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4 Things To Watch For In The GOP Debate

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4 Things To Watch For In The GOP Debate


By David Lightman, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

LAS VEGAS — Ted Cruz enters Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate poised to become the Republican to beat.

The senator from Texas has surged into the top spot in Iowa polls, buoyed by endorsements from leading evangelical voices. Real estate mogul Donald Trump remains the national front-runner, but it is Iowa voters who will shape the race first when they caucus in seven weeks. Cruz also gets a boost from a huge campaign treasury.

All that makes the final Republican debate of 2015 crucial, as it will leave impressions that are likely to linger into the new year. And it signals a change for Cruz, as he now confronts the sort of intense scrutiny that faces newly minted national political stars.

Trump enters the debate already swinging away. He and Cruz had been careful not to criticize each other, aware they were appealing to the same fed-up voters who get information and reassurance from conservative talk radio and social media. But once Cruz started surging in polls over recent days, Trump started hitting. On Sunday, he told Fox News that Cruz was “a little bit of a maniac” in the Senate.

The main debate at Las Vegas’ Venetian Hotel begins at 9 p.m. EST and will feature nine candidates. Four others will vie in an earlier debate.

Viewers are likely to see one new wrinkle Tuesday: Foreign policy and domestic security are likely to be more prominent topics. Since the last debate Nov. 10, terrorist attacks rocked Paris and mass shootings at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic and a San Bernardino holiday party have dominated the news.

Here are four things to watch for:

On Cruz control

Cruz has jumped over retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson as the alternative to Trump for frustrated, angry conservatives. Now he’s got to maintain his exasperation with Washington while still appealing to Republicans uncomfortable with Trump’s temperament.

The bigger challenge: Opponents will try to stagger Cruz by noting his Senate colleagues’ disdain for him and recalling his no-compromise tactics as well as his past willingness to shut down the government. He’s known largely in the Senate as a flame-thrower, not a doer.

Trump vs. Muslims

This will be the first face-to-face clash since Trump called for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. Top Republicans criticized it. How will they do it onstage? What will Trump say? Will Cruz find a way to disagree while praising Trump personally, as he’s already done?

“He’s like a shock jock. He knows how to get ratings,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). Trump is unlikely to apologize and inclined to offend.

History says that as people get more serious about picking a president, particularly one who could lead a nation at war, they’ll weigh the importance of Trump’s temperament. Does he seem presidential? Is he too eager to make headlines, instead of offering serious talk about policy?

Where’s the mainstream?

A sizable chunk of the Republican electorate wants someone other than Trump or Cruz and might accept a more conciliatory candidate with a history of working with Democrats. So far, no one has emerged as a favorite.

Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey and a former federal prosecutor, has had a boost as national security has become a more prominent issue. He’ll be on the main stage Tuesday after being relegated to the undercard last month. John Kasich, the brash governor of Ohio, has tried to become Trump’s biggest nemesis, but it hasn’t worked. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, remains stuck far down in most polls. Each badly needs a breakout moment Tuesday.

Marco Rubio

The pundits have been waiting for the U.S. senator from Florida to emerge as the choice of mainstream voters. For awhile last month, as Trump maintained his lead, establishment types began rallying around Rubio, but the momentum wasn’t there and he didn’t become the clear alternative.

The potential remains, and his command of foreign policy could vault him into that position. He needs to show movement soon, or he risks getting lost behind Cruz and possibly one of the more center-right challengers.

(c)2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at a 2nd Amendment Coalition announcement at CrossRoads Shooting Sports in Johnston, Iowa, December 4, 2015. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank



  1. dtgraham December 15, 2015

    Here’s a prediction. Donald Trump will take his first stab at being politically correct, as he sees it. Instead of referring to all Muslims as terrorists, he’ll call them Terrorist-Americans.

  2. yabbed December 15, 2015

    Beyond being seriously creepy, Cruz is not eligible to be President. He was not born in the USA.

    1. Independent1 December 15, 2015

      Unfortunately, babies don’t have to be born physically on American soil to be native-born Americans and eligible to be president. Can you really imagine that being true such that had Benjamin Franklin married while he was in France as our ambassador and had a child, and then he would have been told that his child would have been ineligible to have run for president?? Thousands of native-born babies are born every year to our soldiers that are stationed overseas (including one of my four daughters) – all that’s required is that one of the baby’s parents was an American citizen who had lived in our country for at least 5 years after their 14th birthday. Which is why this whole birther issue with Obama is such a farce – even if he had been born in Kenya, which he wasn’t, he would have been eligible to be president because his mother was an America citizen.

      1. yabbed December 15, 2015

        Actually, there are exceptions for members of the armed services that are not available to everyone. Military bases are considered American soil. If any other American has a child born in a foreign country there is a form stating the facts of the birth and requesting registration of the birth child as an American. That form has to be certified and provided to the American consulate or embassy in that country within a certain number of days following the birth. Barack Obama was born in the state of Hawaii which is the United States. Had he been born outside of the USA his American parent would have had to register his birth through the formal procedure. Cruz’s birth was not registered. We don’t know who his mother is, actually, beyond that she was married to another man when she met father Cruz.

        1. Dave B. December 16, 2015

          Except for the part about Obama being born in Hawaii, that’s pretty much made up.

      2. Eleanore Whitaker December 15, 2015

        Wrong. A president according to Article I, Sec. 3 must be a “natural born Citizen and have lived in the US 14 years.

        The only reason McCain was eligible is that the land upon which US military bases are located is leased as “US property” by the foreign countries in which they are located.

        Cruz was born in Calgary Alberta Canada. He is not eligible to run because he publicly announced that he forfeited his Canadian citizenship in 2012. Texas is trying to push that damn Keystone pipeline using Cruz as their oil whore.

        My friends in Calgary think it’s funny that the next US president will be a Canadian.

        1. Dave B. December 16, 2015

          For purposes of US citizenship, US military bases– wherever they are– are indistinguishable from the surrounding territory.

          1. Eleanore Whitaker December 16, 2015

            According to my employer’s son who served in the Marines in the 90s in Germany, the land for military bases are leased by the US government. In terms of their appearance, in countries like Iceland where Keflavik and Reyjkevik (sp) are located, the bases are intentionally indistinguishable. The reason is to prevent the appearance of these bases from looking like US military presence in these countries.

            However, Cruz was born in Calgary Hospital as most Calgarians know. There is no US military base in Alberta.

          2. Dave B. December 16, 2015

            Leasing land doesn’t make it US soil. And good grief, what does the appearance of the bases have to do with anything I said?

      3. dtgraham December 15, 2015

        Other posters here have valid points and there is some controversy about this. Not all legal scholars agree on the definition of the term natural born citizen, but that’s not how the debate has evolved. It has generally come to support your position. The fact that Cruz wasn’t required to go through the legal process of naturalization to become a U.S. citizen suggests that he is eligible. His mother was an American citizen. I think he is considered to have become a natural born citizen by statute and not by the 14th amendment. https://drewmusings.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/yes-ted-cruz-is-eligible-to-be-president/

        From Wikipedia:

        The consensus of early 21st-century constitutional and legal scholarship, together with relevant case law, is that “natural born” comprises all people born subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, including, generally, those born in the United States, those born to U.S. citizen parents in foreign countries, and those born in other situations meeting the legal requirements for U.S. citizenship “at birth”.[2]

    2. Eleanore Whitaker December 15, 2015

      You know what’s really funny? I have two friends who live in Calgary Alberta CAN…the people of Alberta are laughing their butts off at how Texas put one over and got Cruz into the presidential election.

      From the Albertan viewpoint, that’s a win win for Canada who now believes that with a “Canadian US president, their dirty tar sand oil pipeline is a sure thing and Alberta’s huge loss of revvenue from that flood 3 years ago will be totally on American taxpayers backs.

      Texas is at fault for this charade. They knew he was NOT a US Citizen when he became a TX Senator. Yet, they ignored the US Constitution Article I, Sec. 3, No Person shall be a Seantor who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine years a Citizen of the UNited States, and who shall not, when when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.”

      Since when is Alberta a Texas State? Cruz won’t make it past the vetting process.

  3. 5612jean December 15, 2015

    The thought of looking at his fugly mug for 4 years is stomach turning. That obstructionist should never be anywhere near the White House. We don’t need people like him who think their way is the only way and are unwilling to compromise.

    1. neeceoooo December 15, 2015

      OMG, the thought of his face daily, for 4 years!

      1. latebloomingrandma December 15, 2015

        And his annoying, cloying voice; kind of like Palin’s. Nails on a chalkboard.

  4. AMADAL December 15, 2015

    Where are all the birthers that were screaming about Obama. I guess they finally realized what it takes to be a citizen. After all they are getting behind a Canadian.

    1. jmprint December 15, 2015

      Those are the ones cheering for Trump, you know the great leader of BS.

  5. 5612jean December 15, 2015

    I wonder why trump is screaming his birthier crap in light of the Canadian running for office. Could it have anything to do with the color of his skin? I’m just saying.


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