The four Republican presidential candidates still running for the White House held a debate in Miami on Thursday night that was notably more wonkish and polite than any of their previous contests.
Front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWATCH LIVE: Clinton holds second rally of the day in battleground NC Trump will 'break up the new media conglomerate oligopolies,' camp says Lots of (just) talk about 'draining the swamp' MORE set the tone by calling for the party to unify around his candidacy in his opening statement, arguing he was bringing in new people to the party and the establishment would be smart to rally behind him.
Trump concluded the debate with similar remarks. And in between — while there were skirmishes between Trump and rivals Ted CruzTed Cruz56 memorable moments from a wild presidential race Is Georgia turning blue? Five takeaways from money race MORE and Marco RubioMarco Rubio56 memorable moments from a wild presidential race New York Times endorses Rubio's rival Rubio: GOP Congress could go in different direction than Trump MORE — the candidates generally talked policy and never got truly personal.
"We're all in this together. We’re going to come up with solutions,” Trump said. “And so far I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here.”
Many Republicans have suggested the last debate went off the rails with insults and crude remarks, highlighted by an exchange between Rubio and Trump, in which the front-runner alluded to his genitals. Democrats were gleeful, believing the low-brow nature of the exchanges would help them in the fall elections.
On Thursday night, Rubio and Trump clearly had sought to set a different tone.
Trump in particular held a calm demeanor throughout the debate, at times appearing to hold back from full-out battles with Cruz, who is in second place in the GOP race and hopes to overtake Trump if Rubio and John Kasich drop out.
CNN Anchor Jake Tapper pressed the contenders on policy issues including Common Core, free trade and foreign work visas, and the candidates mostly responded with crisp answers focused on policy rather than one another.
There were sharp differences between Rubio and Trump on Cuba policy, where Trump struggled to offer specifics.
Cruz also attacked Trump again for writing checks in the past to Clinton. Trump is about one-third of the way to the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination. He’s the favorite to win Florida’s winner-take-all primary on Tuesday and is battling Kasich in a close race for all 66 of Ohio’s delegates that are also up for grabs on that day.
Trump is about one-third of the way to the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination. He’s the favorite to win Florida’s winner-take-all primary on Tuesday and is battling Kasich in a close race for all 66 of Ohio’s delegates that are also up for grabs on that day.
If he wins both, many believe he’ll be on a glide path to the nomination.
But the front-runner has been under withering assault from outside groups aligned with more moderate Republicans who are desperate to stop Trump from getting the nomination.
They believe he’d fail miserably in a general election against Clinton. Polls show the Democratic front-runner leading Trump in a head-to-head match-up.
Still, as he’s edged closer to the nomination, Trump has sought to mend fences with establishment figures that oppose him.
Part of his message in recent weeks has been aimed at those who have been outright hostile to him. As he did Thursday night, he encouraged establishment figures to get on board with his campaign, pointing to talks he’s had with Republican leaders, like Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRNC chairman: Ryan one of 'brightest stars' in Republican Party Gingrich: 'Of course' we can afford to have president with split personality Could a President Clinton heal a divided nation? MORE (Wis.), and vowing to aid down-ballot Republicans in the fall.
“One of the biggest political events anywhere in the world is happening right now with the Republican Party,” Trump said. “Millions are going out to the polls and voting out of enthusiasm and love. Some of these people, frankly, have never voted before."
Updated at 11:31 p.m.