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What We Learned from Thursday’s Debate

Cruz let Rubio and Trump duke it out while he stayed above the fray, one veteran strategist said. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Cruz let Rubio and Trump duke it out while he stayed above the fray, one veteran strategist said. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Marco Rubio hit Donald Trump on his business ventures. Sen. Ted Cruz told Donald Trump to count to 10. Trump shifted his position on worker visas. And former GOP nominee Mitt Romney threw out the first pitch.  

Just like previous debates. Trump was riding his momentum while Rubio and Cruz tried to slow it down. But too little, too late?  

Here’s what political analysts and strategists thought of Thursday’s debate:

Race to the bottom: “This debate felt like another repeat performance.  Nothing that happened tonight feels like it will seriously alter the dynamic of the primary.

“Trump and Rubio raced to the bottom again with insults while Cruz performed much better this time by letting them fight it out.

“It is unlikely that this debate changed anyone’s mind from either supporting Trump, Cruz or Rubio.  Another question to be asked is why is John Kasich still in this race?”

— Veteran GOP strategist and Capitol Hill communicator Ron Bonjean

Kasich’s big night: “I thought Kasich did very well.  I thought the Fox anchors posed very tough questions to Trump but he held his own.

“Kasich had a great night.”

— Michigan GOP consultant Stu Sandler

A ton of tension: “I’ve seen about a third of it…. The parts I have seen, I think you can feel the tension that exists in the fracturing of the party right now. It evidences itself more readily in the exchanges and Trump.

“I think Ted Cruz had a very good night tonight and was able to rise above the fray.

“I think Kasich had the night tonight, too, not being drawn into the battle.

“Cruz did nothing to stall his momentum. Rubio continues to be the candidate most willing to take on Trump. The entire race continues to be whether we want Trump to be nominee.”

— Purple Strategies president Bruce Haynes

Fiction makes truth more bearable: “There was a debate tonight? Got caught up watching ‘The American President.’ I would take Andy Shepherd over Donald Trump any day of the week.”

— Pete Seat, a former spokesman to President George W. Bush and Indiana GOP consultant

Romney’s criticism correct: Trump is an embarrassment and it’s madness that other candidates didn’t take him on earlier.

“Everybody was so focused on their lane, they forgot to win the race.

“It was as if Trump was determined to prove everyone that Romney’s point was true.”

— Former Romney strategist Stuart Stevens

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