The fifth Republican presidential candidate debates have come and gone, leaving a trail of one liners and heated dust-ups in their wake.
Amid the high stakes drama were a number of head-scratching and eye-rolling moments during both the prime-time and undercard face-offs. Tuesday night’s debates, the last Republican debate of this calendar year, have been hailed as perhaps the best of the season to date. Here are just a few of the moments viewers are buzzing about today:
Lindsey Graham gets movie quote happy: Despite his consistently low standing in the polls, the South Carolina senator always seems pretty ginned up when he takes the undercard debate stage. He was particularly enthusiastic about landing a joke utilizing Sen. Ted Cruz’s appreciation for the cult comedy “The Princess Bride.” An exasperated Graham called Cruz’s position on Syria “inconceivable,” and when that got a mild laugh he added that the fictional Princess Buttercup would not approve.
The elusive ”purple unicorn”: While critiquing what he perceives to be the naivete of the Obama administration and some Congressional Republicans’ approach to arming Syrian rebels, Sen. Ted Cruz dug into his fandom of fantasy fiction. He claimed the notion of “moderate” rebels was akin to the concept of a “purple unicorn.” “They never exist,” lamented Cruz. Why purple you ask? Nobody knows.
John Kasich channels “Creed”: So far, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has differentiated himself as one of the more moderate, demure voices in the 2016 campaign. Perhaps in an effort to assert his tough guy bonafides, the governor suggested that it might be time for the U.S. to start “punching Russians in the nose.” “They’ve gotten away with too much in this world and we need to stand up against them, not just there, but also in Eastern Europe where they threaten some of our most precious allies,” he added. Kasich didn’t further elaborate on how exactly our nation should go about throwing haymakers at Russia.
Chris Christie channels “Mad Men”: In one of the many casually sexist moments in these first few GOP debates, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appeared to suggest that mothers and fathers would have a distinctly different reaction to the terrorism scare that temporarily shut down schools in Los Angeles earlier on Tuesday. “Think about the mothers who will take those children tomorrow morning to the bus stop, wondering if their children will arrive back on that bus safe and sound. Think about the fathers of Los Angeles who tomorrow will head off to work and wonder about the safety of their wives and their children,” Christie said. Turns out, women make up 40% of the workforce in California. Whoops.
Opening up the heads of children?: By now, debate watchers are used to Dr. Ben Carson making allusions to his storied career as a neurosurgeon. But his reference to opening up the heads of kids to remove tumors when asked about the possibility of unintended casualties in the fight against ISIS may have been his most awkward yet. “They’re not happy about it, believe me,” Carson said. Something tells us viewers weren’t happy about hearing that grisly analogy either.
Cruz continues to criminalize Democrats: Just a few days after declaring that most “violent criminals” are Democrats, Sen. Cruz returned to the theme in an attempt to deflect a question regarding Donald Trump’s call for a halt on all Muslim emigration to the United States. Cruz quipped: “I’m reminded of what FDR’s grandfather said. He said, ‘All horse-thieves are Democrats, but not all Democrats are horse-thieves.’” The line got a laugh, but could alienate potential swing voters should Cruz become the general election nominee.
“Penetrate”: It was odd, to say the least, to see this awkward word uttered not once, but three times on a debate stage. Donald Trump went there first, suggesting that the U.S. needs to “penetrate” the Internet to somehow prevent ISIS from using it. Gov. Kasich used the word twice while weighing in on the same topic. “We need to be able to penetrate these people when they are involved in these plots and these plans. And we have to give the local authorities the ability to penetrate to disrupt,” he said. Luckily, no one said that word again and hopefully it won’t be making a comeback.
The coughing culprit: A particularly vicious cough nearly upstaged Tuesday night’s debate. One of the candidates appeared to cough directly into their microphone off-screen which led to a fierce online debate to determine which Republican contender was responsible. It turns out it was Dr. Carson, who is apparently suffering from a cold. “We all caught something a month ago, and he, like me, keeps a bagging cough for weeks,” Carson’s communications director Doug Watts told ABC News. “No, not sick, just working through this cough. Almost gone.”
The phantom heckler: A heckler was briefly heard shouting during one of Donald Trump’s answers. According to Dylan Byers of CNN, the protester was Kai Newkirk, a member of the group 99 Rise. Later Newkirk tweeted: “I just disrupted #GOPDebate 2 call 4 free & fair elections not billionaire auctions. It’s time 4 a #DemocracySpring.” Of course, protests have become commonplace for Trump at this point. He was interrupted 10 times at one North Carolina rally earlier this month alone.
Trump is ‘very sad’ about CNN: No round-up of odd debate moments would be complete without a Trump tangent. At one point during the debate, he appeared to slam host network CNN for covering him too much, which was strange considering the fact that one of his favorite talking points is his high poll numbers and his ability draw big ratings on television. He criticized the fact that candidates like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee were forced to respond to ‘Trump said this, Trump said that’ questions. “I think it’s very sad that CNN leads Jeb Bush, Governor Bush, down a road by starting off virtually all the questions, “Mr. Trump this, Mister” – I think it’s very sad. And, frankly, I watched – I think it’s very sad,” Trump said.