With Donald Trump absent from Thursday’s Republican presidential debate, some GOP candidates capitalized on the chance to distinguish themselves on the Des Moines, Iowa, debate stage. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio filled the hole left by the businessman’s characteristic bombast, and instead commanded the stage with powerful rhetoric about how to defeat extremist groups and side-stepping attacks.
The Los Angeles Times praised Rubio for his tough stance on foreign policy and confidence. “Florida Sen. Marco Rubio cast his fellow senators as weak in the fight against Islamic State, as several candidates jostled to gain an edge on foreign policy during Thursday’s debate,” the Times wrote, adding: “Tough rhetoric was abundant, with Rubio repeatedly raising his voice and jabbing his finger in the air as he implied that rough interrogations were necessary.”
As second in the polls, Texas Sen. Cruz was looking for a win in Trump’s absence, but some pundits criticized his performance. “Ted Cruz’s plan to win this debate is evidently to turn into a plungingly less humorous version of Donald Trump with at least twice the peevishness,” the Guardian wrote. “He has (surprise!) narcissistically decided that all questions are being asked with the aim of giving other candidates ammunition to ‘go after’ Ted Cruz, so he is going to litigate the conduct of the debate with the moderators.”