Rubio, Cruz swing at Trump in Republican debate

Washington, Feb 26 (IANS) Faced with the prospect of being trampled under the Donald Trump train, the Republican presidential frontrunner’s two main rivals finally took the gloves off to attack him ahead of the crucial March 1 Super Tuesday.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is yet to win a state in the Republican nomination contests, in particular, attacked Trump on his immigration, foreign policy and health care positions, along with his business hiring practices.

The two spoke over each other in the CNN Republican debate in Houston Thursday as the senator accused the real estate mogul of peddling a “fake” university and using Polish workers on one major project.

“If he hadn’t inherited 200 million dollars, you know where Donald Trump would be? Selling watches in Manhattan,” Rubio suggested and closed the debate with another jab at him calling for an end to: “The silliness. This looniness!”

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who came in first-place in the Iowa caucuses but has not been able to notch another win since, also went on the offensive, saying Trump had previously donated to Democrats who had worked on the so-called Gang of Eight immigration reform bill.

Voters should judge a candidate by looking at their “record before they were a candidate for president,” Cruz added.

A Monmouth University poll released Thursday put Cruz 15 points ahead of Trump in his home state of Texas, where there are 155 delegates at stake.

Trump, who has three wins in a row under his belt, in turn, derided Rubio as someone who was easily rattled and Cruz as a friendless outcast in the Senate, who used dirty tactics on the campaign trail. “This guy’s a choke artist,” he said, turning towards Rubio. “And this guy’s a liar,” he said, pointing to Cruz.

Trump repeatedly stated his support for Israel, billing himself the most “pro-Israel” candidate in the Republican field.

But even as he said he was “totally pro-Israel”, he also said he didn’t believe there was any reason for labelling Israel and the Palestinians as the “good guy” and the “bad guy”.

“The position you’ve taken is an anti-Israel position,” Rubio said.

When Trump said he was simply a “negotiator”, Rubio shot back: “The Palestinians are not a real estate deal, Donald.”

Trump also responded to former Mexican President Vicente Fox’s recent response to Trump’s claim that Mexico would pay for his proposed US-Mexico wall.

“I’m not going to pay for that f***ing wall. He should pay for it,” Fox told Fusion in an interview published Thursday.

On the CNN debate stage, Trump quipped: “The wall just got 10 feet taller.”

“I saw him make the statement. I saw him use the word that he used,” Trump added. “This guy used a filthy, disgusting word on television … He should apologise.”

Thursday’s debate provided the last chance to Rubio and Cruz to arrest Trump’s momentum and somehow change the dynamic of the Republican race before Super Tuesday when 11 states go to the polls.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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