The ABC debate at St. Anselm’s College in New Hampshire begun with much confusion. The debate began on a bizarre note with several candidates, including Trump and Carson, apparently not hearing their introduction amid the noise of the crowd at St. Anselm’s College. Both stood awkwardly in the wings as other candidates including Rubio and Bush pushed past them. Then Ohio Gov. John Kasich apparently was not introduced at all, and had to be called on stage by moderator David Muir.
Things didn’t get much better for Ben Carson after that. He once again was absent from the conversation for long stretches of time. In his closing statement, he told the audience: “I’m still here, and I’m not going any place either.”
The main storyline surrounded republican contender Marco Rubio, who came under assault from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie over his level of experience as a first-term U.S. senator from Florida. With what was seen as a poor showing, Rubio retreated time and again to canned statements from his stump speech and looked uncomfortably rattled for the first time after seamless performances at seven prior debates.
“Marco, the thing is this,” Christie said during one heated exchange early in the night, “when you’re president of the United States, when you’re a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it doesn’t solve one problem for one person.”
While Rubio recovered later in the debate, the timing of his performance was terrible, coming three days before New Hampshire Republicans register their choices on Tuesday in the nation’s second nominating contest. The debate at St. Anselm College was the last face-off of the candidates before the vote.
Rubio’s tough moments may breathe new life into the campaigns of Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich, three experienced politicians who, like Rubio, represent establishment Republicans.
All three have suffered from the dominance of front-runner Trump in the Republican race. They are badly in need of a breakout moment to change the trajectory of the battle in New Hampshire, where the polls show Trump in the lead, Rubio in second and Texas Senator Ted Cruz in third place.
Trump did not have his best debate. He looked flustered in a fight with Bush over the use of eminent domain in advancing the interests of public use projects and private industry.
But he seemed to do well enough to possibly win on Tuesday in what would represent his first victory of the 2016 race, erasing the pain from a loss in the Iowa caucus last week, where he finished second to Cruz and just ahead of the surging Rubio.
A victory in New Hampshire could put Trump on track for more wins in South Carolina on Feb. 20 and beyond on the way to the Nov. 8 election.
Summarised from: CNN/Reuters