Election 2020

Trump’s 'Nimble Navigator' Squished by Cruz, Rubio in Fox Debate

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The four remaining Republican presidential candidates debated in Detroit on Thursday, and Donald Trump got served. Here’s this conservative millennial’s grading:

Winner: Ted Cruz.

It wasn’t even close. He rattled Trump and ran circles around him. He had the best lines, cowed Trump’s childish interruptions, and launched the strongest, most memorable comebacks. Check out these Cruz missiles:

  • As Rubio rattled Trump, Cruz: “Let me ask the voters at home, is this the debate you want playing out in the general election?”
  • “You know, Donald has a tenuous relationship with the truth.”
  • When Trump tried to interrupt,”Count to 10, Donald. Count to 10.”
  • Again: “Breathe, breathe, breathe.”
  • When Trump quoted a CNN poll, Cruz came back: “Well, that’s a very good poll to look to, because that CNN poll showed that head to head Donald Trump loses to Hillary Clinton by 8 points.”

He hit Trump on his four donations to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, his “flexibility” on immigration, and his refusal to release his New York Times tapes. He also dodged every trap laid for him by Trump or the moderators, turning the question about whether he would support any eventual GOP nominee into highlighting his trustworthiness – rewarded by a double-digit home field victory over Trump.

Finally, Cruz had the best opportunities to be presidential, laying out his agenda on Obamacare, taxes, veterans, manufacturing, police, Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, federalism, religious liberty, and the Supreme Court. He even brought in inspiring stories about Rubio’s father and his own father while defining himself as the constitutional conservative. Cruz was credible.

Cruz was in command, with specificity, candor, and humor. A+

Runner-up: Marco Rubio.

Rubio brought the case against Trump and he didn’t let up. He managed to put a spotlight on the fraud that is Trump University and the class action of 5000 plaintiffs certified against Trump (and as a law student, everything I’ve learned shows getting a class certified against you is basically losing the entire case). He also had the funniest line of the evening about Trump doing yoga because he “is very flexible, so you never know.”

However, he looked and sounded slightly off his game. His voice was clearly hoarse, and he seemed tired. But even his weakened voice and complexion showed a certain sobriety. Rubio was an effective attack dog. I give him a B+

Bronze medal: John Kasich

Kasich is the last governor standing, and he finally got some air time. He was strong on the Cleveland schools, and although the “around the world” was an awkward way to begin, he was refreshingly clear on foreign policy. But he stumbled and seemed awkward addressing the question of religious liberty and gay marriage.

Kasich’s claim that he’ll win the nomination seemed far-fetched, but he probably consolidated his support in Ohio, which could deny Trump the Buckeye State’s 66 delegates. I think this was a B-

Loser: Donald Trump

He looked rattled. He lacked energy. And when Cruz told Trump to breathe, Trump was cowed. Trump did what he was told, just like Trump will expect the military to do when he tells them to kill women and children.

Trump also shockingly undermined his toughness on immigration, admitted that victims of Trump University had a successful class certified in court against him, and had no response besides “oops” on his flip-flops on Afghanistan and Syrian refugees. His only response to Rubio was to call him “Little Marco,” and he called Cruz “Lion Ted” (I think he meant lying Ted, but it definitely sounded like he said “lion”).

And when he claimed abolishing the Department of Education and EPA could fill the deficit left by his tax policies, the moderators had empirical data on screen disproving him.

And do I even need to mention that Trump made a comment about, um, a certain part of his anatomy?

The “nimble navigator” centipede got squished. Just like his Better Business Bureau rating from Trump University, he gets a D-

Tonight was a good night for conservatism. The Veloci-Cubans distracted and attacked Trump, making Cruzio look better and better.