RUBIO VS. CRUZ:
Throughout the night, there were several lengthy exchanges between the two first term Senators on immigration, terrorism, national security and foreign policy.
BASH: A crucial question is how to balance surveillance with privacy and keeping Americans safe.
Senator Cruz, you voted for a bill that President Obama signed into law just this past June that made it harder for the government to access Americans' phone records. In light of the San Bernardino attack, was your vote a mistake?
CRUZ: Well, Dana, the premise of your question is not accurate. I'm very proud to have joined with conservatives in both the Senate and the House to reform how we target bad guys.
And what the USA Freedom Act did is it did two things. Number one, it ended the federal government's bulk collection of phone metadata of millions of law-abiding citizens.
But number two in the second half of it that is critical. It strengthened the tools of national security and law enforcement to go after terrorists. It gave us greater tools and we are seeing those tools work right now in San Bernardino.
BASH: Senator Rubio, Senator Cruz is right there was bipartisan support for that. But you voted against it. So, is Senator Cruz wrong?
RUBIO: He is and so are those that voted for it. There were some that voted for it because they wanted to keep it alive and they were afraid the whole program would expire.
Here's the world we live in. This is a radical jihadist group that is increasingly sophisticated in its ability, for example, to radicalize American citizens, in its inability to exploit loopholes in our legal immigration system, in its ability to capture and hold territory in the Middle East, as I outlined earlier, in multiple countries.
This is not just the most capable, it is the most sophisticated terror threat we have ever faced. We are now at a time when we need more tools, not less tools. And that took we lost, the metadata program, was a valuable tool that we no longer have at our disposal.
For Rubio, it was obvious his experience and knowledge gained on the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees has paid off. When asked very specific questions ranging from nuclear capability, to China, to ISIS, Rubio made it clear he is in command if the issues and qualified to serve as commander-in-chief. He openly discussed the necessity of ground troops to defeat ISIS, reminded the audience of a necessary propaganda war against the terror army, detailed the damage military cuts have done to U.S. capability around the world and declared that enemy combatants should be treated as such, not as criminals who are read Miranda rights.
That being, according to Frank Luntz Cruz came out on top after the exchanges.
Marco Rubio is falling short; Ted Cruz is beating him in every confrontation tonight. #GOPDebate— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) December 16, 2015
TRUMP VS. CRUZ
Trump was asked tonight about comments he made on Fox News Sunday last weekend when he called Cruz a "maniac". Previously, Trump had said Cruz would make an excellent vice president. Tonight, when asked if he meant what he said when he called Cruz a maniac, Trump said, "I've gotten to know him over the past few days, he's just fine, don't worry about it.”
Christie went after Hillary Clinton for mirroring Obama’s ISIS strategy. He again defined himself by pointing out his executive experience and history of making tough decisions as a prosecutor and governor. As he has done before, he contrasted his experience with a lack of experience form Senators on the stage.
"Listen, I want to talk to the audience at home for a second. If your eyes are glazing over like mine, this is what it's like to be on the floor of the United States Senate. I mean, endless debates about how many angels on the head of a pin from people who've never had to make a consequential decision in an executive position. The fact is, for seven years, I had to make these decisions after 9/11, make a decision about how to proceed forward with an investigation or how to pull back, whether you use certain actionable intelligence or whether not to. And yet they continue to debate about this bill and in the subcommittee and what -- nobody in America cares about that. What they care about is, are we going to have a president who actually knows what they're doing to make these decisions?" Christie said. "Let's talk about how we do this, not about which bill, which one these guys like more. The American people don't care about that."
Rand Paul did exceptionally well tonight, especially considering his struggle to stay above water and on the minds of GOP voters. He was able to make the argument that domestic policy affects foreign policy without sounding like an extreme isolationist. His biggest moment of the night came when he landed a series of punches on Marco Rubio by combining open immigration policy with the threat of terrorist. Paul was also able to articulate how mass collective of data by the federal government has become a cumbersome and ineffective way of detecting terrorists living in American communities.
“We are not any safer through bulk collection of American’s records, I actually think it makes us less safe,” Paul said. “Every terrorist attack we've had since 9/11 has been through legal immigration."
Tonight Carly Fiorina focused on national security by promoting her experience in the private sector and touted her efforts at HP to help the federal government fight terrorism through technology. Her best moments came when explaining how the private sector can work with the federal government to catch terrorists who aren’t in FBI or DHS terrorism databases. She also took the time to attack Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the current state of affairs in the Middle East and increased Russian power.
Fiorina and Christie score big by holding Obama AND Hillary directly responsible for ISIS. Both hit 90s with my focus group. #GOPDebate— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) December 16, 2015
DR. BEN CARSON
Going into tonight's debate focused on national security, we knew Carson might have a hard time articulating his foreign policy positions. This certainly proved true as he struggled to explain how he would defeat ISIS and the lengths he would go to fully serve as commander-in-chief during a time of war.
Ouch. The same can be said for John Kasich's performance tonight:
My #GOPDebate focus group's words to describe Jeb Bush: "weak," "desperate," and "whiny." It's over for him. Sorry. ??— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) December 16, 2015
The next GOP debate will in South Carolina on January 14 and hosted by the Fox Business Network.