Most-Tweeted topics during #GOPDebate: 1. Foreign affairs 2. National security 3. Immigration 4. Reproductive rights 5. Healthcare— Twitter Government (@gov) January 29, 2016
The biggest battles between candidates came on the issue of illegal immigration. Fox moderators employed a strategy we haven’t seen before in any debate by playing video clips of candidates in their own words, making them immediately accountable to their own statements.
Senator Marco Rubio is the winner of tonight’s debate. He was asked tough questions about his record on illegal immigration, attacked by other candidates on a variety of issues and prevailed with presidential and thorough responses. Because much of the debate was focused on foreign policy, Rubio was again able to capitalize on the subject for the seventh debate in a row.
Governor Jeb Bush benefited the most tonight by Donald Trump’s absence on the stage and had his best debate of the cycle so far. Rather than being on defense and insecure over Trump’s personal attacks, Bush was finally able to break through the surface on a number of issues. His best moment of the night came when he was able to shift the focus of a question about the Wounded Warrior scandal to a conversation about the disastrous Department of Veteran’s Affairs. This not only gave him the opportunity to state how he would use the power of the Oval Office to change the system, but reminded voters of a horrifying scandal that’s been away from the headlines.
Without Donald Trump on the stage tonight, Senator Ted Cruz was the frontrunner. Naturally, the incoming fire from other candidates and moderators was heavier just days before voters head to caucus. Although he was able to stand his ground on a number of issues, Cruz had a tough time explaining away previous stances in favor of a path to legalization for millions of illegal immigrants living inside the United States.
Governor Chris Christie again capitalized on his experience as a governor tonight while using his usual debate tactic of painting Senators as inexperienced and unaccomplished. He was also the candidate who went after Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton the most aggressively, pointing out his time as a prosecutor and reminding voters of her decision to place her personal convenience above the national security of the country.
Because of his evangelical background and rise to political fame at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C., Carson is popular in Iowa and has an underestimated ground game in the state. Although he struggled with the usual questions about foreign policy, Carson’s best moment of the night came right out of the gate when he was asked about his lack of political title or experience.
"I've had more 2 a.m. phone calls than anybody here put together, making life and death decisions,” Carson said.
Based on his father’s organizational success in Iowa during the last presidential election cycle, Senator Rand Paul has a significant following here and was able to focus on the issues he knows best tonight: criminal justice reform and the question of balancing liberty with security.
Kasich is tonight’s biggest loser. Not only did he defend the Obama administration’s deal with Iran, he couldn’t properly explain how to hold the Iranian regime accountable should they break any part of the agreement as Europe lines up to do business.
MOST TERRIFYING LINE OF THE NIGHT
“Hillary wants to put Barack Obama on the Supreme Court.” –Marco Rubio
The next GOP debate is February 6 and will be hosted by ABC News in Manchester, New Hampshire.