Last night’s Republican debate made it clear that Republican primary voters have a clear choice between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, or for that matter, a clear choice between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio.
Both Cruz and Rubio rattled Trump’s cage rather severely last night, and some of the mystical sheen that has surrounded Trump like a deflector shield was stripped away. More of the real Donald Trump was exposed for all to see.
Rubio in particular got under Trump’s skin through his bare-knuckle attacks. The proof that Rubio had the best night of anyone on the platform is that Trump used most of his post-debate interview to attack, insult, and degrade Marco for being a guy that can’t handle pressure and is a major-league perspirer.
Trump also reached into his name-calling bag of tricks during the debate, labeling Rubio a “choke artist” and Cruz “a liar” and “a basket case.” He insulted both Telemundo (“I don’t believe anything Telemundo says”) and Hugh Hewitt (“nobody listens to his show.”)
Along the way, Trump excoriated former Mexican president for his very public use of a profanity this week, apparently hoping voters will turn a blind eye to his own penchant for the use of vulgar language.
In the debate, Rubio skewered Trump for hiring foreign workers to take American jobs at his Florida resorts. He reminded viewers of the illegal alien Polish workers Trump hired to help build the Trump Tower and the $1 million he had to cough up to settle fraud claims in that case.
When Trump reminded everyone that he is the only one on stage who had ever hired anybody, Rubio responded sharply by saying none of them had driven four businesses into bankruptcy either. In a post-debate interview, Trump laughably claimed that the IRS audits him relentlessly because he is such “a strong Christian.” Even Chris Cuomo’s eyebrows shot up on that one.
Cruz skewered Trump on his plans to deport 12 million illegal aliens and then bring the vast majority of them - “the good ones” - right back in despite having broken our laws. Cruz reminded viewers that the law requires deportation and they would not be granted amnesty and re-admittance under a Cruz presidency.
Cruz also reminded voters that while he was almost singlehandedly fighting Marco Rubio and the GOP establishment on the Gang of Eight amnesty bill, Trump was busy "firing Dennis Rodman on Celebrity Apprentice."
Rubio skewered Trump over his upcoming fraud trial on Trump University, where folks paid up to $36,000 to be taught the secrets to generating wealth and were left with little more than a picture of themselves next to a cardboard cutout of Trump.
Cruz also skewered Trump for his enthusiastic support for Planned Parenthood. Unfazed, Trump claimed again that “millions and millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood.” Trump falsely included breast cancer detection as one of its services, when the plain truth is that no Planned Parenthood clinic in America has ever offered mammograms. Ever.
And Trump trotted out the myth that abortion is only 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. Yet Planned Parenthood kills a thousand babies a day. Trump’s praise for this baby-killing behemoth is a little bit like saying gassing Jews is only a tiny part of what the Nazis did, since Josef Mengele supplied dental services too.
Cruz and Rubio both skewered Trump for his neutrality toward Israel with whom we share a spiritual heritage. Israel is our oldest and most trusted ally in the Middle East, and the only freedom-loving democracy in the entire region. When Trump loudly trumpeted his negotiating skills, Rubio tartly reminded him that “the Palestinians are not a real estate deal.”
And Cruz skewered Trump for falsely claiming he’d never said government would pay for everybody’s healthcare, when he said that very thing to Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes. The Cruz campaign cranked out an ad almost immediately after the debate featuring Trump’s own words contradicting himself.
Bottom line: last night’s debate made it abundantly clear that conservatives have distinct choices between the top three candidates on style and tone, Planned Parenthood, illegal immigration, amnesty, healthcare, and Israel, just for starters. Will these pronounced differences affect the way evangelicals and other conservatives vote? We’ll find out Tuesday.