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As expected, insults and wisecracks abounded during the third Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado in Boulder Wednesday night.
But the Republican presidential candidates did not direct all their vitriol at one another — plenty was saved for the Democratic Party and the media.
Several times, the conservative politicians vying for their party’s nod deflected questions posed by the CNBC moderators that they deemed mean-spirited or baiting an argument. Other times, they went on the offensive with little to no prodding.
Here are six of the best one-liners from the night.
Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up during the CNBC Republican presidential debate. (Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP)
Trump on Kasich’s attitude: “His poll numbers tanked … that is why he is on the end.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich insisted that Republicans need to wake up and elect someone who can actually handle the job of president. He touted his record of balancing budgets and growing jobs.
He attacked businessman Donald Trump’s “fantasy” solution to solving serious issues by simply making the country great again.
“We’re just going to be great?” he asked.
Trump responded by saying that Ohio’s success was due to fracking rather than Kasich’s governance and that he was a managing general partner at Lehman Brothers when it “went down the tubes.”
But, in true Trump fashion, he said Kasich’s tone was souring because of his weak poll numbers, which is the reason his podium was off to the side of the stage.
“He was such a nice guy. And he said, ‘Oh, I’m never going to attack.’ But then his poll numbers tanked. He has got — that is why he is on the end.”
Chris Christie answers a question during the CNBC Republican presidential debate. (Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP)
Christie on moderator’s interruptions: “I’ve got to tell you the truth — even in New Jersey what you’re doing is called rude.”
Debate moderator John Harwood asked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie what we should do to deal with anthropogenic climate change.
Christie’s response began with a criticism of what he sees as the proposed solution from Democrats — namely more taxes and government involvement — to which Harwood reiterated his question.
Christie continued his answer by saying that “we” should invest in all types of energy. Again, before Christie finished speaking, Harwood asked another question: “You mean government?”
“No, John. John, do you want me to answer or do you want to answer?” Christie said to laughter. “How are we going to do this? Because, I’ve got to tell you the truth — even in New Jersey what you’re doing is called rude.”
After that rejoinder, Christie proceeded to outline his energy plan, uninterrupted, of working with the private sector to make solar and wind energy affordable for businesses and individuals — repeating that government intervention and more taxes are not the answer.
Marco Rubio makes a point during the CNBC Republican presidential debate. (Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP)
Rubio on Benghazi hearing: “It was the week [Hillary Clinton] got exposed as a liar.”
To thunderous applause, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said that Democrats benefit from the ultimate super-PAC: the mainstream media.
He blamed media bias for letting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton off the hook after last week’s Benghazi hearings, which, he said, exposed her to be dishonest.
“She admitted she had sent emails to her family saying, ‘Hey, this attack at Benghazi was caused by al-Qaida-like elements.’ She spent over a week telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video. And yet the mainstream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It was the week she got exposed as a liar. It was the week that she got exposed as a liar,” he said. “But she has her super-PAC helping her out, the American mainstream media.”
Mike Huckabee speaks during the CNBC Republican presidential debate. (Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP)
Huckabee: “I love Donald Trump. He is a good man. I’m wearing a Trump tie tonight.”
Harwood asked Christian minister and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has written about the divide between the coasts and Middle America, if Trump would have the “moral authority” to unite the entire country.
“You know, of the few questions I’ve got, the last one I need is to give him some more time. I love Donald Trump. He is a good man. I’m wearing a Trump tie tonight. Get over that one, OK?”
After some crosstalk about where the tie was manufactured — “Is it made in China or Mexico?” — Trump thanked Huckabee for his lighthearted response.
“Such a nasty — such a nasty question, but thank you, Governor,” Trump said.
Ted Cruz argues his point during the CNBC Republican presidential debate. (Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP)
Cruz on Democratic candidates: “That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks.”
Cruz criticized the types of questions the debate moderators were asking in contrast to, in his view, the softball questions the Democratic presidential candidates received during their debate.
“The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, ‘Which of you is more handsome and why?’” he said.
Cruz praised every candidate on the stage with him as having more ideas, experience and common sense than every Democratic debate participant.
“That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks,” he said to laughter. “And nobody watching at home believed that any of the moderators had any intention of voting in a Republican primary.”
Carly Fiorina smiles during the CNBC Republican presidential debate. (Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP)
Fiorina on her weakness: “After the last debate, I was told that I didn’t smile enough.”
In typical job-interview fashion, debate moderator Carl Quintanilla asked each candidate what his or her biggest weakness is.
“Well, gee, after the last debate, I was told that I didn’t smile enough,” former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said before beaming — drawing laughter from the audience.
This line, Fiorina’s first sentence of the evening, subtly called attention to the different treatment she has received from some commentators as the only woman on the GOP stage. The criticism of Fiorina’s demeanor evoked what many consider to be gender-based street harassment: men telling women and girls to smile.
After pausing to smile for several seconds, Fiorina moved on to the serious issue of government corruption, saying that the “big, powerful, corrupt bureaucracy” works only for the wealthy and well connected, while millions of Americans are left behind.
“Ours was intended to be a citizen government,” she said. “This is about more than replacing a D with an R. We need a leader who will help us take our government back.”