For nearly three hours on Wednesday, the Republican presidential candidates sparred over policy, political tactics and, occasionally, physical appearance. Here’s a look at how they did.
Donald J. Trump: Bombastic, but Bumpy
Mr. Trump delivered an uneven performance, and at times it appeared that he might prefer to be elsewhere. Pressed to demonstrate a measure of credibility on policy matters — particularly foreign affairs, where he has stumbled — and to establish his candidacy as more than a summer flirtation, Mr. Trump delivered few specifics and seemed to fade as the debate wore on. He got off several signature zingers, including a broadside against Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who accused Mr. Trump of initiating sophomoric attacks. “I never attacked him on his look, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there,” he said, to laughter. But Mr. Trump was bested by Carly Fiorina in a memorable exchange over his disparaging comments about her appearance.
Ben Carson: The Understated Outsider
Mr. Carson again positioned himself as an affable outsider, seeking to remain above the fray — occasionally at the risk of disappearing for stretches. During a fractious exchange between Mr. Trump and Jeb Bush, Mr. Carson, who joked in the last debate about his dearth of airtime, made a gentle plea to seize the microphone: “Jake, can I say something about that?” Near the end, Mr. Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon, was asked about Mr. Trump’s past comments linking childhood vaccines to autism, a connection that the medical community broadly disputes. He suggested that Mr. Trump consult “the real facts.”
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