Thursday marked the sixth Republican presidential debate and the GOP's first public showdown of election year 2016. Fox Business Network hosted the event, and the main debate, which began at 9 p.m. Eastern, featured seven candidates — frontrunner Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
According to the Associated Press, the most vocal candidate during the debate was not the GOP's top polling candidate, but rather Trump's No. 1 challenger (for now), Cruz. During the debate, Cruz spoke for a total of 18 minutes, 26 seconds in responding to 10 questions.
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And although Trump answered more questions than any other candidate — 18 — his talking time ran 17 minutes, 58 seconds, according to the AP. Christie came in third for talking time, speaking for 14 minutes, 7 seconds, followed by Bush, who spoke for 12 minutes, 14 seconds, and trailed by Rubio and Kasich who spoke for 12 minutes, 6 seconds, and 12 minutes, respectively. Carson spoke the least, for a total of 8 minutes, 33 seconds, a fact that was not lost on him. When first addressed by the moderators, Carson said, "I was very happy to get a question this early on; I was going to ask you to wake me up when the time came."
Absence makes the heart grow fonder: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul made headlines on Thursday for... well, doing nothing. Having been bumped to the undercard debate with remaining Republican presidential hopefuls, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Paul chose not to attend Thursday night's debate. Instead he tweeted his opinions during the debate, during which, at one point, a crowd interrupted the moderators booing the candidates onstage and chanting, "We want Rand."
Cruz missteps on New York comment: In a snarly exchange, Cruz tried to lump Trump in with New Yorkers, and not in a good way, saying, "Everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage." The statement promptly backfired.
"New York is a great place, it's got great people, it's got loving people, wonderful people," Trump hit back. "When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York." According to Rolling Stone the moment stood out as "very brief" moment of Trump acting like a decent human being.
That decency was perhaps quickly overshadowed for some when Trump spoke about the Islamic State group, or ISIS, the threat of terror from abroad and affirmed that he would not back down from his proposed shutdown on all Muslim immigration to the United States. The remarks were met with scorn by many on social media, including a tweet from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Even Bush challenged Trump on his hard-edged stance on Muslims.
Born in the United States? A major talking point during the debate, which was perhaps unsurprisingly broached by Trump, was the question of Cruz's eligibility to run for president. Cruz, an American citizen, was born in Canada.
"Laurence Tribe and numerous from Harvard said there is a serious question as to whether or not Ted can do this, OK?" Trump said. "There are other attorneys that feel, and very, very fine constitutional attorneys, that feel that because he was not born on the land, he cannot run for office.
"Here's the problem. We're running, we're running. He does great. I win. I choose him as my vice presidential candidate and the Democrats sue, because we can't take him along for the ride. I don't like that."
Yet two former Supreme Court lawyers, Neal Katyal and Paul Clement, wrote in the Harvard Law Review that "All the sources routinely used to interpret the Constitution confirm that the phrase 'natural-born citizen' has a specific meaning: namely, someone who was a U.S. citizen at birth with no need to go through a naturalization proceeding at some later time." And, citing that article, the Washington Post reports that due to the fact that Cruz's mother is American, he is eligible.
Who the media says won: According to CNN, the debate's victor was both Trump and Cruz. CNN reports that even though Cruz took a hit after his comment on New Yorkers, his bullish stance on issues like abortion, gun legislation and same-sex marriage might help him win conservative voters' favor. And according to CNN, "Christie delivered the strongest debate performance of the establishment candidates as he touted his record as a governor and let his no-nonsense New Jersey spirit shine."
Elsewhere, analysis from the New York Times echoed CNN's assessment.