The word going into the second televised debate of the top 11 Republican presidential contenders was that CNN wanted to get the candidates to fight with each other–and tackle the well-coiffed gorilla in the room, Donald Trump.
Mission accomplished, for the most part.
Several Republicans piled on Mr. Trump, the bombastic real estate developer who leads in all the recent polls. Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. Scott Walker, former Gov. Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina and Sen. Rand Paul all took their cuts. Mr. Trump, not surprisingly, punched right back.
So a lot happened in this three-hour debate. The Observer watched it all. Here’s a quick rundown.
RED-FACED DONALD TRUMP IS REAL
It seems like they finally got under the Donald’s skin.
Ms. Fiorina, the ex-Hewlett Packard CEO, was the target of Mr. Trump’s wrath in a Rolling Stone interview after the developer mocked her looks. Ms. Fiorina cooly shot back: “Women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”
Tonight, she came out swinging, also blasting Mr. Trump for presiding over business entities that filed for bankruptcy four times. She made the most of her promotion to the main stage and may enjoy a bump in the polls after tonight. Mr. Trump was in a rare position: on the defensive.
“They could care less about your careers,” Mr. Christie fumed, trying to occupy a high ground over the Trump-Fiorina scuffle. “You’re both successful people, congratulations.”
Mr. Paul, increasingly irrelevant in the crowded field, said Mr. Trump was “sophomoric.”
Mr. Bush, a frequent target for Mr. Trump, demanded Mr. Trump apologize to his wife when he allegedly said Mr. Bush would have a “soft spot” for Mexicans because his wife is Mexican. Mr. Trump did not apologize.
The two men ended up low-fiving (?) at the end of the debate, just because.
JEB BUSH APOLOGIZED TO HIS MOM FOR SMOKING WEED
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is still a star in the Republican Party, but he did not do himself any favors tonight. He shot himself in the foot before the debate even began, joking about bringing a bottle of
JAKE TAPPER REALLY WANTED EVERYONE TO FIGHT
Just about every question from Mr. Tapper, the CNN moderator, was some version of “candidate X said something bad about you, how do you respond?” The technique, plenty repetitive and tiresome, nevertheless created enough fireworks. Mr. Trump and Ms. Fiorina battled over their business records. Mr. Trump and Mr. Bush fought over whether Mr. Bush should speak Spanish. Mr. Tapper tried to bait Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon popular with evangelicals, into ripping Mr. Trump’s plan to build a massive and expensive wall along the Mexican border. Mr. Carson passed.
HILLARY CLINTON EMERGED RELATIVELY UNSCATHED
For all the rage over Obamacare, Planned Parenthood and America’s struggles under a Democratic president, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination was hardly mentioned until the latter half of the debate. Rather, the Republicans used their time to devour each other. Ms. Fiorina, Mr. Walker and Mr. Christie tried—the former Hewlett-Packard CEO most memorably, assailing what she called a record of “lying” about everything from the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi to her infamous emails. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, on the other hand, said he preferred to talk about his own record. “Don’t worry about Hillary,” he said, promising to beat her in Ohio.
Mr. Walker was once a front-runner for the Republican nomination, a hero to conservatives for breaking unions, a Reagan acolyte who was viewed as the best candidate to bridge the divide between the Republican establishment and evangelicals. Instead, he got less speaking time as ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a major long-shot. The Wisconsinite got lost in the shuffle.
WE’RE NOT GOING TO PROVIDE ANY CONTEXT FOR THIS ONE
“I think she’s got a beautiful face and I think she’s a beautiful woman,” Mr. Trump said to Ms. Fiorina.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.