‘You Think They Like Each Other?’ The Best Digs From the GOP Debate Melee

Trump vs. Cruz vs. Rubio vs. Christie: The highest-polling Republicans took plenty of shots in the first debate of the year

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It took little time in Thursday's GOP presidential debate for front-runners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to go head-to-head. 

Contesting Cruz's eligibility for president and Trump's supposed "New York values," they had the biggest clashes of the night, but they were far from alone. Maybe there was something in the South Carolina air or the candidates made some rowdy New Year's resolutions, because nearly each of the seven had a bone to pick with someone else on stage during the Fox Business debate.

On a night when Trump said he'd gladly accept the "mantle of anger," it seemed like everyone was happy to get in on the action.

Cruz vs. Trump

The pair have been jostling for position in polls for the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, the first contest of the presidential primaries, lately taking jabs at each other in the press.

Moderators asked Canadian-born Cruz to respond to Trump's suggestion that he's not eligible to be president.

Cruz noted that Trump previously said he didn't think Cruz has a problem, saying that in September, "my friend Donald had had his lawyers look at this from every which way ... and there was nothing to this birther issue."

"Since September, the Constitution hasn't changed, but the poll numbers have," Cruz said, noting Trump said his lawyers were confident it wouldn't be a problem and suggesting that Trump brought up the issue of Ted Cruz' citizenship because of Cruz's rising poll numbers. 

Donald Trump didn't dispute that: "It's true." He also suggested he might name Cruz as his vice presidential candidate.

But Cruz turned that offer right on its head: "I'm happy to consider naming you as vice president. And if you happen to be right (about citizenship) you can get the top job at the end of the day."

Trump vs. Cruz

Moderators prompted the next round of the Cruz-Trump boxing match, asking Cruz to explain his recent comments about Trump and "New York Values." 

"There are many, many wonderful, wonderful working men and women in the state of New York, but everyone understands that the values in New York City, are socially liberal, are pro-abortion, are pro-gay marriage, focus around money and the media," Cruz said.

Trump, whose buildings dot the city's skyline, heartily disagreed, noting that the city produced National Review magazine founder William F. Buckley. He was also insulted at Cruz's remark because of how the city recovered from the "horrific" Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

As Trump finished recalling the attack, Cruz clapped, along with the audience.

"I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York," Trump said. "That was a very insulting statement that Ted made."

#TBT: Trump vs. Bush 

No stranger to scuffles with Trump, Jeb Bush stuck to his plan of attacking his party's frontrunner, and Trump hit back fast.

Trump had embarked on a long and tangled explanation of his plan to get tough on China's currency manipulation by threatening high tariffs.

Bush blasted that approach, saying "we need somebody with a steady hand."

Trump hardly let Bush finish before delivering his retort: "We don't need a weak person being president of the United States. And that's what we'd get" with Bush.

Bush also tried to get Trump to "reconsider" his call for temporarily banning Muslims from the United States, saying that the U.S. needed the help of Muslim nations in the fight against ISIS.

"What kind of signal does that send to the rest of the world?" he said.

Trump gave no ground.

"I want security for this country," he said.

Christie vs. Rubio

Marco Rubio spent a lot of time challenging Cruz on taxes, calling Cruz's proposed "flat tax" a Value Added Tax, which he associates with socialist Europe.

"What happens if, God forbid, the next Barack Obama takes over ... and they decide 'we're going to raise it to 30 percent?" Cruz said.

For a moment, Cruz, Rubio and Chris Christie were all talking over each other, but moderators gave Christie the green light to change the subject to entitlement reform. Then Rubio started to speak up again. 

“You already had your chance, and you blew it," Chris Christie said, before touting his entitlement reform plan that he says will save Social Security and Medicare.

Rubio vs. Cruz: 

Rubio wasn't done with Cruz, though, listing off a slew of positions near the end of the debate that Cruz has flip-flopped on, from ethanol to Edward Snowden.

"That is not consistent conservatism. That is political calculation," Rubio said.

Asking for a chance to respond, Cruz noted, "He had no fewer than 11 attacks there. I appreciate you dumping your (opposition) research folder on the debate stand."

Trump chimed in: "You think they like each other?"

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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