Rubio runs away with the GOP debate, again
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The fourth Republican debate reminded me of an old LIFE magazine double-truck cartoon rendition reflecting the pennant races of the American and National Leagues in the 1950s.

On two pages was a drawing of the classic American League race showing a Roman centurion general labeled "New York Yankees," with the rest of the league's baseball teams lined up in a tight military formation, at attention. Those are the Democrats today.

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Turning the page, there was the National League race shown as a barroom brawl with a little Brooklyn Dodger running around biting the legs of Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, etc. Those are the Republicans today.

I'll never forget how I laughed when I turned that page.

I had the same reaction during the Republican debate: I guffawed when Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe buck stops here: How to restore accountability to the federal regulatory system Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Lawyer: Flynn will keep cooperating after co-conspirator revelations MORE (Ky.) slammed Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE to the mat when he simply pointed out that China was not in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after Trump had ranted and ranted about China and its currency manipulation. That, he said, was the reason he opposed TPP. He admitted he had not read it, so his apparent ignorance about China not being part of TPP wasn't an accident.

Apparently Trump doesn't know that China isn't in TPP — thats how it looked yesterday. And, apparently, he doesn't know that TPP is designed to counter China's political and economic influence in East Asia.

It's possible that he knows China is not in TPP, but we couldn't tell that from what he says. I did yell at him when he repeated his big lie about our "$500 billion" trade deficit with China. The deficit in 2014 was $343 billion, and that's a lot less than Trump declares. I yelled even more when he blasted Japan for its trade advantage, which he claims is $75 billion when it is $67 billion (2014), and Mexico's trade advantage of $54 billion. He never mentions that the second largest trade deficit we have after China is Germany. He never mentions Germany's $75 billion trade advantage. Why doesn’t he mention it while blasting Mexico when its trade advantage is far less than Germany's? He must like his Mercedes-Benz.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson did well, especially when he kicked the media around for lying about him. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was outshouted by Trump, who again cracked about how lucky Kasich is that energy fracking has helped the Ohio economy. Kasich missed his chance to demolish Trump when he could have looked Trump in the eye and declared how lucky Trump was to be born rich. Kasich left the room as he entered: low in the polls.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina did well, but didn't improve her position much. Her stock for the vice presidential nomination holds steady. She did manage to put Trump down on each knowing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump says that he shared a "60 Minutes" program with Putin — "We were stablemates" — and Fiorina pointed out she has really met Putin, not just in a studio "green room." (Although she previously told NBC's Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show" that she had met Putin in a green room, as well.) Trump hurt himself further when he jumped in, loudly proclaiming that Fiorina interrupted the debate too much. He was booed by many in the audience.

As for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, other than his body slam of Trump, he didn't do well and lost huge Republican support when he criticized Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioLiberal think tank: GOP paid parental leave proposals are too narrow GOP senator: 'Outrageous' to say Trump's tweets about Democratic congresswomen are racist House passes bills to boost small business cybersecurity MORE for wanting to upgrade the military. Despite his claim that he is the only fiscal conservative, his libertarian isolationism is a killer. Paul should not be invited to the next debate. It's also possible that Kasich might not be invited.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush did better than in the previous debates and may live to fight another day, but he didn't excite most who watched the debate.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Cruz in 2016 said 'something fundamentally wrong' with Christians who back Trump: book Hillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid MORE (Texas) did well. He's good on his feet. But his 1,000-percent-certain-round-'em-up-and-kick-'em-out stance toward "illegal" immigrants, including American citizen kids of "illegal" parents, guarantees that the only Hispanic in the country who would vote for him next November is his father. Without Hispanic votesm Cruz could not win any election outside of Texas.

So, the winner? Rubio.

That view is not unique to these precincts. Pollster Frank Luntz had a New Hampshire focus group of Republicans that overwhelmingly picked Rubio as the winner by almost three to one; several who entered the room favoring other candidates switched to Rubio.

Why? Simple. Rubio's running away with the debate because he manifests a vision for the 21st century and doesn't dwell on the past, like Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhy Trump's bigoted tropes won't work in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm MORE's resume. But his best is exemplified by his exchange with "committed isolationist" (as Rubio called him) Paul. Spending a trillion dollars on the military, Paul claimed, proves that Rubio is not a fiscal conservative. Rubio responded with this statement that won the night with Republicans and probably independents: "I know the world is a safer and better place if the United Sates is the strongest military power in the world."

Contreras formerly wrote for the New American News Service of The New York Times Syndicate.