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Republicans Make Their Final Pitch to Voters Before Iowa

6 minute read

Just a couple days before the Iowa caucuses, seven Republican presidential candidates made their final pitch to voters at a Republican debate.

The candidate who has been a surprisingly commanding force in the primary contest was notably absent from the debate, as businessman Donald Trump opted out of attending.

Here’s what the others had to say (and why they said it):

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas

What did he say?

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
Texas Sen. Ted CruzJim Lo Scalzo—EPA

If Donald engages in insults or anybody else, I don’t intend to reciprocate. I have not insulted Donald personally and I don’t intend to. I am glad Donald is running. I’m glad he has produced enormous enthusiasm, and, to every Donald Trump voter or potential voter, I hope to earn your support. I know everyone else on this stage hopes to earn your support. Now, there is a difference between personal insults and attacks — between going into the mud with ad hominems and focusing on issues and substance. I think issues and substance, policy and vision and record should be the meat of politics. That’s fair game. That’s where I’m going to focus.

What does it mean?

Sen. Ted Cruz trying not to offend Trump supporters since the two contenders are vying for the same conservative voters in Iowa, but he wants to make clear that they should back him over Trump.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida

What did he say?

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio
Florida Sen. Marco RubioJim Lo Scalzo—EPA

Let’s begin by being clear about what this campaign is about, it’s not about Donald Trump—he’s an entertaining guy, he’s the greatest show on earth. This campaign is about the greatest country in the world and a president who has systematically destroyed many of the things that made America special. You see, we usually elect presidents in America that want to change the things that are wrong in America. Barack Obama wants to change America. Barack Obama wants America to be like the rest of the world. We don’t want to be like the rest of the world, we want to be like the United States of America. That is why Hillary Clinton cannot win this election … if I’m our nominee I will unite this party and we will defeat Hillary Clinton.

Why did he say it?

Rubio is trying to make the case that he’s the most electable candidate and the best-positioned to defeat Clinton in the general election while also throwing enough red meat out to satisfy conservative voters.

Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida

What did he say?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
Former Florida Gov. Jeb BushJim Lo Scalzo—EPA

Bret, we’re just starting. The first vote hasn’t been counted. Why don’t we let the process work. I trust Iowans, Granite Staters, people in South Carolina, people in Nevada, to start this process out.

Why did he say it?

Once perceived as a frontrunner, Bush is lagging in the polls. He’s using the classic “the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day” logic while arguing that he’s in the race for the long haul.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey

What did he say?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris ChristieJim Lo Scalzo—EPA

This is what makes a difference when you’re a governor. You can change your mind. Ted can change his mind. Marco can change his mind. It’s perfectly legal in this country to change your mind. But when you’re a governor, you have to admit it. You can’t hide behind parliamentary tricks. That’s the difference, and that’s the kind of leader we need in the White House. Stop the Washington bull and let’s get things done.

Why did he say it?

Christie is trying to cast himself as an experienced leader as well as a Washington outsider in order to split the difference between voters looking for a fresh face and those who want a steady hand.

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio

What did he say?

Ohio Gov. John Kasich
Ohio Gov. John KasichJim Lo Scalzo—EPA

We cannot fix things in this country — the Social Security, the border, balancing the budget, getting wages to grow faster — unless we lead as conservatives, but we also invite people in from the other party. We have to come together as a country. And we have to stop all the divisions. And, you know, that’s been my message in New Hampshire. And having been in New Hampshire and here in Iowa, but in New Hampshire, I just received the support of seven out of eight of the newspapers in that state because they see positive, they see unity, they see coming together, and they see a record of change and a record of accomplishment.

Why did he say it?

Though the Iowa caucuses are the first in the nation, Kasich has essentially thrown in the towel on the Hawkeye State and has opted instead to focus on making headway in the more stubbornly independent New Hampshire.

Ben Carson

What did he say?

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson
Retired neurosurgeon Ben CarsonJim Lo Scalzo—EPA

I will gladly confess that I’m the only one on this stage with no political title. You’re not going to hear a lot of polished political speech from me, but you will hear the truth. And I don’t think you have to be a politician to tell the truth … we are in a situation right now in our country that we have never been in before. We need people who think out of the box and can solve problems, can utilize the resources around them, very smart people, to focus on the problem and solve the problem.

Why did he say it?

Carson’s sticking to the message that served him well in the past: He’s not a career politician.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky

What did he say?

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.Charlie Neibergall—AP

I’m an eye surgeon from Bowling Green, Kentucky, I miss doing eye surgery, still get to do a little bit. Did a couple of cataract surgeries over Christmas holidays. Got to go to Haiti last year. I’ve gotten to do some incredible things. Got to be on the floor of the Senate. And it has been amazing to me.

Why did he say it?

After being dropped from the last debate due to low poll numbers, Paul seemed freer, mostly happy to talk about the issues he cares about without worrying whether he’ll win Iowa or New Hampshire or anywhere else.

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