August 1, 2021

THE LAST GOP DEBATE BEFORE NEW HAMPSHIRE – IN A NUTSHELL

Rubio momentum derailed by Christie attacksThe final Republican debate before New Hampshire voters head to the primary polls kicked off with confusion – due to ABC News mix-ups over candidate introductions – and included several testy moments of back-and-forth among contenders, most notably between Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio, and a much-anticipated broach of the topic of the week: The Ted Cruz-Ben Carson Iowa caucus flap.

The call to candidates to enter the stage about 8 p.m. Eastern Time was a bit of a bumpy ride, that saw a somewhat baffled Carson standing awkwardly by as ABC announcers skipped him and called instead on Trump, and then, nearly simultaneously, on Rubio. Rubio walked onto the stage, while Trump opted to stand backstage with Carson. Announcers ultimately forgot to announce Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and had to be reminded of his absence by Rubio.

“Yes, yes, we’re going to introduce … Governor John Kasich,” one ABC announcer said, while another commented about the loud applause.

Following, the questions began – and one of first to Carson dealt with his accusations at the Iowa caucuses that Cruz campaign officials purposely and falsely spread the news he was suspending his run for the White House.

Carson turned the question into a joke, saying when ABC failed to introduce him as scheduled, he thought the news outlet was showcasing him as dropped from the race. He then said: “I will say I was very disappointed that members of [Cruz’s] team thought so little of me that they thought … I would just walk away 10 minutes before the caucus and say ‘forget about you guys.’ … Unfortunately, it did happen [and] it gives us a very good example of certain types of Washington ethics. … That’s not my ethics. My ethics is you do what’s right.”

Cruz responded by speaking of the friendship he and his wife had developed with Carson and his wife, and said he had telephoned to apologize for the mistake.

“Ben is a good and honorable man,” Cruz said, “and I apologized to him then and I do now.”

Cruz also doubled down on earlier explanations of the mix-up, faulting CNN’s reports and saying his team was simply forwarding news that had been broadcast.

From there, the three-hour debate headed into nearly every policy direction, from immigration to ISIS to jobs.

The big interest to emerge was not Donald Trump, who – unlike previous debate – fielded about the same, if not less, questions than other stage competitors. Rather, it was the fireworks between Christie and Rubio, following questions about the senator’s experience and ability to serve in the executive White House role.

The outcome of the debate was aptly summed by one blunt Politico headline that read: “Rubio chokes.”

As the subhead explained, “The Florida senator went into Saturday night’s GOP debate with momentum. He ended it as a viral glitch sensation.”

The last couple days’ polls put Rubio as a rising contender, in a three-way race with Trump and Cruz. But after New Hampshire’s sparks, and Christie’s concerted and well-executed attacks, the next polls may not be so kind.

The back-and-forth began after Rubio spoke of his accomplishments, including his defense of Floridians from eminent domain abuse and his sanction of terrorist groups, and then wrapped with his signature reminder of America’s greatness and need to recoup Founding Father values and visions.

Christie pounced, drawing a difference between his governor experience and Rubio’s senator background.

“Every morning when a United States senator wakes up, they think about what kind of speech can I give, or what kind of bill can I drop,” Christie said. “Every morning when I wake up, I think about what kind of problem I need to solve for the people who elected me. It’s a different experience.”

He went on, speaking to Rubio: “You have not been involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable. The fact is when you talked about the Hezbollah Sanctions Act [sanctioning terrorist groups], you weren’t even there to vote for it. That’s not leadership; that’s truancy.”

Christie wrapped by saying he liked Rubio, “but he simply does not have the experience” to serve as president.

Rubio fought back, speaking of the credit rating downgrade he said New Jersey suffered under Christie’s leadership and then seguing into the greatness of America. But Christie jumped in: “That’s what Washington, D.C., does, the drive by shot at the beginning with incorrect and incomplete information and then the memorized 25 second speech.”

Christie finished: “When you’re president, when you’re governor … the memorized speech doesn’t solve one problem.”

Moderators then brought up the breaking news of North Korea’s long-range missile firing, as reported by WND, and asked for candidates’ reactions.

Cruz called the launch a “direct result of the first Clinton administration” and its relaxed sanctions, and warned “what we see with North Korea is a foreshadow of what we’ll see with Iran.”

Kasich said “we’ve got to step up the pressure,” “have to be very tough,” and “we should impose same kind of sanctions on North Korea that we have on Iran.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: “If a preemptive strike is necessary [on the launch pad, for instance], the we should do it.”

Trump: “I think we have a president who is completely incompetent … [China] has good control over North Korea. They have tremendous control … I would get on with China, let China solve that problem. They can solve it quickly and surgically.”

Notable on immigration was Kasich’s insistence to “finish the border [and] lock our doors” at the border, then “get on the pathway” to legalize the 11.5 million illegals currently in the country.

“I believe they should pay some back taxes, pay a fine, then get on the pathway,” Kasich said.

Cruz’s plan on immigration was point blank: He referenced the 11-page plan on his campaign website and its bullet promises to build a wall, triple border patrol, combine technology with “boots on the ground” to enforce laws, use biometrics on visas. implement eVerify on businesses, cut tax dollars for sanctuary cities and end welfare for illegals.

“Federal immigration law provides if somebody is here illegally, they are to be deported,” Cruz said.

More fireworks flew between Rubio and Christie over immigration, after Rubio was asked if he ran from his Gang of Eight legislation, or fought in its defense, when questioned about it on his presidential campaign.

Rubio didn’t answer directly, but spoke of what immigration reform was necessary in the present day and age. Christie then called him a dodger.

“Again, this is the difference between being governor and accountable and not answering a question,” Christie said. “It’s abundantly clear he didn’t answer the question.”

On health care, Trump vowed to repeal Obamacare and replace it with “something so much better,” adding ” we’re not going to let anyone die on the street.” Carson spoke of his “health empowerment account” idea and suggested Americans check out the details on his campaign website.

On the future of conservatism, Kasich spoke about the need to grow the economy, but also “reach out to people who live in the shadows,” like drug addicts and minorities.

And Trump insisted he was a true conservative, based on the definition that conservatives want to “conserve our country, save our country,” “be smart,” and “conserve our money.”

He added: “It’s a very important word and it’s a word I believe in strongly.”

Rubio, meanwhile, defined conservatism as “limited government,” “about free enterprise,” and “about strong national defense.”

On jobs and the economy, Trump advocated a lower tax rate to bring back companies that have left, or are in process of leaving, the country; Christie credited Kasich for a fine record of jobs growth in Ohio, but said New Jersey has cut spending at the same time.

On ISIS, Cruz said the best defense for America against terrorism would start with a strong message from the White House, followed by a loosening of some of the rules of engagement; Rubio spoke of strengthening alliances with Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia; Trump, of taking a stronger and more aggressive approach.

“We give notice we’re going to bomb,” he said. “We don’t want to bomb because we don’t want to hurt [them] … pollute the atmosphere. … When you take away their wealth, take banks, oil … they’ll become a weakened power quickly.”

Trump also said when asked about waterboarding: “I would bring back waterboarding and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

Bush disagreed: “No, I wouldn’t. … We need to make sure we expand our intelligence.”

Other topics discussed: How to successfully work in a highly partisan atmosphere; the rising trend of heroin abuse; police relations; Zika and government-imposed quarantines; women in the military and a gender-blind draft; veterans’ issues; and same-sex marriage and abortion, as they pertain to younger voters.

And their final thoughts?

Notable last lines, from each other candidate’s 60-second sound-offs:

Kasich: “Please give me a chance to come back.”

Christie: “I’ve focused … on serving the people who’ve given me a chance to serve them.”

Bush: “I believe I have the skills to take our party to victory in November.”

Carson: “Guess what? I’m still here. And I’m not going any place either.”

Rubio: “We will unite this party … we will defeat Hillary Clinton.”

Cruz: “We can turn this country around if we get back to the Constitution.”

Trump: “If I’m elected president, we will win and we will win and we will win.”

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