Donald Trump didn’t wait long to lay into Republican presidential rival Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky during Wednesday night’s prime-time Republican debate.
“First of all, Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on the debate stage,” Trump said in response to an unrelated question about his temperament in one of the first exchanges of the night.
“He’s No. 11,” Trump continued. “He’s got 1% in the polls. And how he got up here, there’s far too many people anyway. And we all know that. As far as temperament, I think I have a great temperament.”
From the opening bell Wednesday night, the second official Republican presidential debate between the major candidates was a nasty, insult-filled affair.
CNN moderators constantly urged the various White House hopefuls to respond to the mean and insulting things said about them.
That included past trash talk about the candidates’ spouses, business records, physical appearance, policy issues, and more. Much of this centered on Trump, the brash real-estate mogul who is the Republican front-runner.
Needless to say, the candidates obliged.
Trump started things off by questioning the right of Paul to even be on the 11-person stage. Paul responded by saying Trump’s attack didn’t have anything to do with the matter at hand. And he was one of the few candidates to say he was “concerned” about having Trump in charge of the country’s nuclear arsenal, citing what he described as Trump’s penchant to overreact to criticism.
He alluded to Trump’s recent apparent mocking of presidential rival Carly Fiorina’s appearance.
“I kind of have to laugh,” Paul said. “I’m very concerned about having him in charge of the nuclear weapons because I think his visceral response to attack people on their appearance – short, tall, fat, ugly – my goodness, that happened in junior high. Are we not way above that? Would we not all be worried to have someone like that in charge of the nuclear arsenal?”
Trump responded by delivering a burn against Paul’s looks: “I never attacked him on his looks and believe me: There is plenty of subject matter right there.”
But the fireworks didn’t end there. In fact, they were only beginning.
Trump and Jeb Bush shared many notable exchanges, including shortly after the real-estate developer’s tiff with Paul. CNN asked Bush to respond to Trump’s claim that Bush, the former Florida governor, was beholden to the special-interest donors who have funneled millions of dollars into Bush’s super PAC.
“The one guy that had some special interest that I know of – that tried to get me my views on something, that was generous and gave me money – was Donald Trump,” Bush said. “He wanted casino gambling in Florida.”
The two continued to interrupt each other as Trump insisted he never tried to use his money to win over Bush.
“I promise: If I wanted it, I would have gotten it,” Trump responded.
Trump, who frequently accuses Bush of being a “low-energy” candidate, ended the exchange with a zinger.
“More energy tonight, I like that!” Trump said.
- REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Later, the two tussled over Trump’s suggestion that the fact Bush’s wife was from Mexico most likely pushed Bush to be more sympathetic to Mexican immigrants who enter the US illegally.
“To subject my wife into the middle of a raucous political conversation was completely inappropriate,” Bush said. “And I hope that you apologize for that, Donald.”
Trump, unsurprisingly, declined to apologize.
“I won’t do that, because I said nothing wrong,” he said.
- REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Trump then accused Bush of being “weak” on immigration. As an aside, he also tossed in a jab at Bush’s position on Common Core educational standards.
Bush later said Trump’s foreign-policy approach was “dangerous,” while Trump sniped at the record of Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush.
“Your brother gave us Barack Obama,” Trump said.
Bush responded with an answer that brought loud applause from the crowd at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library: “He kept us safe.”
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, whose slight surge in the polls lifted her into the prime-time stage, also got into the mix Wednesday night.
She and Trump battled over their respective business records and comments Trump had made about her (“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?”). Trump, accused of denigrating Fiorina’s looks, later said he was referring to Fiorina’s “persona,” though Fiorina was clearly unconvinced.
“I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” she said.
The crowd applauded raucously.
Trump responded by saying, “I think she’s got a beautiful face, and I think she’s a beautiful woman.”
With the general exception of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, the soft-spoken No. 2. candidate in the polls, the rest of the candidates often tangled with one another.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey went after Trump and Fiorina for barbing about their records and not focusing on the American middle class. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas attacked each other’s positions on Iran.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Bush aggressively debated how the government should handle the Kentucky clerk who opposes same-sex marriage. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin went after Trump, saying the US didn’t need an “apprentice” in the White House – “we have one right now.”
Trump later took another shot at Paul’s standing in the polls. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Trump had a foreign-policy back-and-forth. All of the candidates argued about whether congressional Republicans should defund the family-planning and women’s-health organization Planned Parenthood, even if it leads to a government shutdown.
And so on.