Here are the most awkward moments of the night.
1. Ted Cruz offers to ‘drive you home’ – and to ‘get the job done.’
The Texas senator got the awkward ball rolling with the very first question of the night: “What is your biggest weakness, and what are you doing to address it?”
Cruz described himself as “passionate my whole life about the Constitution” and went on, a bit inscrutably:
“And, you know, for six and a half years, we’ve had a gigantic party. If you want someone to grab a beer with, I may not be that guy. But if you want someone to drive you home, I will get the job done. And I will get you home.”
2. Ted Cruz attacks moderators – then offers make-up pot.
The Republican crowd in the University of Colorado Boulder’s Coors Event Center went wild for Cruz when he used a question from moderator Carl Quintanilla about the debt ceiling to attack Quintanilla and the other two moderators in the first segment of the debate, CNBC’s John Harwood and Becky Quick.
“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media,” Cruz thundered. “This is not a cage match. You look at the questions: ‘Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?’ How about talking about the substantive issues people care about?”
When Quintanilla came back to Cruz on a subsequent question, the journalist acknowledged the awkwardness, saying, “We’re clearly not having that beer you mentioned.”
Said Cruz, “But I’ll buy you a tequila.” Or, he added, with a nod to their host state’s legalized recreational marijuana, “even some famous Colorado brownies.”
3. Chris Christie elbows in on the media-bashing.
Given how well bashing the media was playing in the debate hall, Chris Christie wasn’t going to miss out on the action.
And so, with some showmanship, the New Jersey governor shoe-horned a jab at moderator John Harwood into a response on climate change.
“What we should do,” said Christie, “is to be investing in all types of energy, John, all types of energy. Now I’ve laid out –”
“You mean government?” Harwood interrupted.
With that the famously blunt (some would say bullying) Christie replied, “No, John. John, do you want me to answer or do you want to answer? How are we going to do this?”
The audience cheered while Christie went on: “Because I gotta tell you the truth, even in New Jersey what you’re doing is called rude.”
4. Jeb Bush promises a warm kiss for any Democrat budget-cutter.
Bush may have made more than a few fellow Republicans squirm when, asked whether he would back a budget deal that would have $10 in spending cuts for a dollar of new taxes, the former Florida governor said, “You find me a Democrat for cutting spending $10, and I’ll give them a warm kiss.”
It’s safe to say the Twitterverse would not welcome that warm kiss:
5. Jeb Bush tells Marco Rubio to ‘just resign’ – and gets attacked in response.
After moderators asked Rubio about missing Senate votes during his presidential campaign, Bush chimed in to give his two cents. “When you signed up for this, this was a six-year term and you should be showing up to work,” Bush told Rubio. “I mean literally, the Senate – what is it, like a French work week? You get three days where you have to show up. You can campaign – or just resign and let someone else take the job. There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck in Florida as well, they’re looking for a senator who will fight for them each and every day.”
Rubio had a harsh rebuttal ready. “Jeb, I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s vote record. The only reason you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position. Someone convinced you attacking me is going to help you. I can’t campaign about the future of America or attacking anyone else on this stage. I will continue to have tremendous admiration for Governor Bush. I’m not running against anyone on the stage. I’m running for president. There is no way we can elect Hillary Clinton to continue the policies of Obama.”
6. Mike Huckabee shows off his Trump necktie.
Finally Mike Huckabee got a question tossed his way.
About Donald Trump.
“When you look at [Trump], do you see someone with the moral authority to unite the country?” asked moderator John Harwood.
While the crowd booed, Huckabee huffed: “You know, as few questions as I’ve got, the last one I need is to give him some more time!”
No offense, he added. “I love Donald Trump. He is a good man. I’m wearing a Trump tie tonight. Get over that one, okay?”
“Made in China or Mexico?” asked Jeb Bush.
“I have no idea,” said Huckabee. “Ask him.”