There was no stand out candidate in the first debate of Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election last night. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush remains the most likely candidate to receive the GOP’s nomination (by default), while Senator Marco Rubio from Florida put in a better than expected performance.
Rand Paul, the libertarian Senator from Kentucky, failed to impress, as did Senator Ted Cruz from Texas. But the first Fox News debate will be remembered for the grilling of Donald Trump. The billionaire businessman managed to shock the audience and his fellow candidates with outrageous comments that must surely slow his campaign.
For example, when asked if any of the candidates wouldn’t support the eventual nominee if they weren’t selected, Trump was the only candidate to raise his hand — to a round of booing from the crowd:
‘If I’m the nominee, I will pledge I will not run as an independent. But — and I am discussing it with everybody, but I’m, you know, talking about a lot of leverage. We want to win, and we will win. But I want to win as the Republican. I want to run as the Republican nominee.’
After visiting the southern border last week, Trump has concluded that the Mexican government is much smarter than the ‘stupid’ American one:
‘I was at the border last week. Border Patrol, people that I deal with, that I talk to, they say this is what’s happening. Because our leaders are stupid. Our politicians are stupid. And the Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning. And they send the bad ones over because they don’t want to pay for them. They don’t want to take care of them.’
When asked about political donations (and whether he really is a Republican), Trump explained that he donated to Hillary Clinton and in return, she came to his wedding:
‘Well, I’ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding. You know why? She didn’t have a choice because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good. I didn’t know her money would be used on private jets going all over the world. It was.’
He also blamed political correctness for all of America’s present problems:
‘I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t really have time for total political correctness — and to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China, we lose to Mexico, we lose to everybody.’
Other candidates had tricky times too: Wisconsin governor Scott Walker was boxed into hard-line position on abortion, and avoided saying whether he would let a mother die instead of allow her to have an abortion. Senator Rand Paul continued his cries to end the mass collection of data by the government, arguing that he wants to ‘collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans’ — clearly a simple task.
These debates will happen roughly once a month now until the primary season kicks in early next year. But given that millions of Americans have now been exposed to Trump’s mad rhetoric, it is quite possible that this debate will mark the beginning of the end for his 2016 presidential aspirations.