Republican presidential candidates brawled on Thursday February 26 in the last debate before the Super Tuesday primaries on March 1, where frontrunner Donald Trump is expected to cement his status as the almost certain nominee of the fractured Republican party.
The fiery free-for-all involved the three main contenders for the presidency, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, leaving retired surgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Governor John Kasich looking on in the sidelines, nonplussed. Carson mumbled on about the spirit of a person being akin to a fruit salad, and became an instant meme on the internet. The earnest but hapless Kasich was left looking just that – lost in a sea of bullies.
Marco Rubio, the fresh-faced Senator from Florida sought to demolish his image as a robotic repeater of sound bites, or “Marcobot” as his opponents have gleefully called him. And he succeeded to a large degree, landing severe blows on Trump that rattled, but failed to cripple the bellicose billionaire.
The freshman Senator seemed to be on fire, with Ted Cruz of Texas acting as an approving wingman. Rubio leveled a such fusillade of one-liners and put downs that at one point Trump could only come up with two things, calling Rubio a “choke artist” for stumbling in a previous debate, and Cruz a liar for dirty tricks he played in the January Iowa caucuses.
Well, Rubio did not choke Thursday night, as he reveled in laying out Trump’s hypocritical stance on Immigration, use of illegal workers in his company and hiring of foreigners over Americans. Rubio lacerated the businessman for making his clothes in Mexico and China whilst railing against these very countries, and for the myriad of lawsuits Trump has been involved in, notably the fraudulent “Trump University” for which he had to pay a fine.
The brawl spilled out the next day on to the campaign trail, where Rubio and Trump mocked each other, calling each other out for applying “pounds of makeup” before the debate, being drenched in sweat, fear, and some other aspect of waterworks that belonged in a kindergarten yard and not on any presidential stage.
For all his efforts, did Rubio make a dent in the seemingly impenetrable veneer of the Manhattan billionaire? In this cycle, its become clear that voters are tired of establishment candidates and want outsiders who tell it like it is, so the Florida Senator’s efforts might be in vain. Trump represents an amalgam of Independents, Reagan Democrats and Republicans who are completely fed up of a GOP establishment that they feel has failed to deliver on its promises.
Whispers of a brokered convention have been floating around as Republicans come to grips with the new reality of Trump as their frontrunner. It introduces the question, what took so long for frontal attacks such as Rubio’s to be lobbed at Trump? Had Rubio done this six months ago, the bullish billionaire might have been stopped.
Rubio continued his attack Sunday, calling Trump a “clown act” and con-artist, while Cruz the wingman made unsubstantiated allegations of the businessman having mob ties. Trump pushed back with, “Rubio couldn’t be elected dogcatcher”. Trump also seemed unfazed by a phrase he retweeted that has been attributed to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. When questioned Sunday morning by NBC’s Chuck Todd if he wanted to be associated with a fascist, the Manhattan billionaire shrugged. “What difference does it make who wrote it,” he retorted. “I want to be associated with interesting quotes.”
As it stands now, the Republican Party brought this upon itself with a self-annihilating, entrenched opposition to President Barack Obama, in a failed attempt to make his administration fail. The GOP, therefore, should contend with its creation and claim its prize: Donald Trump.