Republicans weren’t the only ones watching Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate on the Fox Business Network. Democrats were, too, eager to find fodder to attack whomever emerges as the GOP nominee next year. “Sometimes I think that the Republican candidates forget it’s not just Republicans who are watching these debates,” said Democratic National Committee Chairwomen Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, saying the candidates were exposed “pander[ing] to their tea party base.”
Here are six moments from last night’s debate most likely to end up in a Democratic attack ad next year:
No one wants to raise the minimum wage
Raising the minimum wage is widely popular, but all three Republican presidential candidates asked about it Tuesday night said they oppose raising the level. “Wages [are] too high,” Donald Trump said, suggesting wages actually needed to be lowered to create jobs. Dr. Ben Carson agreed, saying the current minimum wage hurts African Americans by limiting the number of entry-level jobs.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said raising the minimum wage in the 21st century would be a “disaster.” “If you raise the minimum wage you’re going to make people more expensive than a machine,” he said.
ImmigrationTrump got in a heated exchange over immigration policy with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, with Kasich calling Trump’s plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants “silly” and “not an adult argument.” Trump praised a program under President Dwight Eisenhower that deported 1.5 million people. He did not mention it was called “Operation Wetback.”
“They’re doing high fives in the Clinton campaign right now when they hear this,” Bush added, knocking Trump’s hardline immigration stance. Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon tweeted, “We actually are doing high-fives right now.”
Bailing out the banks
Asked about Hillary Clinton’s recent comment that she would let banks fail if there were another financial crisis, Bush refused to rule out more bailouts. He first insisted there would be no financial crisis under his watch, but then acknowledged he could not promise that. Kasich also suggested he would rescue the banks, though refused to call it a bailout.
That left Cruz with an opening: “No one gave you an answer [on whether they would bail out the banks]. I will – absolutely not.”
Cruz’s Rick Perry moment
If Texas Sen. Ted Cruz becomes the party’s nominee, he can expect to see this moment again: As he was ticking off five government agencies he would eliminate, he seemed to forget one and repeated the Department of Commerce twice. “Five major agencies that we would eliminate, the IRS, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce and HUD,” he said.
It was reminiscent of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s “oops” moment in the 2012 debate in which he forgot the third federal agency he would eliminate, though it doesn’t play into any preexisting narratives about Cruz.
Trump’s problem with women
If Trump becomes the party’s nominee, Democrats might use a moment from last night’s debate to build on a case they’ve already been making that Trump has a problem with women. “Why does she keep interrupting everybody?” Trump interjected at one point about Carly Fiorina, something he did not ask of the men on stage.
Paul calls popular program “welfare”
If Rand Paul becomes the nominee, he might be tagged for labeling as “welfare” the Earned Income Tax Credit, a popular program to help low and moderate income people with kids that was expanded by Ronald Reagan. Rubio said he wanted to expand the tax credit, but Paul objected. “This is welfare,” he said. “Is it conservative to have new welfare program that is a refundable tax problem?”