A month from now, Republican primary voters might look at Tuesday night’s GOP presidential debate as a turning point in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. Simply put Marco Rubio took control of the stage multiple times. Sen. Rubio’s strongest moment of the night came when he was asked if he supported raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. He said that he’d support it if he thought it would work before saying that he didn’t think it would work. Sen. Rubio used that moment to talk about wage stagnation, saying “Here’s the best way to raise wages. Make America the best place to start a business or expand an existing business. Tax reform and regulatory reform, bring our debt under control, fully utilize our energy resources to reinvigorate manufacturing. Repeal and replace Obamacare and make higher education faster and easier to access, especially vocational training. For the life of me, I don’t understand why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”
At that point, the crowd erupted spontaneously into a standing ovation. Then Sen. Rubio finished, saying “And if we do this, we will be able to increase wages for millions of Americans. We will be able to leave everyone better off without making anyone worse off.”
Another strong moment for Sen. Rubio came when Sen. Paul questioned Rubio’s tax plan:
He held up Mr. Rubio’s tax credit and his plan to expand military spending by $1 trillion as examples of unpaid for spending that would drive up debt. “To me, that’s not conservative,” he said at the Milwaukee Theater, where the eight top Republican candidates met on the debate stage.
Mr. Rubio argued that the child tax credit was not a transfer payment but a repayment of taxes paid, including payroll taxes imposed on all workers. He said that the tax credit should be viewed as an investment in families and in their children’s futures.
Sen. Rubio was right to highlight the fact that refunding money that people had paid in isn’t a transfer payment. Female voters will be especially impressed with Sen. Rubio’s answers on higher education reform and family tax credits. Finally, Sen. Rubio obliterated Sen. Paul when Sen. Paul insisted that “As we go deeper in debt, we are less safe.”
Sen. Rubio responded, saying that he “knows” that America is safer when America leads.
Sen. Rubio looked in command on issue after issue, citing details and offering insights on everything from energy policy to education reform to national security to tax simplification.
The best summation is to say that John Kasich had a lackluster night. That’s being charitable. Jeb Bush had his best night but it wasn’t nearly good enough to remain relevant. Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz had good nights, though it’d be wrong to say that they had breakthrough performances. Donald Trump and Dr. Carson managed to avoid making policy mistakes, meaning that they avoided those disasters.
At the end of the night, though, only Sen. Rubio looked presidential.