The New York billionaire and the Texas senator appeared to have a
split decision by the end of the night, a sign that for all the
bluster, little took place that could derail Trump from his lead
position with a contest in Iowa on Feb. 1 to begin the search for a
Republican presidential nominee.
Projections that the debate would be a free-for-all were accurate.
Beyond the Trump-Cruz theatrics, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida
turned in a pugnacious performance with attacks on Cruz and New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Florida Governor Jeb Bush presented
himself as a voice of reason against Trump.
A Google snap poll showed viewers believed Trump, who in the most
recent debates was at times less engaged, won the night with 37.3
percent to Cruz's 26.6 percent and Rubio's 12.1 percent.
Until the Fox Business Channel debate in North Charleston, South
Carolina, Trump and Cruz had been friendly because they have both
been chasing conservatives of the Tea Party movement and did not
want to anger them.
With Trump now needing to fend off Cruz's rise in Iowa, he pushed
his charge that Cruz may not be constitutionally qualified to serve
as president because he was born in Canada. The U.S. Constitution
says only "natural born" citizens can become president of the United
"Who the hell knows if you can even serve in office?" Trump told
Cruz, drawing a scattering of boos in the audience.
Born in Calgary, Alberta, to a U.S. citizen mother and a Cuban
father, Cruz accused Trump of bringing up his birthplace simply
because Cruz was leading some polls in Iowa.
Cruz said Trump, who led the movement questioning whether the
Hawaiian-born President Barack Obama was really from the United
States, had asked his lawyers to look into the issue of Cruz's birth
in September and concluded there were no issues.
"Since September, the Constitution hasn’t changed, but the poll
numbers have," Cruz said. "And I recognize that Donald is dismayed
that his poll numbers are dropping in Iowa, but the facts and the
law here are really clear."
Trump said Democrats would sue if Cruz were on the Republican
ticket, putting their party's chances of winning at risk.
Cruz shot back that he had spent many years studying constitutional
law: "I'm not going to be taking legal advice from Donald Trump."
The birthright issue has dogged American politics before: 2008
Republican nominee John McCain survived questions about his birth in
Panama because he was born on a U.S. military installation there and
it was judged to be U.S. soil.
In 1967, Republican candidate George Romney faced questions about
his birth in Mexico, but his candidacy never advanced far and the
issue was abandoned.
'NEW YORK VALUES'
While Cruz seemed to have parried the attack for now, he was stung
by Trump on another issue: Whether people who live in New York City
have the same values as other Americans. Cruz has lately begun
denouncing "New York values" to connect Trump to the city's famous
[to top of second column]
"Everyone understands that the values of New York City are socially
liberal, are pro-abortion, are pro-gay marriage," Cruz said.
Trump, in perhaps his most heartfelt remarks of the night, harked
back to New York's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to defend
his home city.
"The people in New York fought and fought and fought, and we saw
more death, and even the smell of death... And it was with us for
months, the smell, the air.
"And we rebuilt Downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world
watched and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New
Yorkers. And I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement
that Ted made," Trump said.
Rubio, in third place behind Trump and Cruz in Iowa and hoping a
strong outcome there will help him in the New Hampshire primary on
Feb. 9, frequently inserted himself into arguments and tried to put
pressure on Cruz.
He accused Cruz of proposing a value added tax as part of his tax
plan and of being soft on immigration.
"That is not consistent conservatism," he said. "That is political
He attacked Christie as well, accusing him of have liberal positions
on education policy and abortion. Christie interrupted a Rubio-Cruz
exchange with this blast:
"I'd like to interrupt this debate on the floor of the Senate. You
had your chance, Marco you blew it," he said.
Cruz, who has taken the lead in some polls of Iowa Republican
voters, did well on social media. Social media monitoring tool
Zoomph saw total positive mentions for Cruz climb by more than 150
percent while he sparred with Trump.
Trump is far ahead nationally.
A Reuters/Ipsos rolling national poll on Jan. 12 showed Trump had 39
percent of the vote, Cruz 14.5 percent, Bush 10.6 percent, Carson
9.6 percent, while 6.7 percent favored Rubio.
For more on the 2016 presidential race, see the Reuters blog, “Tales
from the Trail” (http://blogs.reuters.com/talesfromthetrail/)
(additional reporting by Emily Stephenson, Ginger Gibson, and Megan
Cassella; Writing by Jeff Mason; editing by Grant McCool)
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