Image Credit: AP
The four remaining candidates for the Republican presidential nomination clashed in Miami Thursday, making their cases for themselves — and against frontrunner Donald Trump — ahead of a round of critical primaries on Tuesday.
The CNN-sponsored debate had flashpoints over everything from Cuba to the economy, but was marked by a notably more civil and dignified tone than the last showdown, which featured cringeworthy exchanges about the size of hands and other body parts.
Thursday’s debate marked a critical moment for Marco Rubio, who could face an embarrassing defeat to Trump in Florida on Tuesday, while Ted Cruz continued to make his case as the best man to stop the frontrunner from taking over the GOP. John Kasich looked forward to the coming contest in his home state of Ohio.
We captured the night’s highlights below:
1. The debate opened with a discussion about trade.
The debate kicked off with a discussion of free-trade agreements, with the candidates expressing a range of views on the matter.
Kasich called for cracking down on countries that violate the terms of trade agreements.
“My position has always been we want to have free trade, but fair trade,” Kasich said. “And I’ve been arguing all along that it is absolutely critical that when other countries break those agreements, we don’t turn the process over to some international bureaucrat who comes back a couple years later and says, ‘oh, America was right and people are out of work.’ The fact of the matter is we have to have an expedited process.”
Trump cited his experience as a businessman, saying it equipped him with the know-how to change the rules of the global trading game.
“I’m the one that knows how to change it,” he said. “Nobody else on this stage knows how to change it like I do. Believe me.”
Source: Wilfredo Lee/AP
Rubio evinced more optimism on the topic.
“Our people are the most innovative on this planet” he said. “If it’s a free and fair trade deal we can compete against anyone in the world and we need to in the 21st century.”
Meanwhile, Cruz explained his newfound opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement by citing what he called the negative consequences of trade agreements.
“We’re getting killed in international trade right now,” he said. “And we’re getting killed because we have an administration that’s doesn’t look out for American workers and jobs are going overseas.” — Luke Brinker
2. Trump confirmed Ben Carson will endorse him on Friday.
During a discussion of his opposition to the Common Core education standards, Trump confirmed an earlier Washington Post report that he’d soon announce an endorsement from one of his former rivals.
“I was with Dr. Ben Carson today, who is endorsing me, by the way, tomorrow morning, and he is — we were talking. We spoke for over an hour on education. He has such a great handle on it,” Trump said of his former foe, who ended his longshot bid for the GOP nomination a week ago.
Trump said he would ask Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, to weigh on education reform.
The timing of the Carson endorsement matters for several reasons: Besides potentially earning Trump the support of his ex-rival’s backers, it bolsters his argument that he’s the man to unite the GOP on the way to November.
Bonus: Carson lives in winner-take-all Florida, which votes Tuesday. — Celeste Katz
3. Rubio promised not to bankrupt his mother.
Given the chance to clarify his position on entitlement programs, Rubio made clear that he’s not in favor of anything that would bankrupt his mother.
“There are about 3 million seniors in Florida, with Social Security and Medicare. One of them is my mother, who happens to be here today. I’m against any changes to Social Security that are bad for my mother.”
Still, Rubio argued, the long-term fiscal health of the country required entitlement reforms for younger Americans, including gradually increasing the retirement age to 70. — Luke Brinker
4. Rubio and Cruz finally bothered to start attacking Trump.
With everything at stake, Rubio took aim at the frontrunner during a segment on how to keep Social Security solvent.
“You are talking about [saving money by cutting] waste, fraud and abuse,” Rubio said. “An independent bipartisan organization, the committee for a responsible federal budget, says improper payments like you are talking about, that would only save about $3 billion — but it would take $150 billion to make Social Security solvent.”