The fifth GOP debate is over, and the sparks are flying. Between infuriated feuding between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Ben Carson's fumbled attempts to rally his campaign, the final Republican primary showdown of 2015 proved to be an entertaining one. Of course, no candidate could match Donald Trump's closing statement in terms of blustery double-talk and all-out exasperation — not that anyone expected them to. Fortunately for Trump, his continued aggressive stance toward his fellow Republicans during the final moments of the debate only helped serve to keep his head above water going forward.
Going into the debate, Trump had the upper hand. Even with several polls showing rival Ted Cruz slowly chipping away at his lead, a Monmouth University poll released on Monday settled the score once more, showing Trump with a commanding 27-point lead over the rest of the GOP field with 41 percent of the prospective vote. Despite Cruz's best efforts to summarily dismiss Trump's surge Tuesday night, at the close of the evening, the billionaire mogul proved once again that he could rally his forces enough to maintain that lead — even if his answers were more style than substance.
"As much as Cruz remains an acceptable figure for a lot of voters, the minute Trump goes after him, he'll be thrown off the island in a hot second," Republican strategist Rick Wilson accurately predicted ahead of this week's debate, in a statement to Reuters reporters.
Prior to Tuesday's debate, Trump seemed to take that game plan to heart, using his Twitter account to criticize his fellow candidate and reestablish himself as the party firebrand that voters have seemingly grown to admire. "I was disappointed that Ted Cruz would speak behind my back, get caught, and then deny it," Trump tweeted on Sunday night, reacting to news that the Texas senator had questioned Trump's electability at a gathering with supporters the previous weekend. "Well, welcome to the wonderful world of politics!"
Trump drudged up that same angry (albeit vague) rhetoric at the close of Tuesday's debate, opting to punish both Cruz and the rest of the Republican field for their perceived inaction and political failings. It was an attempt to win over the electorate, which has followed him down the warpath largely out of exhaustion over the current political and socioeconomic status quo. Whether he achieved as much is still yet to be seen — but if history is any indication, it's likely that Trump's indignant, bragging tirades will only help bolster his ironclad grip on the Republican primary race.
Here's how Trump closed his debate performance Tuesday night:
Our country doesn't win anymore. We don't win on trade, we don't win on the military. We can't defeat ISIS. We're not taking care of our great people — the veterans. We're not taking care of them! We have to change our whole way. Our healthcare system is a disaster, it's going to implode in 2017, just like you said it would. Doesn't work. Nothing works in our country. If I'm elected president, we will win again. We will win a lot. And we're gonna have a great, great country — greater than ever before. Thank you.
The message is a bit doom and gloom for my taste, but Republican voters obviously like his rhetoric, and his lead will likely stay.