Winners, Losers From the GOP Debate

Trump scared off almost all of the competition
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2015 3:53 AM CST
Updated Dec 16, 2015 6:03 AM CST
Ben Carson, left, Ted Cruz, center, and Donald Trump speak during a break at the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian on Tuesday in Las Vegas.   (AP Photo/John Locher)
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(Newser) – Republican candidates held their final debate of the year in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, and while there was no shortage of big lines, one of the night's strongest performances may have been too little, too late from a struggling candidate. Here's what the pundits are saying:

  • Donald Trump managed to emerge as the winner despite a performance that was middling at best, according to John Dickerson at Slate, who notes that candidates were competing to show "strength and toughness" in the foreign policy debate, "which meant the debate took place on Trump's turf." Anthony Zurcher at the BBC notes that the other candidates seemed largely unwilling to tangle with Trump, with the candidate's proposed ban on Muslims entering the US attracting only "tepid condemnation."

  • Jeb Bush, the candidate who challenged Trump the most, had his best and most spirited debate performance yet, though analysts suspect the impressive performance isn't going to budge his low poll numbers. "Donald, you're not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency," Bush quipped in an exchange that Steve Peoples at the AP describes as the "kind of moment Bush supporters had been desperate for in the year's first four prime-time debates."
  • Marco Rubio had a good night, showing once again that he is "the best natural debater in the field" and winning a heated exchange with Ted Cruz over NSA data collection, writes Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post. Mike Allen at Politico calls Rubio the "Barack Obama of 2008," a "gifted communicator and performer" who can rise to big moments.
  • Chris Christie's strong debate performances have helped fuel a modest rise in the polls and he "acquitted himself well" once again on Tuesday, "especially when he contrasted his executive experience as a governor with the work of the three senators onstage," writes Niall Stanage at the Hill.
  • Ted Cruz "had a mixed night," decides Allen, noting that he "looked afraid of Trump" and "rather than breaking with him, he smooched harder." His multiple exchanges with Rubio, including one on immigration, made both men appear to be "the candidates on the rise, right behind Trump," writes Stanage.
  • Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, and Rand Paul largely failed to get the kind of standout moments their campaigns badly need at this stage. Paul was in a "fighting mood," but nobody was interested in sparring with him and he was "effectively shut out by the overwhelming opposition to his foreign policy views present on stage," writes Jeremy Diamond at CNN.
  • Ben Carson did little to reassure people concerned that he has a poor grasp of foreign policy. "Time and again when asked about foreign policy and national security, Carson would say lots of words but very few of them made sense together," Cillizza writes.
Carson did, however, make headlines for this move. (Read more Republican debate stories.)

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