Republican candidates have been exasperated by Donald Trump’s ability to suck up all the oxygen out of the 2016 primary race.
In the first debate of the 10 top-polling contenders in the GOP field, Trump continued to dominate the spotlight and the rhetoric. As the event at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena unfolded, his opponents seemed to get increasingly Trump-like in their one-liners in an effort to seize attention from the “Celebrity Apprentice” star.
Here are the GOP debate’s Trumpiest moments as seen by TheWrap:
1. It took Trump all of a few seconds to turn the primetime faceoff on its head. Even before the opening remarks, Fox News host and debate moderator Bret Baier asked for a show of hands for anyone who would not rule out a third-party presidential run, and Trump was the only one to raise his hand.
“I understand,” Trump said multiple times. “I can totally make that pledge if I am the nominee, I will not run as independent.”
2. Moments later, Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Trump about his reputation for publicly belittling women: “You have called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs’ and ‘disgusting animals’…”
Trump then interrupted her to joke, “Only Rosie O’Donnell.” The mogul has famously feuded with O’Donnell for years.
“What I say — it’s funny, we’re kidding,” Trump said. “What I say is what I say.”
Shortly after his televised put-down, O’Donnell tweeted her response: “try explaining that 2 ur kids.”
3. When asked why he won’t show proof of his repeated claims that Mexico is sending “criminals,” “rapists” and “drug dealers” into the U.S., Trump told moderator Chis Wallace: “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration.”
4. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul gave viewers their own moment of Trump-like bombast, as they got into a heated argument over national security and government surveillance.
“I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans,” Paul said.
“That’s a completely ridiculous answer,” Christie interrupted, telling Kelly, “‘I want to collect more records from terrorists but less records from other people.’ How are you supposed to know, Megyn?”
“Use the Fourth Amendment. Get a warrant!” Paul yelled.
5. Later, Wallace grilled the business mogul about why people should trust him to run the country’s economy when his companies had filed for bankruptcy on four occasions, causing his lenders to lose billions.
“I have never gone bankrupt,” Trump said, referring to the fact that he had never filed for personal bankruptcy. He said that he merely “used the laws of this country” to his advantage, adding that the lenders left in the lurch by his bankruptcy filings “aren’t babies,” but “killers.”
6. When Trump gives you money, he owns you. According to the former “Celebrity Apprentice” host, he ordered Hillary Clinton to attend his wedding after he gave money to the Clinton Foundation. “She came to my wedding. You know why? She had no choice because I gave,” Trump said.
7. When Kelly grilled Trump about his liberal positions on gun control and partial-birth abortion (“when did you become a Republican?” she asked), Trump shut her down with the ultimate GOP magic words, saying he has evolved on many issues, “like Ronald Reagan did.”
8. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio nearly out-Trumped Trump with one of the evening’s best zingers. “I think God has blessed us,” he said toward the end of the debate. “He’s blessed us with some very good candidates. The Democrats can’t even find one.”
9. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson also seemed to be channeling the “Celebrity Apprentice” host in his closing remarks describing what distinguishes him from the rest of the GOP field. “I’m the only one to take out half a brain,” he said, “but if you went to Washington you would think someone had beat me to it.”