Donald Trump gave American voters an opportunity by boycotting Thursday night’s Republican debate: to see the other major presidential candidates in action without his domineering presence.
The result was revealing. Jeb Bush relaxed and owned his GOP “establishment” identity. He was, dare we say, almost joyful. Rand Paul returned to his libertarian roots. Chris Christie got to be the blunt-talking Jersey guy.
But the main show centered on Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – the top two Republican candidates in national polls after Mr. Trump – who pummeled each other over immigration and the fight against the Islamic State.
“This sans-Trump debate was much more substantive, which might not help ratings, but it certainly helped voters,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.