Donald Trump was the unrivaled lightning rod at Thursday’s Republican presidential debate, but the prime-time showdown made clear he’s not the only fighter on the stage – or in the race.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reclaimed his reputation as a tough-talking executive, blasting his rivals for their positions on domestic surveillance and entitlements. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul traded barbs with several candidates, including Christie.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, among others, also scored their moments. Meanwhile, one-time front-runner former Gov. Jeb Bush found himself on defense several times and largely avoided tangling with Trump on the Fox News/Facebook stage.
Perhaps the most fiery moment, though, came in an exchange between Christie and Paul mid-way through. Long-simmering tension between the two exploded when Christie stood by his criticism of the senator for opposing NSA bulk collection of American phone data.
Paul said he’s “proud of standing for the Bill of Rights,” but Christie called his stance “completely ridiculous” – suggesting he wants to cherry-pick only some data.
“When you’re sitting in the subcommittee just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that,” Christie said.