News & Politics

GOP Debate: Cruz Deftly Dodges the Donald

Donald Trump, left, and Ted Cruz react during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Ted Cruz: 3 Donald Trump: 1

At Thursday night’s GOP debate, Texas Senator Ted Cruz responded to two budding attacks against his candidacy, removing media mogul Donald Trump’s most powerful ammunition against him. Trump did get a word in edgewise, however, in standing up for New York conservatives.

In recent weeks, Trump has raised questions about whether Cruz’s birth in Canada disqualifies him from becoming president. Cruz responded to this “birther” attack with gusto. In September, “my friend Donald said he had his lawyers look at this in every which way [and] there was nothing to this birther issue.” But since then, the senator explained, his rising poll numbers have threatened Trump, so Trump decided to attack him anyway.

But Cruz didn’t stop there. He added that, according to some more extreme “birther theories,” a president’s parents must both have been born on U.S. soil. This would disqualify Senator Marco Rubio, Governor Bobby Jindal, and even Donald Trump, since his mother was born in Scotland. “Donald, I’m not going to use your mother’s birth against you,” Cruz quipped.

On Wednesday night, the New York Times attacked Cruz for failing to disclose a $1 million loan from Goldman Sachs for his 2012 U.S. Senate candidacy. Pundits expected Trump to bludgeon his rival with this information, but Cruz deftly dismissed the attack early on. Cruz acknowledged the loan, and that he had failed to file it with the Federal Election Commission, but he had filed it previously with the U.S. Senate. He made “a paperwork error,” nothing more.

Trump’s one strong attack on Cruz came after the Texas senator blasted “New York values,” saying, “Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan.” The Donald shot him down hard, name-dropping National Review founder William F. Buckley, and recalling the solidarity of New York City after the 9-11 attacks. “That was a very insulting statement that Ted made,” Trump hit back.

Both Trump and Cruz performed strongly on Thursday, while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie threw some powerful jabs at Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who seemed less adept than usual. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson showed everyone he had done his homework, and Ohio Governor John Kasich reminded conservatives about his strong budget record. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush got in a few lines, but Cruz and Trump definitely stole the show.