Last night was the last Republican debate before Super Tuesday, and the results make Donald Trump’s coronation as the Republican nominee look a little less inevitable.
Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio double-teamed Trump last night, pinning him down on every issue imaginable, forcing him to stutter and repeat himself, and exposing him for the showman that he is. It was impressive. It was necessary. And it might just be enough to slow down the Trump train.
If Rubio can win two or three states on Super Tuesday and take second in some of the others, he will have effectively ended Cruz’s campaign. Other than Trump, Rubio has the easiest path to the nomination at this point. He will likely be helped due to his extremely strong debate performance last night.
What made Rubio’s performance so brilliant was the fact that he took Trump’s annoying seventh-grade tactics and used them against him. He frequently interrupted Trump, causing him to stumble over his words. He mocked Trump with his wit and humor. He pinned him down on the issues, forcing him to admit that he would treat conflict between Israel and Palestine as he would treat a real-estate deal.
Rubio was the one who drew the most blood on Trump, but he was not without help from Cruz. Cruz executed his strategy in a more lawyerly fashion. Instead of attacking Trump with Trump’s own tactics, Cruz tried to pin Trump on the issues. To be sure, he did do so extremely effectively several times – for instance, he pointed out the fact that Trump openly praised Planned Parenthood, a criminal organization responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of preborn humans each year.
However, Rubio’s attacks were more devastating than Cruz’s, and here’s why: This race is not about policy. It is about who is willing to stand up to the bully. It is about who is willing to take the cheap shot. And Rubio did that very effectively last night.
Cruz still has a small chance at being the nominee. He will have to win Texas, win several other states on Super Tuesday, and then gain back the momentum that he lost after winning Iowa. When the ball gets rolling for Cruz, it may be hard to stop – however, he is rapidly running out of time, and one would question how long he would stay in the race if he had a disappointing showing on Super Tuesday.
Cruz and Rubio combined still do not have as good of a chance as Trump does of being the Republican nominee. But they have shown that they can draw blood effectively. Now all that is left is for one of them to capitalize.
Watch the major debate highlights here: