Thursday night’s GOP presidential debate proved there’s no love lost between the remaining five candidates as they head into Super Tuesday, but it also showed their penchant for making head-scratching remarks and assertions has also continued undaunted.
The big headline of the night may have been Sen. Marco Rubio’s decision to finally take the fight to the front-runner Donald Trump, but the most memorable lines and exchanges often belonged to others – paging Dr. Ben Carson.
Although his hopes of winning the nomination have winnowed considerably since the primary voting began, Carson has supplanted Sen. Lindsey Graham, perhaps unintentionally, as the wild card in the prime-time debates.
“Fruit salad” When asked about the possibility of choosing a future Supreme Court justice (or a replacement for the late Antonin Scalia, should Obama’s eventual nominee be stonewalled), Carson produced an odd turn of phrase. “The fruit salad of their life is what I will look at,” he told CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer, coining another Carson-ism for the ages.
Attack me, please? Carson’s other classic moment – as per usual he mostly stayed silent amid intense candidate crossfire – is when he half jokingly asked: “Can somebody attack me, please?” He had a point. The candidates have quickly learned that the best way to secure more airtime is to launch a rhetorical bomb at an opponent because you will each get time to parry. This left Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Carson on the outside looking in all night.
Trump’s stand against sweat In what may be a preview of his upcoming line of attack on the hard-charging Rubio, Trump dwelled on the Florida lawmaker’s propensity to produce flop sweat both during and after the debate. The real estate mogul attempted to poke fun at Rubio’s shaky past debate performance prior to the New Hampshire primary (and perhaps his widely panned State of the Union response in 2013 as well) by saying “I thought he came out of the swimming pool.” In a post-debate interview, Trump told reporters “we need someone who doesn’t sweat” in the White House.
Cruz is cool with being unlikable The disdain that many of Cruz’s Senate colleagues have for him has been one of the more prevalent narratives of the 2016 campaign. On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham even went so far as to say if Cruz were murdered on the Senate floor there would be no conviction in a trial. But the Texas lawmaker apparently thinks being hated on Capitol Hill is a strength, not a weakness. When Trump attacked his unpopularity, Cruz countered: “If you want to be liked in Washington, that’s not a good attribute for a president.” He does know that he will have to work with these people to accomplish his agenda, right?
Channeling their inner Trumps For once Trump was not the only candidate tossing out insults. Rubio repeatedly insulted the businessman, questioning his various ventures from starting a “fake school” to allegedly hiring undocumented workers. Not to be outdone, Cruz called out Trump as well, telling the candidate he could “get back on your meds now.” Trump was no wilting violet either. He called Cruz a “basket case” and a “liar” and said Rubio was a “choke artist.” Rubio kept it up on Friday, calling the GOP front-runner a “con artist.”
Dying in the streets Perhaps the strangest, and least informative, exchanges came over the topic of health care. While all of the candidates have been vocal in their opposition to Obamacare and their desire to dismantle it, they remain hazy on how they would replace it to avoid stripping nearly 20 million Americans of their health insurance. Somehow the discourse resulted in Cruz, Trump and Rubio arguing over who would leave Americans to “die on the streets.”