Best Tweets Of The Iowa GOP Debate
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Best Tweets Of The Iowa GOP Debate

Thanks to the absence of Donald Trump and the presence of Rand Paul, Iowa's primary GOP debate was full of substantive discussion.

The Republican candidates for president got together last night in Iowa for the last debate before that state’s first-in-the-nation caucus. Well, most of them did. Donald Trump, the frontrunner in nationwide polls as well as in Iowa, skipped the gathering in favor of his own event.


Others considered how the organizers might fill his place.


But before any of that, we sat through the preliminary debate, starring Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum. Previous happy hour debates had contributed something to the conversation, but this one, featuring candidates polling at a combined 4.3 percent, provoked mostly exasperation.


Beyond Gilmore’s return and a few good lines from Fiorina, little said looked likely to improve any of the candidates’ standings.


An hour later, the more popular candidates filled the stage: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. Without Donald Trump at center stage, the conversation immediately turned to … Donald Trump.


Cruz worked to fill the void.


The rest of the opening statements were oddly paternal.


After that, the debate quickly turned to policy matters.


Cruz talked tough about ISIS, then demanded more time.


The moderators stood firm.


They would continue to do so throughout the night.


The Fox News crew then asked questions tailored to each candidate. Kasich reminded the crowd of his experience in government.


Paul talked about policing and prison sentencing.


Cruz got a question about repealing Obamacare, but the audience wanted to hear more.


Bush talked about Puerto Rico.


For Rubio’s question, Kelly played clips of him speaking about amnesty and tried to nail down his precise immigration policy goals.


He gave a solid answer, and Bush followed up with his own.


Cruz got a similar question about immigration, contrasting his past statements to his current platform.


Rubio added some fuel to the fire.


Paul tried his best to blow things up.


Kasich answered a question about an earlier statement conflating Christian charity and the welfare state.


Rubio talked about religious liberty. He was pretty enthusiastic.


Paul also talked about liberty, and the necessity of virtue in a free society.


Carson, momentarily forgotten, came back into the debate with a question about Russia and NATO.


Cruz ended on a high note, unless you’re an Iowa corn farmer.


Most of the candidates had some high points and some low. In the end, though, the winner was obvious:

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