Rubio anointed debate victor



Republican presidential candidates John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul take the stage before the Republican presidential debate at the Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

By Rebecca Morin

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Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is on the pathway to becoming the Republican Party’s presidential nominee — at least he is for some Iowans.

Kossuth County Republicans chairman Wendell Steven said one person stuck out to him on Tuesday’s debate: “Marco.”

“I think Marco did the best tonight,” Steven said. “He was trying to be and was very truthful. He just acts like a leader; he doesn’t act like a follower at all.”

The fourth Republican presidential debate for the primary season was held Tuesday night at Milwaukee Theater in Milwaukee. It was sponsored by Fox Business Network and the Wall Street Journal.

Focusing on tax and the economy, Rubio’s most notable performance of the evening, however, came from his exchange with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on military spending.

Paul criticized Rubio by saying he was not conservative on spending money, using the example of Rubio’s plan to spend more money to rebuild the United States military. Rubio’s response: Paul is a “a committed isolationist.”

 “I believe the world is a stronger and a better place when the United States is the strongest military power in the world,” Rubio said in response to Paul.

Rubio is among the top three candidates in Iowa, according to an Iowa poll by CNN/ORC that was published Nov. 6. Thirteen percent of Republican likely caucus-goers said Rubio would be their first choice. That is a jump from the 5 percent the 44-year-old held in August.

Donald Trump led the poll with 25 percent followed by Carson with 23 percent.

Between Oct. 29 and Nov. 4, 548 Republican likely caucus-goers were interviewed by telephone. There is a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

According to the November CNN/ORC Iowa poll, Paul is one of four candidates polling at 2 percentage points.

Paul and Rubio’s exchange didn’t just benefit the Florida senator, however.

Tyler De Haan, the chairman of the Dallas County Republicans, said he thinks Paul exceeded expectations.

Haan said Paul’s presence on the prime-time debate was questioned after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Governor and 2008 Iowa caucus winner Mike Huckabee were bumped down to the undercard debate.

“I think [Paul] had a very good debate. I think he certainly answered the bell there,” De Haan said.

But there was a consensus that Rubio stayed consistent with this debate performance.

“Marco Rubio did well in the last debates and this is no different,” he said.

Rubio will make a one-day stop today in Davenport for a meet-and-greet at the Jersey Grille, 5255 Jersey Ridge Road, at 11:30 a.m.

Steven, who said Rubio also held his ground in the CNBC Republican debate on Oct. 28 in Boulder, Colorado, said he can see Rubio taking points in polling from the two top candidates, Carson and Trump.

“I don’t think Trump did as well as he could or should have. I think Marco did better than Ben Carson,” he said. “I think it’s going to get a little closer.”

David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, said Tuesday’s debate did not make or break any candidate.

Yepsen, who worked for the Des Moines Register for more than 30 years, holding roles such as chief political writer, political editor, and political columnist, said there weren’t “any stupid mistakes that were fatal” or a moment when someone leveled their opponent.

“Every candidate had strong moments, every candidate had weak moments,” he said. “You can tell they are getting used to this and getting more polished at the debate game.”

There are fewer than 90 days until the Iowa caucuses’ scheduled Feb. 1 date — and Yepsen said candidates will only continue to get more polished in their debating styles.

He said he doesn’t think debates will be taking out any more candidates before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries.

“Why would they have come this far without going through Iowa and New Hampshire,” he said. “The campaign goes on.”

An earlier version of this story quoted Sen. Marco Rubio as saying, “You think defending this nation is expensive? Try not defending it.” Sen. Ted Cruz said this quote. The DI regrets the error.

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