Last week was the final GOP debate before today’s caucuses in Iowa. However, the biggest winner from Thursday’s debate may have been someone who didn’t even show up.
“Senator Cruz, before we get to the issues, let’s address the elephant not in the room tonight,” moderator Megyn Kelly prefaced the night’s first question to the Texas senator.
Notably missing from Thursday night’s stage was said elephant Donald Trump.
Days prior, the GOP frontrunner began his threats to boycott the debate due to Kelly being a moderator.
Trump famously lashed out at the Fox News host after she questioned his misogynist history during the first Republican debate last August.
The network later went forward with a press release mocking Trump’s ridiculous behavior, which the billionaire would claim was “written by a child.”
It’s like watching two children play in the sandbox… throwing cat turds at each other.
The move to abandon the final debate before the Iowa caucuses isn’t unprecedented (Reagan was the last to do so in 1980). However, a leading GOP presidential candidate boldly countering Fox News is.
The Fox News/Google debate won the ratings for the night with 12.5 million viewers. It was also the second lowest rated GOP debate this election cycle.
In the absence of the clown prince, this should have been Cruz’s night. However, Cruz walked down the aisle of his own Red Wedding.
Early in the debate, Cruz took a page from the Trump playbook and threatened to walk off the stage after becoming disgruntled with the questioning by the moderators.
Later during the event, he may have wished he had done so.
Cruz was velociraptored to mythical proportions by his fellow senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio over the issue of immigration.
Discussing the Gang of Eight bill (sponsored by Rubio), Cruz was questioned about an amendment he introduced to the legislation.
The Gang of Eight was a bi-partisan effort at immigration reform. Moderator Megyn Kelly introduced footage from 2013 of Cruz discussing his amendment to allow legalization but not for citizenship.
The Senator passionately defends his series of amendments in the archival footage, claiming the bill would pass if they were adopted.
Cruz has since acknowledged the amendment was a poison pill, introduced to destroy the bill itself.
For all the attacks Cruz has made against his fellow candidates not being tough enough on immigration, this video opened the floodgates for his detractors.
Rand Paul was coiled and ready to strike:
“The bill would involve legalization. He can’t have it both ways. But what is particularly insulting, though, is that he is the king of saying, “You’re for amnesty.” Everybody’s for amnesty except for Ted Cruz.
But it’s a falseness, and that’s an authenticity problem — that everybody he knows is not as perfect as him because we’re all for amnesty.”
Marco Rubio finished Cruz off as if the debate were a final round of “Mortal Kombat.”
“This is the lie that Ted’s campaign is built on, and Rand touched upon it — that he’s the most conservative guy, and everyone else is a — you know, everyone else is a RHINO.”
At this point, I imagine Shao Kahn yelling at Rubio: “Finish him!”
“Now you want to trump Trump on immigration. But you can’t — we’re not gonna beat Hillary Clinton with someone who’s willing to say or do anything to win an election.”
Rubio’s attack on Cruz was far more effective than his swing against Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who he labeled a “socialist” and would be a “good candidate for president of Sweden.” Except, Sweden doesn’t have a president. They have a prime minister.
Seven debates in and the GOP candidates still have yet to have an in-depth discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement, but they came close on Thursday.
Mark Watson, who identified himself as an African-American living near Ferguson, Missouri, submitted a YouTube question to the candidates discussing the recent push for police reform:
“Now, there are great tools like body cameras that — to protect both officers and citizens, but we all currently have better cameras in our pockets than in our precincts. Why aren’t we using the technology available to better protect our communities?”
Rand Paul has shown a genuine passion and an empathetic attention to criminal justice reform. Although he doesn’t specifically answer Mark’s question, the Kentucky Senator does an excellent job of explaining the racial disparity within our current system:
“In Ferguson, for every 100 African-American women, there are only 60 African-American men. Drug use is about equal between white and black, but our prisons — three out of four people in prison are black or brown. I think something has to change. I think it’s a big thing that our party needs to part of, and I’ve been a leader in Congress on trying to bring about criminal justice reform.”
Unlike the usual Trump or Cruz rhetoric, it’s not fear mongering disguised as a policy or view. Paul’s response actually seeks to inform the electorate.
Paul has sponsored the Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act which would restore voting rights for every non-violent felon in the United States.
Joining Democratic Senator Brian Schatz and Democratic Representative Keith Ellison, Paul introduced the Reclassification to Ensure Smarter and Equal Treatment Act of 2015. The RESET Act would reclassify low-level felonies as misdemeanors.
The debate still played the GOP greatest hits. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wrongly implied that federal funds are used by Planned Parenthood for abortion procedures (they’re not). Ted Cruz claimed Obamacare is the “biggest job-killer in this country” (it’s not).
Obamacare was signed into law in March, 2010. The unemployment rate was at 9.9%. Today, the rate is at 5%. Worst. Biggest. Job. Killer. Ever.
Since Trump’s disappearing act, the final Des Moines Register poll before the caucuses shows Trump has reclaimed his top spot from Cruz with 28%. Cruz fell to second place with 23%.
Throughout 2015, Trump has seemingly violated every social expectation of a Presidential candidate. He has attacked the Mexican and black communities, women, the disabled and war veteran John McCain for being a POW.
Skipping a debate should be no big thing.