The absence of Donald Trump at the Republican debate Thursday gave his two closest rivals the opportunity to take the stage and show off what they’ve got against each other. Donald trump still leads in the recent polls ahead of the Iowa caucuses and is closely followed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Senator Marco Rubio of Texas and Florida respectively. All the Republican candidates at the debate Thursday proved themselves as worthy of being the party’s nominee in the presidential election. However, the two candidates with the most to gain were Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. The duo gave each other tackles and attacks, especially on immigration.
Cruz, Rubio take center stage at the debate
Both Cruz and created and enabling opportunity for their Republican rivals, to throw jabs at them. Rubio may have gained ground on Cruz, but by failing to fully take command of the stage, the two provided an opening to others, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie quickly jumped to take it. Bush went after Rubio for cutting and running on immigration reform when Republican Party sentiment shifted against a path to citizenship. Christie played the governor card, chastising both Cruz and Rubio as double-talking legislators who were unwilling to admit they changed their minds.
Cruz and Rubio on immigration
Cruz is in a very close position with Trump in the polls and is battling for first place in Iowa, as he is positioned in the second place. Rubio is looking for a strong third-place finish as a way to separate himself from the other mainstream conservatives in the race. Instead of seizing the moment, both Rubio and Cruz reminded the audience of their rivalry as they found themselves under attack and on the defensive. According to the Washington post, the two candidates sought to square past statements and votes with their claims that they now oppose amnesty for immigrants who are in the United States illegally. Each sought to undermine the other, and both came under attack from the others on stage. The exchanges reinforced how muddled and fluid the Republican race remains as the voting is about to begin.