It was Rubio vs. Cruz in latest GOP debate

The biggest losers in the Las Vegas Republican debate were President Obama, Democratic primary candidate Hillary Clinton, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

The Internet and free speech took a broadside from Donald TrumpDonald TrumpProject Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? MORE, who doesn't understand the First Amendment. He pulled back when pressed about taking out the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) Internet because he realized he had really stuck his foot in his mouth. Trump looked weak and condescending when asked about Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate panel deadlocks over Biden pick to lead DOJ civil rights division Yang: Those who thought tweet in support of Israel was 'overly simplistic' are correct CNN asks Carol Baskin to comment on loose Texas tiger MORE's (Texas) anti-Trump private declarations that Trump was not qualified to be commander in chief; worse, he looked like a "wuss" when he carried on about Cruz being a good guy. (Cruz looked even worse, since he looked like an adoring kid lovingly looking at his master.)


Cruz looked good except when he was caught when Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioStudy: Early unemployment cutoff would cost 16M people 0B The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting Senate votes to repeal OCC 'true lender' rule MORE (Fla.) punched him about his anti-defense spending votes, all three of them. Cruz's retort: He claimed that he voted against it because he objected to holding American citizen prisoners without due process "permanently." Defense Republicans do not appreciate senators who vote against Defense bills.

Rubio countered Cruz by saying that he supported the bill that imprisoned American citizens who joined ISIS to fight against us because they must be considered enemy combatants. Rubio went further and pointed out that under President Obama, we are becoming weaker and weaker militarily, which is placing us all in danger.

Cruz lies about his tough position on immigration. Trying to tie Rubio to Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) falls pretty flat, because he forgets to mention that 14 other Republicans voted for (68-32) the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that Cruz says was "amnesty" when it wasn't. Rubio's three-point immigration stance is far more acceptable than anything Cruz has ever suggested.

Cruz vigorously declared that he never supported "legalization" of illegal aliens. He lied. In 2013, he introduced an amendment to drop a path to citizenship but keeping legalization in the very bill he accuses Rubio of supporting. The killer is a videotape of Cruz supporting "legalization" in the Senate.

Rubio went on to floor Trump, who didn't know what the nuclear triad is. Rubio explained it to be bombers, submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) all capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Trump didn't know that and proved he is a really bad candidate when it comes to knowledge of national defense. On the subject of Trump's declaration that he will "take out" the families of terrorists, he did not deny his statement. Instead, he said something to the effect that we should bomb ISIS wherever ISIS is. Paul pointed out that we would have to leave the Geneva Convention, which prohibits the intentional murder of civilians.

"They can kill us but we can't kill them?" Trump asked.

The candidate who did himself a lot of good was New Jersey Gov. Chris ChristieChris ChristieSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as White House continues to push vaccination effort NJ governor's approval rating slips to 57 percent: poll Never underestimate Joe Biden MORE, who took Rubio and Paul to task on their ping-pong match about who voted for what in the Senate. Christie kept pushing that legislators talk while governors actually do things. He did well.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is done. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is done, too, unless he wins the Ohio primary and no one arrives in Cleveland with a majority of delegates. If that is the case, Kasich will have Ohio delegates to deal with and could slip onto the ticket by virtue of those delegates.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina did herself well, especially when she explained that, as president, she wouldn't talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin until Russian troops were out of Crimea, out of eastern Ukraine and American missiles were in Poland and the Baltic states.

Paul finished the night with a statement that proved he shouldn't have even been on stage. "I'm the only fiscal conservative on stage," he proclaimed in a debate on foreign policy and who should be commander in chief. He shouldn't have been there at all because he has no poll numbers that met CNN's requirements. Paul cannot garner many votes from defense-oriented Republicans in an election were terrorism and "boots on the ground" are primary issues.

Trump gained no new supporters; didn't lose much, but probably didn't gain much. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was aggressive, but didn't help himself much except when he nailed Trump on the Trump proposal to ban all Muslims from coming into the country. Bush made Trump look silly by wondering out loud about what the King of Jordan and the Saudi royal family think about Trump's proposed ban that would stop them from coming to the U.S. to discuss making war on ISIS.

Ultimately, Fiorina and Christie did well. Cruz did well with his 16 minutes on camera, but lost his tit-for-tat with Rubio (who got 13 minutes) because Rubio is more likable, sounds better informed and doesn't lie like Cruz does. Cruz doesn't know the definition of amnesty or "legalization." His memory doesn't work well in the face of a videotape that proves he is a liar.

The best line of the night was Rubio's, when he commented on the overthrow of Middle East dictators: "[A]nti-American dictators like [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, who help Hezbollah, who helped get those IEDs [improvised explosive devices] into Iraq, if they go, I will not shed a tear."

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