On January 14, 2016 the seven leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president met in North Charleston, South Carolina, in a debate hosted by the FOX Business Channel and moderated by Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo.
Two hours earlier, the three candidates who had not polled high enough for inclusion in the “primetime” debate took part in an “undercard” debate: Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum. Missing from this group, noticeably, was Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who had said earlier he would not attend either debate without an invitation to the later, better-watched version. Paul, after failing to convince the RNC and FOX Business that a late Iowa poll qualified him to be on the main stage, skipped both debates altogether opting instead to tweet his way through the event.
On stage, Carly Fiorina dominated the conversation and came off the clear winner, a small feat given the state of Huckabee and Santorum’s failing campaigns. Fiorina started early and aggressively, saying “Unlike another woman in this race, I actually love spending time with my husband.” The rest of the hour, understandably, was hardly subdued.
In case you missed the primetime debate, which began at 9pm Eastern, we’ve assembled some of the most notable moments below:
Ted Cruz Stands Up To Trump’s Birtherism
Donald Trump is a master at stirring up mindless controversy, most recently with his I-didn’t-say-it-but assertions that Ted Cruz’s being born in Canada, even to an American parent, might make him open to a lawsuit from the Democrats should he become the eventual nominee. Cruz, a former college debate champion, was clearly ready for the question of his eligibility to be raised, and when it was, he didn’t hold back. What follows is a masterclass on turning your opponent’s arguments against them: not only did Ted Cruz refute completely the claims that he would be ineligible as a candidate for president, but he also raised questions about Trump’s insistence on raising the issue, forcing him to admit that he did so because Cruz was threatening him in Iowa. Moreover, Cruz cleverly bring up questions about Trump’s own maternal heritage.
Marco Rubio Calls Out Ted Cruz’s Flip-Flopping
After taking a few jabs for his moderate immigration record, Marco Rubio listed moments of Ted Cruz’s political opportunism, first on immigration and then on topics as wide ranging as ethanol subsidies and Edward Snowden. It sounded like, an entire Cruz opposition research folder in one response. But it did pump the brakes on a night filled mostly by Cruz, who after the debate was polling second behind Donald Trump in Iowa. The ensuing exchange offers a compact glimpse into the rancor of Senate politics when they explode onto the presidential stage.
Chris Christie is Coming for Barack Obama
With one of the most-tweeted lines of the night, Chris Christie promised, perhaps forgetting that the President’s second term is coming to a close, that “We are going to kick your rear end out of the White House come this fall.” The line doesn’t mean much, but the sentiment does: Republican primary voters are tired of what they view as a series of betrayals surrounding the use of executive power during this administration. The White House is more than a residence — it’s a seat of executive power.
Ben Carson on Civility
Asked about Bill Clintons past “indiscretions,” Ben Carson took the opportunity to examine a political culture that he says has lost its values and principles. Calling out everything from Internet comment sections to various “wars” — gender, race, age, income, religious — Carson characterized the tone of the presidential campaign thus far, and posed the question: “Where did that spirit come from in America?”
Trump and Cruz on “New York Values”
Shortly after he was taken down a peg over his attacks on Ted Cruz’s citizenship, Donald Trump won the crowd back with a counter jab about “New York values,” a vague term Ted Cruz had used o distance the billionaire from the mostly-rural voters of Iowa and New Hampshire. Before the debate, when Cruz was asked to define “New York values,” a term usually laden with antisemitic overtones, Cruz said that the voters he was trying to reach, who apparently share his suspicions of east coast elites, understood what he meant. Recalling his experience in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, though, Trump ended the discussion, perhaps for good.
Christie and Rubio on the Value Added Tax
In a surprisingly meaty policy discussion, the merits of a value added tax — which taxes transactions, presumably to allow for a lower income tax — Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz sparred over the technical details surrounding the ambitious proposal. Cruz offered his tax plan, including a “business flat tax” that resembled a VAT, as a method of eliminating a slew of other tax programs and making tax returns “fit on a postcard.” Rubio countered that such a radical change would necessarily require expanding the tax collecting capabilities of the federal government and, for the first time in a while, a discussion of tax policy was informed, civil, and constructive.
Christie on Obama’s “Storyland” State of the Union
Capitalizing on conservative voters’ frustrations with Barack Obama’s foreign policy, Chris Chistie took a question on the use of military force to examine the Obama administration’s seeming unwillingness to ascribe global political and military events the weight they deserve. “I’m glad to have heard from you in the summary of that question about what’s going on in the world, because on Tuesday night, I watched story time with Barack Obama, and I’ve got to tell you,” Christie said, “It sounded like everything in the world was going amazing, you know?”