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Updated 8:25 PM |

What Went Down In The Fifth Republican Debate

Filed under 2016 Election

Micah Cohen 11:35 PM Good night. Good morning!

That’s it for us tonight, folks. Thanks for sticking with us. We’ll have some separate post-debate coverage later tonight and tomorrow. Go to bed!

UPDATE (Dec. 16, 6:27 a.m.): Nate Silver’s post-debate article calls the debate a “nine-way draw.”

But if you’re reading this the day after, start at the bottom to relive the debate chronologically. And leave us a comment — who do you think won the fifth Republican debate?

Farai Chideya 11:24 PM

Jeb Bush acquitted himself about as well as he could have, given the scylla and charybdis of seeming like a pushover or seeming like a peevish establishment insider when choosing to attack Trump. But in general, this was another debate that may come back to haunt the party in the general election, as everything at these podiums is clippable for ads, no matter who wins.

Ella Koeze 11:19 PM

As we’ve mentioned a few times tonight, Marco Rubio was attacked the most by his fellow Republicans, especially by Ted Cruz. This could suggest that other candidates view him as a major threat.

Rubio in the hot seat in the main debate
Leah Libresco 11:17 PM

CNN’s moderators gave more questions to Trump than any other candidate. And, because many questions addressed to others mentioned him by name, when other candidates mentioned him, he was awarded even more time in rebuttals.

Clare Malone 11:08 PM

I’m not sure that Trump got in as many of his trademark zingers in this debate as others, and I certainly think he was stumped on that nuclear question … but I’m also not sure how much of a difference that will make with his standings in the polls. Rubio and Cruz were certainly the targets of a lot of the follow-up questions to clarify positions — and I think they both handled those parries skillfully (mostly by side-stepping). So, they solidified their rising status in the race.

Ben Casselman 11:06 PM

Several candidates touched on the economy in their opening statements, but there was no repeat in the closings. It’s hardly surprising that tonight’s debate focused on national security in the wake of Paris and San Bernardino. But it’s notable that this debate was held on the night that a budget deal was (apparently) reached, and the day before the Fed will (almost certainly) raise interest rates. The economy will still be an issue in the election. Here’s hoping the next debate gives it some more time.

Harry Enten 11:05 PM

Donald Trump apparently believes that if you keep saying something false, it somehow makes it true. He keeps saying that he is beating Hillary Clinton in the polls. Well, Trump has led Clinton in only two general election polls taken since the beginning of November. He has trailed her in 11 polls. Although I don’t believe general election polls at this point are predictive of the outcome, Trump is clearly trailing in more polls than he is leading in at this point.

blytheterrell 10:57 PM

I’d asked earlier what question should be put to candidates to test their knowledge of issues. Turns out a good one for Trump was to ask about the nuclear triad. Here’s something he might have wished he’d read before the debate.

micahscohen 10:57 PM

micahscohen 10:56 PM

I don’t think much of Jeb Bush’s chances of winning the nomination at this point. But I also don’t think it matters to Bush if he alienates Donald Trump’s backers, as some people are saying. What Bush wants to do is show the establishment and donors that he can take on Trump down the road. Bush is playing the long game, not the short one.

Leah Libresco 10:55 PM

Trump has gotten three of the last five questions, catapulting him ahead of his competitors with nine total questions. (Poor Fiorina and Kasich have only five each.)

blytheterrell 10:51 PM

Farai Chideya 10:51 PM

This first-person tale of being hacked/extorted in China is well worth a read. But when it comes to larger data breaches in the U.S., China has often denied its involvement.

This debate has centered on national security, and it’s puzzling that climate change has hardly received a mention. A study published earlier this year found that global warming helped fuel the war in Syria.

The Pentagon has determined that climate change poses a national security risk, but apparently the GOP candidates didn’t get the memo.

blytheterrell 10:47 PM

Harry Enten 10:46 PM

One of the most interesting battles between pundits this season has been whether the polls showing Donald Trump leading will be predictive of the eventual voting. I’ve argued “no”because the past hasn’t shown them to be. Instead, I believe, at this point, that Rubio has the best chance of winning the nomination. It seems, rightly or wrongly, that the candidates on stage agree. As Nate just pointed out, Rubio has been attacked the most so far of any of the candidates on the stage.

Nate Silver 10:45 PM

My colleague Ella Koeze tells me that Chris Christie has been attacked only three times so far tonight — compared with 22 times for Rubio, 16 for Trump and nine for Cruz. Reminds me a bit of a game of Risk where you have the third- or fourth-strongest army and no one attacks you because you’re not in first or second place. If you’re nevertheless strong enough to mount a threat to win the game, that can become an advantageous position. This is vaguely the path that John Kerry followed to becoming the Democratic nominee in 2004 — he didn’t seem quite threatening enough for anyone to attack him until it was too late.

Carl Bialik 10:43 PM

In addition to touting favorable real polls on Twitter, Trump loves to tout post-debate “polls” — opt-in, unscientific online polls typically flooded by his supporters so he wins in a landslide. Here’s Drudge Report already taking votes on who won a debate that, Wolf Blitzer terrifyingly just said, is “only just beginning.”

blytheterrell 10:38 PM

Nate Silver 10:34 PM

People who have penetrated the Internet to write about the debate variously seem to think Donald Trump has done pretty well or fairly poorly tonight. I’m more in the latter camp. But I’m not sure it matters that much. Trump’s success has mostly been despite the debates instead of because of them (a couple of the debates have hurt Trump’s poll numbers — about the only thing that has so far). Instead, Trump succeeds by dominating all the empty news cycles when there’s nothing much going on in the campaign — not when all the candidates have an equal opportunity to make news.

Hayley Munguia 10:33 PM

Jeb Bush just said that the tone of the immigration debate right now will not help bring Hispanics back to the Republican Party. Hispanics have become increasingly Democratic in recent years; they gave Obama 71 percent of their vote in 2012. See how their turnout could affect the 2016 election with our Swing-O-Matic.

Ella Koeze 10:31 PM

At this point in the debate, Rubio has surpassed Trump as the Republican candidate attracting the most attacks. Despite the interchanges between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump, Rubio has been the target of 20 attacks, tied with Hillary Clinton, while Trump has been targeted in only 16.

Ben Casselman 10:28 PM

It’s a small point, but one important thing about Marco Rubio’s comments on immigration is that he mentions visa-overstayers, not just border-crossers. The border gets most of the attention — just look at Trump’s talk of building a wall — but a large share of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. entered the country legally and then didn’t leave when they were meant to. Any plan to deal with illegal immigration needs to focus on more than just the border.

Rubio said immigration reform would mean undocumented immigrants would start paying taxes. They already pay taxes, about $12 billion per year in federal taxes and another $10.6 billion in state and local, according to government estimates.

Hayley Munguia 10:22 PM

Carson’s experience as a neurosurgeon, rather than a politician, is probably working in his favor. From March to September, Pew found that the share of Republicans who preferred “new ideas” over experience grew from 36 percent to 65 percent.

Carl Bialik 10:21 PM

Trump said that he’s at 42 and Bush is at 3. HuffPost Pollster says it’s 38 and 5. Not great for Bush, sure, but not quite right, either — in other words, a typical Trump poll citation.

Jody Avirgan 10:19 PM

But Clare, hasn’t that been the basic approach of candidates with the last name Paul for the last 15 years? It doesn’t seem to work when you hang your hat on defining/contextualizing/refereeing Republican values — I feel like mostly people just want to hear a discrete thought that fires them up.

Clare Malone 10:17 PM

Micah, I think that if you’re a Republican hoping to puncture Trump’s support, one way you might want to frame the basic incoherence of his policy stances is to say that they’re more Democratic than Republican. Since it’s basically a succotash of political beliefs, why not pick the more liberal-seeming ones and tell conservatives that he’s not really one of them?

Leah Libresco 10:17 PM

I think it’s hard to pull off attacking Trump as a moderate — his rhetoric is bombastic even on his mainstream positions. It seems more promising to attack him as wildly inconsistent than moderately anything.


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