursday night, attacking Republican front runner Donald Trump for not being specific about what he would do as President in a bid to slow down his march to the GOP nomination.

Rubio started the attacks on Trump in a discussion on immigration; “You’re only person on this stage that has ever been fined for hiring people to work on your projects illegally,” Rubio said.

It was the start of an evening of battling between Trump and Rubio and Cruz and Trump.

Here is a quick review of the GOP debate.

DONALD TRUMP – Trump found himself in between Cruz and Rubio physically on the stage, and also in terms of the attacks in this debate, as Cruz and Rubio repeatedly argued that Trump does not have much substance to offer voters. Trump resorted to personal insults repeatedly, at one point calling Rubio a ‘choke artist’ and Cruz a liar. Unlike the last debate when he was very aggressive, Trump was playing defense for much of this debate. How much the Rubio and Cruz attacks really mattered may depend more on whether an individual voter already favors Trump or not.

TED CRUZ – After tangling repeatedly with Trump in the last debate, Cruz rejoined that fight here in Houston, again trying to make the case that Trump is not a real conservative. “Washington deals are bankrupting this country,” Cruz said in his closing statement, arguing that he is the best choice for conservative voters. Cruz certainly was on the attack against Trump, but might have been overshadowed somewhat by Marco Rubio on that front.

MARCO RUBIO – After avoiding Trump in debates for months, Rubio wasted no time in challenging the GOP front runner, trying to drive home the point that Trump is devoid of substance on most issues. “So that’s the only part of the plan?” Rubio said, as he badgered Trump about how he would change the Obama health law. When Trump appeared to make the same comment several times, Rubio echoed an attack made against him by Chris Christie in New Hampshire. “Now he’s repeating himself,” Rubio said to big cheers. Whether Rubio’s attacks will work isn’t clear, but one might wonder where this strategy was over the last six months.

JOHN KASICH – As in past debates, Kasich stuck to his script, which was to avoid getting into any mudslinging involving Donald Trump, and to instead repeatedly stress his experience, and his record as the Governor of Ohio and a veteran member of Congress. “I balanced the budget,” Kasich said at one point, as he tried over and over again to sell himself as someone who can get the job done on difficult issues. Kasich did not really play a central role in this debate.

BEN CARSON – Struggling in most polls, Carson also struggled again to play a big role in this GOP debate. Even with only five people on stage, Carson seemed to disappear at times, as he again complained to moderators about that silence. “I’m going to whine,” Carson said at one point, protesting about how he wasn’t asked his opinion on a variety of debate topics. Carson’s most memorable moment was when he tried to get some attention during an extended Cruz-Trump-Rubio battle: “Can somebody attack me, please?”

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