Thursday night’s Republican presidential primary debate began without any fireworks – a first for the series of GOP matchups – as the four remaining candidates steered clear of attacking each other and even the Republican Party’s chairman counseled unity and calm.
‘So far I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here!’ Trump marveled during a calm, cool and collected exchange about illegal immigration.
For nearly an hour, no one spoke in the second person. No one turned to address another candidate. Every statement was delivered facing the audience.
Trump said after the debate via telephone that it was a conscious choice: ‘I think it was time to have that kind of debate. I thought it was necessary. It was a good thing.’
‘I was prepared to have to go the other way,’ the pugnacious Republican said.
‘If you hit me, I have to do it, punch back. it’s a natural reflex.’
But ultimately he explained that ‘I really wanted to see if we could all – and this isn’t just me, it was the Republican Party – we wanted to see if we could have a strong, substantive debate.’
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Thursday night that Trump was guilty of ‘funding liberal Democrats, and funding the Washington establishment,’ and said the real estate tycoon couldn’t be trusted to take on the federal government.
But he did it without raising his voice.