Rivals Fire Salvos at Trump During Wildest Debate Yet

Donald Trump was the man to beat Thursday night. REUTERS/Mike Stone

It was a crazy night in Texas as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz pulled no punches against the greatest pugilist of them all, Donald Trump. Did their shots at him for everything from bankruptcies to his views on the Middle East, many any difference?

Newsweek's Jonathan Broder, Emily Cadei and Matthew Cooper liveblogged the Republican Presidential Debate from Houston, Texas. Broder was a longtime Middle East correspondent and is well acquainted with tribal warfare, which helped with tonight's festivities. Cadei covers the presidential campaign and politics for Newsweek, where Cooper is the political editor. Taylor Wofford covers politics for Newsweek.

10:50 PM: The candidates' closing pitches seem more urgent tonight than in the past. "The votes are starting to count," says Rubio. Carson gets in a reference to his famous memoir, "Gifted Hands." Cruz makes a long list of promises of what he will do on first day in office. And Trump, is well, Trump, reiterating his disdain for politicians. "I will get it done," he pledges. What "it" is? Unclear. -- Emily Cadei

10:40 PM: Kasich making his strongest pitch of the night -- leadership: "That's why you need a governor" he says, explaining it's President Obama's responsibility to broker a solution to the FBI-Apple encryption spat. -- Emily Cadei

10:35 PM: "C'mon Wolf, gain control," says Kasich as Rubio, Cruz and Trump talk over each other. This is degenerating, which doesn't make any of the men on stage look very presidential. -- Emily Cadei

10:31 PM: Cruz takes credit for getting the administration to lift its ban on flights to Israel during Hamas bombardment a few years ago. -- Jonathan Broder

10:29 PM: Rubio creates a straw man. No one, repeat no one has ever suggested walking away from U.S. defense treaties with Japan and South Korea. -- Jonathan Broder

10:26 PM: Trump is the anti-neocon -- arguing we would have been better off if Moammar al-Qaddafi was still in Libya and Saddam Hussein still led Iraq. At least they killed terrorists, he argues. -- Emily Cadei

10:21 PM: Beware of chest-pounding on national of security issues, like we just heard from Kasich. He makes regime change in North Korea sound like a matter of political will. He doesn't mention that China has a big vote, as does North Korea. -- Jonathan Broder

10:16 PM: Trump strikes an honest broker's position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict -- a bold position among a constituency where unquestioned support for Israel is required. This will broaden Trumps appeal among moderate Republicans and independents. This of course causes Cruz and Rubio's brains to foam. -- Jonathan Broder

10:06 PM: Cruz continues to assume that Trump should be unacceptable to Republican voters because he's not conservatives enough. The primaries so far show that doesn't matter this cycle. -- Jonathan Broder

9:58 PM: Donald Trump's "As soon as the audit is done" response to question on when he's releasing his tax returns sounds a lot like Hillary Clinton's "I'll look into it," on her paid speech transcripts. The clock is still ticking on the latter -- Emily Cadei

9:55 PM: One of the staples of presidential years is a governor bragging about the economy in their state. John Kasich is doing that. Leaving aside his policies, it would have been almost impossible for an Ohio Governor not to report job increases since 2010 when Kasich was elected. The national unemployment rate has been cut nearly in half since then. Conversely, Bill Clinton was savaged for Arkansas's low rankings in any number of areas. But it was a poor state when he inherited the governor's mansion and it was the same when he left. So Cooper's rule: Look at the policies, not the unemployment rate. -- Matt Cooper

9:51 PM: "We're going to get rid of so many things" including Common Core, the Department of Education, environmental protections, Trump says. Wolf Blitzer points out that doesn't get the U.S. anywhere near making up for its deficit. "We will cut so much your head will spin," Trump responds. -- Emily Cadei

9:44 PM: Rubio gets in a solid uppercut to Trump's jaw, challenging him (finally) to provide details about his health care plan beyond "lines around the states, to which Trump responds with bluster and what Scalia would call "argle-bargle" and "pure applesauce." Trump has noticeable cut above his left eye. -- Jonathan Broder

9:40 PM: "This is important guys," Marco Rubio says of Donald Trump. "What is your plan??" Why has no other candidate been asking Trump this question in, the last, oh, 8 months of this campaign? -- Emily Cadei

9:40 PM: Two more ways Trump blurs ideological lines: His defense of Planned Parenthood's health services and his calling Ronald Reagan "somewhat conservative." If you read Jacob Weisberg's new biography of the Gipper it's a reminder that the 40th president had no problem raising taxes, cutting deals with our sworn enemies and signing sweeping immigration reform. There's an old saw that you can either seek heretics or converts, and Cruz often seems more intent on unearthing the latter. -- Matt Cooper

9:35 PM: An hour into the debate, and no questions yet on foreign policy -- Jonathan Broder​

9:32 PM: Trump's rivals have been trying for months to raise questions about his conservatism with Republican voters, citing his past donations to Democrats, positive comments on Planned Parenthood, etc. But it hasn't eroded his support at all and I'm not sure it's going to suddenly start working tonight -- Emily Cadei

9:29 PM: Boom! Trump lashes out at Chief Justice Roberts for providing the decisive vote approving the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. -- Jonathan Broder

9:20 PM: Donald Trump: "I don't believe anything Telemundo says," denying that he's unpopular with Hispanics. May not help his favorables with Hispanic voters. -- Emily Cadei

9:18 PM: Rubio and Cruz's tough positions on immigration once again underscore the diversity of opinion on the issue among Hispanics. --- Jonathan Broder

9:12 PM: Rubio dropped the whole oppo folder on Trump at once--the lawsuits against Trump University, the bankruptcies, foreign workers, all culminating in the "If he hadn't inherited $200 million you know where Donald Trump would be? Selling watches in Manhattan." I ask, do most people know he's referring to cheap knockoffs sold on the street and not say reputable jewelers? I'm not sure it's working very well. Too many shots, too quickly. A fusillade is not the same as a well placed dagger. -- Matthew Cooper

9:07 PM: Trump is a master demagogue. He ignores what the Mexicans are saying about his plans to build the war and make them pay for it and doubles down -- much to the delight of the fight crowd. The debate is quickly beginning to resemble a professional wrestling match -- all sound, fury and posturing. -- Jonathan Broder

9:04 PM: The brilliance of Trump on display -- turning a question about how he's going to force Mexico to pay for a border wall into an indictment of the former Mexican president's word choice. The audience seems to be enjoying the tough talk. Question, though: how many times has Trump dropped the f-bomb in his interviews? -- Emily Cadei

8:57 PM: I did not expect to hear Ted Cruz say "Marco Rubio is right" in this debate, pundits were expecting those two to be at each other's throats but so far they're both targeting Trump -- Emily Cadei

8:53 PM: Rubio seems to be more willing to tangle with Trump than in any previous debates. Political watchers have been wondering if he would ever do this. Well, it looks like now (with a new poll showing him down double-digits to the billionaire in his home state of Florida) is the time --Emily Cadei

8:50 PM: Pundits have speculated endlessly about how Trump became the likely Republican nominee and the simplest explanation is also the most accurate: immigration. He took the toughest line, beginning with his announcement on June 16 when he referred to "rapists" and "murderers." Cruz, not to be outdone, has tried to get to Trump's right on this. Wolf Blitzer's question illustrates how the culture of Texas, the biggest state voting next week, has changed. Former Governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry--at least until his 2016 bid--had reformist impulses on immigration. Texas has long had a softer line on this than, say, Arizona, the home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio who Trump cited. But now even Texas has shifted. --Matt Cooper

8:46 PM: Everyone so far seems to be emphasizing the upbeat, the positive. Will Donald Trump keep that trend up? --Emily Cadei

8:43 PM: Dr. Ben Carson gets to go first in opening statements, emphasizes that "what we need to do is be looking for solutions tonight" as opposed to destroying each other --Emily Cadei

8:36 PM: Good evening, all. Hard not to be touched to see an aging President George H.W. Bush in the audience at tonight's Republican debate in Houston. Now that the national anthem has become standard fare at these things, can opening pitch, or cheerleaders be far behind? --Matthew Cooper