US Republican Presidential Debate: Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz score points, but will that be enough to top poll leaders Ben Carson and Donald Trump?
If you missed the debate, watch the highlights here
CNBC hosted the third Republican debate on Wednesday that lasted for more than two hours as the top 10 leading GOP candidates debated.
With less than 100 days before the first ballots are cast the campaign has heated up.
Probably the most memorable moment of the GOP debate happened when Senator Ted Cruz took on CNBC moderators for asking questions that had nothing to do with the economy.
Sen Cruz said: “The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media. This is not a cage match and you look at the questions: Donald Trump are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson can you do math? John Kasich will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio why don't you resign? Jeb Bush why have your numbers fallen?
“How about talking about the subsided issues people care about?”
Mr Cruz's attacks drew a huge response from the audience and set the stage for attacks against the media from other candidates as the debate continued. He also drove home the message that he's the only guy with the backbone to stand up to Democrats and leaders in his own party.
Sen Ted Cruz had a good night and if Senator Marco Rubio had not performed so well, Mr Cruz would undoubtedly be the winner of last night's debate.
Florida Senator, Marco Rubio, was good in the first two debates, but in the third debate he was more confident in his policies, took the lead at the debate and brushed off attacks from his former mentor Governor Jeb Bush, when a moderator asked him, “Why don't you slow down and finish what you start?”
Senator Rubio replied: “That's exactly what the Republican establishment say too. 'Why don't you wait in line?' Wait for what? This country is running out of time. Watching this broadcast tonight are millions of people that are living paycheck to paycheck. They're working as hard as they ever have. Everything costs more and they haven't had a raise in decades.”
He added: “The time to act is now; the time to turn the page is now. If we don't act now we are going to be the first generation in American history that leaves our children worse off than ourselves.”
Former Governor Jeb Bush tried to attack Mr Rubio's Senate attendance, by saying: "Marco when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term and you should be showing up to work...Or just resign and let someone else take the job."
Mr Rubio quickly hit back and said: "The only reason you're attacking me is because we are running for the same position and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you."
He repeatedly took tough questions and turned them to his advantage, finding ways to tell his personal story and steer the conversation toward what the GOP needs to do to beat former Secretary of State and Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.
While it's clear that GOP candidate and former neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, is now leading the polls for the Republican Presidential nomination, it was unclear whether his policies are mere fantasies or actual proposals.
Mr Carson has said his tax plan was inspired by the biblical concept of tithing.
He said: "I didn't say the rate would be 10 percent. I used a tithing analogy.... the rate would be much closer to 15 per cent. You also have to get rid of all the deductions and loopholes."
Mr Carson didn't articulate his points or use facts to support them when pressured by the moderators. As some of his facts and figures were questioned and his tax plan was called a “fantasy”, Mr Carson insisted that his numbers were right and it would work with no more explanation than that.
Second in the ranks for the Republican nomination comes Donald Trump, who surprisingly didn't do his usual “Trump” performance. Instead he only had one smack down moment with John Kasich early on in the debate and for the most part stuck to his talking points.
He said: "First of all, John got lucky with a thing called fracking okay; he hit oil...Believe me that's why Ohio is doing well and that's important for you to know.
"Number two, this is the man that was a managing general partner at Lehman Brothers when it went down the tubes...And just thirdly, he was so nice... And he said 'Oh I'm never going to attack' but then his poll numbers tanked...that's why he's on the end and he got nasty. So you know what? You can have him."
Mr Trump also reacted angrily when a moderator asked whether his tax plans and his proposal to build a border wall to keep out Mexican immigrants meant he was running a "comic book" presidential campaign.
He responded by saying: "That's not a very nicely asked question, the way you say that." He went on to defend his tax proposal, saying it would ensure the U.S. economy "would take off like a rocket ship".
Belfast Telegraph Digital