GOP debate: The winners and losers

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The Republican debate in Las Vegas on Tuesday night was touted as a potential game changer less than two months before the Iowa caucuses. The final Republican presidential debate of 2015 was marked by sharp exchanges between Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, and it featured a courageous Jeb Bush and a Donald J. Trump who seemed as if he was trying not to slip up.

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky also sought to seized the spotlight in an event that saw all the candidates trying to make a strong impression on Republican voters less than two months before the first nominating contest. But did anyone emerge as winner? Political observers were quick to weigh in, but there was no agreement on a clear victor amidst the commentators.

Commentators Share their views

“Chris Christie won big, Ted Cruz won big. They were the winners of this debate.” — Frank Luntz, a prominent Republican pollster

“I think Cruz’s performance tonight will likely endear him to most conservative voters, and I don’t know how many will follow up to realize that he flatly mischaracterized his own position on immigration. Cruz came into this debate with the most to lose, and I don’t think anyone laid a glove on him that will hurt his continued rise in the polls, and for that reason he has to be seen as the winner.” — Leon Wolf, a blogger for Red State.

“Cruz and Rubio are easily the best debaters, and their exchanges were genuinely interesting. It’s fascinating to watch them as they try to appeal to different bases with their party. But both men argue like U.S. senators, and that’s not very attractive to G.O.P. voters in an anti-establishment year. Chris Christie did a good job pointing this out. Trump was Trump once again.” — Taegan Goddard, publisher of Political Wire.

“Big commander-in-chief, anti-Congress oration by Chris Christie. Well rehearsed and well delivered.” David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Obama.

“My guess is in the next round of polling, Cruz will edge up, Trump will stay up, Carson will recede, Rubio, Bush et. al. stay the same.” — Joy-Ann Reid, a liberal MSNBC commentator and author.

“I’m surprised by how rattled Trump got in exchange with Jeb. Having said that, I don’t see anything tonight that knocks him off stride.” — Mo Elleithee, executive director of the Institute of Politics and Public Service at Georgetown.