What Happened At Last Night’s GOP Debate? 3 Things To Know

Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo.
Thursday night’s Republican debate was a doozy— but not for the usual reasons. The four remaining candidates — Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich — met in Miami last night for their last debate before the next big round of primaries on March 15. The contests in Rubio and Kasich’s respective home states of Florida and Ohio may be their last chance at a viable candidacy. So what happened when the rivals met on the debate stage for the 12th time? Here are three things to know the day after. Things were… surprisingly civil.
After a debate marked by put-downs and schoolyard taunting, the GOP candidates acted their age — and focused on issues instead of insults. In other words: no dick jokes. Everyone kept their cool in Thursday night’s debate, and kept the digs to a minimum. Asked by moderator Dana Bash whether he was comparing Trump to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Cruz declined to answer. “I will let Donald speak for himself,” he demurred. Even Rubio and Trump, who had relied heavily on personal attacks in previous days, played nice with one another. At one point, Trump even commented on the pleasantness. “I can’t believe how civil it’s been up here,” he said. The biggest issues on the table were terrorism and foreign affairs.
Candidates discussed how to best deal with the Islamic State group and conflicts in the Middle East, including whether they would send more troops to address threats in Iraq and Syria. The question of whether the definition of torture could be up for discussion in the White House come 2017 arose again. “President Obama has rules of engagement that are so strict that [intelligence officers'] arms are tied behind their backs,” Cruz said. Trump stood by his controversial comments on Islam, saying “a lot of” Muslims hate the United States. “There's something going on that maybe you don't know about, maybe a lot of other people don't know about, but there's tremendous hatred,” he said. Another hot topic was the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba. It’s an issue that hits close to home quite literally in Florida, which is home to a large Cuban-American population. The candidates were divided on that issue. Cruz called for reversing course and re-severing ties with the island nation, while Trump and Rubio said they'd hold out for better deals than those negotiated by the Obama administration. Trump was called out on the incidents at his rallies.
After viral videos showed scary incidents at Trump rallies, the businessman was questioned on whether he was encouraging violence with his rhetoric. “I certainly do not condone that at all,” he responded. Moderator Jake Tapper pointed to remarks that Trump had made at his rallies, including “I’d like to punch him in the face,” speaking of a protester in the crowd, and an offer to pay the legal fees of people who “knock[ed] the crap out of" other detractors there. Trump blamed the incidents on protesters who were "bad dudes." "They’ve got to be taken out," he said, stating that it was local police who escorted the protesters away. “It’s not me,” he said, before praising police across the nation for doing a “phenomenal job.”

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