MIAMI — After an all-out brawl of a debate last week in Michigan, which featured Donald Trump at one point defending the size of his genitalia, the Republican presidential hopefuls adopted an unusual tone in the opening minutes of their latest head-to-head here: civility.
In the first half hour of Thursday’s debate, Trump and his GOP rivals seemed to almost go out of their way to avoid attacking one another even as they debated heated topics like entitlement reform and immigration.
As recently as a day ago, Trump was still trashing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as “Little Marco” and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted,” but on Thursday, the Republican frontrunner put his name-calling on pause, talking up party unity in what seemed to be an effort to cast a more presidential air. And his rivals also seemed to hold back — most notably Cruz, who has sought to cast himself as the chief alternative to Trump.
At one point, Cruz trashed Democrat Hillary Clinton, suggesting she believed that Social Security could be made solvent by cutting waste, fraud and abuse. When a moderator pointed out that Trump had only minutes earlier voiced the same position and asked if he was comparing Trump to Clinton, Cruz backed off. “I’ll let Donald speak for himself,” he replied.
Just seconds later, Trump and Cruz tangled over immigration — with the real estate mogul accusing his rival of previously supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants. But instead of blasting Trump — as he has previously on the issue — Cruz just laughed it off.
Trump repeated his charge — albeit in a softer tone — but then he notably shifted back to a more conciliatory tone. “We’re all in this together. We’re going to come up with solutions. We’re going to find the answers to things,” Trump said.
It was a somewhat jarring shift in tone, after weeks of in-the-gutter attacks. And even the GOP frontrunner took note. “So far I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here,” Trump said.
(Cover tile photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)