The race for the Republican presidential nomination erupted into open conflict between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on Thursday night, with the party’s two frontrunners launching blistering attacks over their values and eligibility for the nation’s highest office.
With just 18 days to go before the starting gun of the 2016 presidential election is fired at the Iowa caucuses, tensions that have been simmering beneath the surface exploded into plain sight.
And the rhetoric got hotter as candidates vied with one another to sound toughest on guns, fear of Muslims, immigration and American foreign policy.Liberal “New York values” were deplored by Cruz, while Florida senator Marco Rubio vowed to start sending more terrorist suspects to Guantánamo Bay.
However, a debate which lasted more than two and a half hours was dominated by Trump, the billionaire real-estate tycoon, and Cruz, the senator for Texas. After tiptoeing around each other for months as they compete for the ultra-conservative vote, they finally let their mutual disdain emerge at the sixth Republican debate in South Carolina.
As Trump and Cruz went after each other with new abandon, the North Charleston debate had the effect of appearing to further tighten the Republican contest. At the start of the debate, the number on stage had already been whittled down to seven – the fewest yet following the relegation for lackluster poll ratings of Rand Paul, the libertarian senator for Kentucky, and former technology executive Carly Fiorina.
By the end of the debate, the pool of serious contenders appeared to have been reduced to just four – the battling frontrunners Trump and Cruz, Rubio and Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey.