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HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 25:  Donald Trump (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) participate in the Republican presidential debate at the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston on February 25, 2016 in Houston, Texas. The debate is the last before the March 1 Super Tuesday primaries.  (Photo by Michael Ciaglo-Pool/Getty Images )
Rubio and Trump mixed it up throughout Thursday’s debate. (Michael Ciaglo/Pool/Getty Images )

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio went after Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump in Thursday’s debate and gave his strongest performance to date five days ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries.  

Trump, flanked by his two closest pursuers, Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, showed the same bombast as he had in previous debates but was knocked off his game by the Rubio’s relentless attacks.  

Here’s how Republican strategists and campaign operatives saw things:  

“Rubio made it clear that this is a two-person race and made it obvious that Kasich and Carson should drop out imminently.  

“Cruz largely left the field wide open for Rubio to run the ball time after time that he created serious doubt about whether he will be able to carry many of the southern states that are key to his nomination.”  

— Ron Bonjean,  a veteran GOP strategist and former top Capitol Hill communicator

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