Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz take on Republican front-runner Donald Trump
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump was grilled by his remaining challengers Thursday in Detroit debate hosted by Fox News.
While Ohio governor John Kasich avoided getting into personal sparring with the billionaire, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz took on the “contradictions” between the mogul’s promises and several political statements in the past.
One of the defining moments came when Rubio and Trump exchanged barbs on one another’s physical appearance, calling the each other “little Marco” and “big Trump”.
Being asked about Rubio’s mocking of his “small hands” Trump said: “He referred to my hands, if they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem.”
During a rally at a university in Salem, Virginia, earlier this week in response to Trump’s calling him “little Marco”, the Florida senator conceded that Trump was taller than him.
However, he suggested Trump had small hands for his big body calling him “big Donald”.
“And you know what they say about guys with small hands,” Rubio said with a smile, prompting stunned laughter from the crowd.
The little-big epithet continued between the two candidates during the debate.
When Fox News anchor and moderator Bret Baier told Trump that he had a policy question for him, Rubio interrupted: “Let’s see if he answers it.”
“Don’t worry about it little Marco, I will,” Trump said. “All right, well, let’s hear it big Donald,” Rubio responded back.
The Florida senator also claimed that if Trump becomes the GOP nominee, the Republicans will lose the presidential race to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“I beat Hillary Clinton. I beat Hillary Clinton in many polls,” Trump said mentioning several recent surveys which put him ahead of Clinton.
Rubio also attacked on Trump’s promise that he would bring back American companies operating in China and other Asian or South American countries.
“He can start tonight by announcing that all the Donald Trump clothing will no longer be made in China and in Mexico, but will be made here in the United States,” Rubio said.
Trump did not directly say he would move his textile factories from operating abroad; instead he put forward excuses as to why he is operating facilities outside the U.S.
Senator Cruz was also involved in the exchanges between Rubio and Trump, claiming that the billionaire’s hotels select foreign employees over Americans with a cost-effective motive while he keeps promising the U.S. public that he would bring back jobs lost to China.
Cruz also took on Trump over his support for Democratic politicians in the past.
The Texas senator said that Trump supported Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election and John Kerry over George W. Bush in the 2004 race.
He claimed that Trump has written 10 checks to Hillary Clinton, four of which were to her presidential campaign in 2008.
Trump claimed that all of them were for business rather than a partisan preference.
The Republican front-runner was also asked about his leaked off-the-record meeting with New York Times daily editors where he allegedly expressed flexibility in his immigration policy, particularly with respect to the proposed deportation of 11 million undocumented migrants.
Trump dismissed the allegation but ruled out releasing the audio record of the meeting.
The top foreign-policy issue in the debate was the growing presence of Daesh in Libya.
All candidates agreed that the U.S. needs to address the Daesh threat in Libya.
According to Rubio, U.S. should deploy “a specific number of American special operators, in combination with an increase in airstrikes”.
Kasich, on the other hand, said that the U.S. has to be in Libya on the ground “in significant numbers” besides an air campaign.
“We do have to include our Muslim Arab friends to work with us on that,” the Ohio governor said. “It should be a broad coalition, made up of the kinds of people that were involved when we defeated Saddam.”
At the end of the debate candidates were asked whether they will support the Republican nominee, whoever he is.
Rubio, Cruz, Kasich pledged to support Trump if he is nominated.
Trump also promised to support any one who is nominated.