The Republican presidential candidates fighting to break out of the middle tier stepped up their game at Tuesday night’s prime-time debate, scrapping with their rivals over everything from Donald Trump’s deportation plan to the role of the U.S. military.
The Fox Business Network/Wall Street Journal debate — the fourth on the calendar — in turn served to expose deep differences within the still-crowded field.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and others staked out a no-apologies stance in support of a stronger U.S. military. And they sparred with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who repeatedly argued against military spending and intervention and questioned how Rubio could call himself a conservative while supporting bigger budgets.
“I want a strong national defense, but I don’t want us to be bankrupt,” Paul said, while Rubio called him a “committed isolationist.”
The fireworks in Milwaukee were hardly isolated to the prime-time debate. At the earlier showdown, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal repeatedly questioned New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s fiscal record in the Garden State — while Christie, confined to the earlier debate for the first time, fought to show he’s presidential material worthy of the upper primary tier. Christie kept his focus squarely on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton as the “real adversary” throughout.