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Why Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina and Lindsey Graham say they won last night’s GOP debate

·Senior Writer
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Hours after stepping off the stage at the Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, several of the lower-polling Republican presidential candidates hit the morning talk shows to explain how they won the last GOP debate of 2015.

And Jeb Bush believes he did by standing up to the Republican frontrunner.

“I got to post up against Donald Trump,” the former Florida governor said on CNN’s “New Day.” “I don’t think he’s a serious candidate. And I don’t know why others don’t feel compelled to point that out, but I did.”

The brash billionaire “talks a big game,” Bush said, “but really hasn’t thought it through.”

“He’s a bully,” Bush continued. “Donald Trump is not going to be president of the United States by insulting everyone in the book. Insulting women, war heroes, POWs, disabled, African-Americans. You can’t insult your way to the presidency. And I think you have to stand up to that.”

“I have a steady hand,” Bush said on “Fox & Friends.” “I’m not going to be spouting off and scaring people. I think you need a steady hand when you are commander in chief.”

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Bush tore into Trump’s plan to ban on Muslims from entering the United States.

“If his proposal of banning all Muslims was actually implemented, it would be damaging to the national security of our country,” Bush said. “It would make it harder for us to be successful in building a coalition to defeat ISIS. How do you tell the Kurds, ‘We’ll arm you. We’ll support you, but you can’t come to our country.’ I mean literally, how do you tell the Jordanians or the Saudis or the Turks or the Egyptians, ‘We want you on our team. You have to be part of this for us to be successful, but you can’t come to our country.’ It is nonsense.”

Bush, who called Trump a “chaos candidate” during the debate, said he doesn’t exactly love exchanging zingers but knows “you have to do it.”

“The performance side of this isn’t why I’m running for president,” he said on CNN. “Performing is not what a president does. Leading is what a president does.”

Here’s a look at how some of the other GOP candidates say they fared:

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Republican presidential candidates gather following the GOP debate in Las Vegas on Tuesday. (Photo: John Locher/AP)

• Carly Fiorina
• How she thinks she won: By letting the other candidates talk

“I think a lot of what viewers saw last night is why they’re tired of politics,” Fiorina said on CNN. “It’s why 80 percent of the American people think we have a professional political class that cares more about its ambition, its privilege, its position than getting something done. There was … an argument about immigration between three first-term senators, and we’ve been talking about immigration for 25 years. We’ve been talking about the border for 25 years. With all due respect to Donald Trump, he didn’t bring this issue up. We talked about it the last election — we talked about it the last four elections, and it hasn’t gotten fixed.”

The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive called herself “a tested leader.”

“Politicians talk,” she said. “Leaders act.”

• Chris Christie
• How he thinks he won: By pointing out he was on the frontlines of the war on terror after 9/11, and not engaging in “dustups” onstage

Christie said he’s been the “most tested” and “most ready” candidate when it comes to protecting the United States from terrorism.

“I think last night we made it very clear that my experience as a United States attorney, federal prosecutor and governor of New Jersey makes me the best prepared person to do that,” Christie said on “CBS This Morning.” “The fact is this is a new world war and one that won’t look like the last two. This is one where radical Islamist jihadists every day are trying to kill Americans and disrupt and destroy our way of life.”

While other candidates exchanged blows at the debate, the New Jersey governor said he made a conscious decision to stay above the fray.

“The most important thing to remember is that our adversary, our real adversary, was watching last night from Chappaqua, New York,” Christie said. “It’s Hillary Clinton. And it wasn’t, I think, in the interest of our party or of our country to get into these little minor dustups and scraps that these guys get into, talking about the petty little things they’re discussing among each other. My idea is to keep the eye on the ball, make sure that we give the best person who can prosecute the case against Hillary Clinton in the fall, and I believe I’m that person.”

• Lindsey Graham
• How he thinks he won: By showing emotion while trashing Trump’s proposed Muslim ban during the undercard debate

“I was very emotional,” the South Carolina senator said on CNN. “I know the king of Jordan. I know the president of Egypt, who went to a Sunni mosque to denounce radical Islam. And now they’re dealing with an American political leader leading on the Republican side who’s basically denigrated their faith.

Graham also believes he came armed with the best one-liners of any candidate.

His own personal favorite: If Trump ever carried out his plan to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, “ISIL would be dancing in the streets — if they just believed in dancing.”

“I’m hilarious,” Graham said.

At least one pundit agreed.

“Graham should be in the main debate,” the Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote. “Graham’s poll numbers haven’t warranted an invitation to the big leagues. His performances have.”

(Cover tile photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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