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Trump triumphed in last night’s Republican debate

Trump triumphed in last night’s Republican debate

James Hohmann | The Washington Post

The GOP candidates took a break from the civil war and were just civil.

After last week’s embarrassment, the 12th Republican debate was their most substantive. There was little crosstalk at the University of Miami. It actually took half an hour for someone to level a direct attack.

"So far I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here,” Trump said at one point.

It basically stayed that way, and it played right into the front-runner’s hands.

Determined not to go into the gutter, no one really stripped away any of Trump’s Teflon coating. His biggest errors were unforced, like when he called the protests in Tiananmen Square a "riot” (yikes) and seemed to not really know anything about U.S.-Cuba policy.

Everyone on stage was trying to prove something: “Trump sought to project a command of issues and a temperament that is suited to the Oval Office, rather than a reality show,” Karen Tumulty and Philip Rucker note. “Marco Rubio was attempting to repair the damage that he has done to his reputation by baiting Trump with schoolyard taunts. Ted Cruz portrayed himself as an outsider, like Trump — but one with greater intellectual depth. And John Kasich emphasized his blue-collar roots and his governing experience — the latter commodity being one that thus far has not found a market in this year’s discontented electorate.”

-- The two-hour showdown seems unlikely to change the trajectory of the race, which is bad news for the underdogs. This was the last big media event before Tuesday’s winner-take-all primaries in Florida and Ohio. Rubio and Kasich will be out of the race if they lose their home states. Polls show each trailing Trump, though there was some good news for Rubio in a Washington Post-Univision News poll published yesterday: While several surveys have put him down double digits, we have the Florida senator within seven points of Trump (38-31).

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