Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were the big winners of the latest Republican presidential debate — so say political thinkers I interviewed following the battle.
While Donald Trump’s statement that he would support the eventual GOP nominee was certainly newsworthy, it was the clash of sons of Cuban immigrants and the scenario of a nomination fight coming down to Rubio and Cruz that captivated almost everyone.
“A new defining dynamic in Rubio-Cruz” is what emerged from the CNN-sponsored forum in Las Vegas, according to veteran GOP consultant Ford O’Connell. “Daily Caller” blogger Matt Lewis, author of “Too Dumb to Fail,” concluded that “the real action was between Rubio and Cruz.” (Neither Lewis nor O’Connell, nor anyone else on our panel, has a favorite in the presidential contest.)
Consultant O’Connell told me there was “no clear winner, yet three candidates excelled in the debate: Cruz, Rubio, and Trump. That said, we have a new defining dynamic in Rubio-Cruz.
"They canceled each other out on the stage — Rubio bested Cruz on foreign policy and national security, but Cruz outflanked Rubio on immigration. Trump-mania will keep rolling along because a significant portion of the Republican electorate is fed up with ‘politics as usual.’”
In forecasting a protracted clash between first-term Sens. Rubio and Cruz, O’Connell noted that Rubio has mastered presentation and substance, and Cruz, already strong on substance, has perfected the art of using conservative talk-radio buzzwords. Both are effective, depending on your base of support.