Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., came out swinging in Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate.
It was a difference in style and substance noted by members of a Texas focus group who overwhelmingly told Republican pollster Frank Luntz that Rubio was the debate’s winner.
Luntz released a breakdown of the 23 members of the group. Rubio was named the winner by 16 members; Donald Trump, 4; Ohio Gov. John Kasich, 2; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, 1. No one named Ben Carson, who at one point asked one of the candidates to attack him so he could get in on the action.
Rubio was called “knowledgeable about the issues” and “charming.”
“He didn’t seem like a mechanical robot, like he usually does when he comes on,” one participant said. “This time he was more personable, you know it was snap snap snap, it wasn’t something he memorized. It didn’t appear that way.”
Rubio started early, turning the first question he received on immigration away from the treacherous territory of past immigration bills he authored into an attack on Trump.
Rubio also attacked Trump for having a “fake school,” referring to lawsuits aimed at Trump University alleging fraud and deception and said was a child of privilege.
Trump defended himself and at one point dismissively waved off Rubio’s comments, saying the case Rubio was referring to happened 38 years before. “I guess there’s a statute of limitations on lies,” Rubio retorted.
“If he hadn’t inherited $200 million, you know where Donald Trump would be right now? Selling watches in Manhattan,” Rubio said.