Wednesday, October 28, 2015
A breakout moment for Cruz and Rubio, but will GOP voters respond?
BOULDER, Colo. — For most of this year, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) have been lurking in the background of the Republican presidential campaign. On Wednesday night, they broke out into the open, delivering strong and forceful performances in a raucous and rambling Republican debate marked by squabbling and sharp elbows.
In Republican circles, Rubio has been the focus of the most attention to date, despite relatively weak poll numbers and more potential than actual performance. He probably gained considerable credibility Wednesday night, particularly with fundraisers. Whether he can convert that into popular support remains the biggest question about his candidacy.
Cruz occupies a different space in the GOP race: the hard-line conservative who has worn as a badge of honor his battles with Republican leaders in Washington and regularly espousing his belief that what the party needs is a nominee who can genuinely articulate the conservative principles that much of the base embraces.
Rubio took Bush’s question and went on the offense, accusing his rival of trying to take him down to save his own campaign. “The only reason why you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you,” he said.
“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media,” Cruz said. “This is not a cage match.”
Cruz also drew a contrast with the recent Democratic debate, saying those candidates had drawn only fawning questions. “Nobody watching at home believed that any of the moderators had any intention of voting in a Republican primary,” he said.
The third debate of the pre-primary season came at a time when two of the outsiders in the crowded field continued to dominate the Republican race. But it also came at a time of volatility and greater uncertainty than a month ago, as some national and state polls began to shift away from Trump and toward Carson.
The Republican race has defied almost everyone’s expectations this year, and there is no consensus among veteran Republican strategists about what the future holds. Wednesday’s debate might have offered a preview of what’s to come.
Dan Balz is Chief Correspondent at The Washington Post. He has served as the paper’s National Editor, Political Editor, White House correspondent and Southwest correspondent.
Posted by Mladen Andrijasevic at 10:50 PM