GOP debate: Trump facing new challenge from Cruz

LAS VEGAS -- Republican presidential candidates take the debate stage Tuesday night for the first time in a month, their race reshaped by national security threats but still dominated by outsider contenders.

See Full Article

Now it's Texas Sen. Ted Cruz challenging front-runner Donald Trump.

Trump will once again be standing at centre stage, reflecting the billionaire businessman's surprising dominance in the Republican primary campaign. His newest test, at least in the leadoff Iowa caucus on Feb. 1, comes from Cruz, a chief antagonist of Republican leaders in Washington.

The debate will be the first for Republicans since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, that increased concerns about terrorism in the United States. Hours before the debate was to begin, officials in Los Angeles closed all schools after an emailed threat.

Trump's response to the terror attacks was to call for a total ban on Muslims entering the U.S. The proposal was roundly criticized by his rivals but appears to be resonating with many of his supporters.

Four Republican candidates, trailing in polls and appearing in a debate before the main event, all denounced Trump's plan, arguing his ban was unpractical and could undercut relations with Muslim allies needed to combat terrorism.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who's staked his campaign on hawkish foreign policy positions, apologized to U.S. allies in Muslim countries for Trump's rhetoric and offered a plea to Republican primary voters.

"For God's sakes, pick somebody who is worthy of the sacrifice of people fighting this war," he said.

With less than two months until voting begins in the 2016 primary campaign, Cruz is trying to pitch himself as a more electable alternative to Trump. The Texas senator has a robust campaign infrastructure and conservative appeal, though some Republican leaders believe his hard-line positions and prickly demeanour would put him at a disadvantage in a general election contest against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Trump and Cruz have maintained a friendly relationship for months, but signs of a split have emerged in recent days, with Cruz appearing to question Trump's judgment at a private fundraiser, according to audio obtained by The New York Times, and Trump calling Cruz "a little bit of a maniac."

Trump didn't go after Cruz by name during a Las Vegas rally on the eve of the debate, but said the prime-time faceoff could turn messy.

"I am giving them a chance for them to make total fools of themselves in front of millions of people," Trump said, adding that he was expecting to be attacked. "This will not be like an evening in paradise for me. Do we agree?" he asked.

Another dynamic in Tuesday's debate involves Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another first-term senator and Cuban-American.

Cruz and Rubio have been sparring from afar, particularly over national security. Rubio has tried to brand Cruz as an isolationist and has criticized his support for ending the bulk collection of Americans' phone records, saying it weakens the government's ability to identify potential terrorists.

More broadly, Rubio's campaign is eager to cast Cruz, who prides himself on being a conservative "truth-teller," as a politically expedient flip-flopper who is willing to say whatever is necessary to win an election. Rubio's campaign has raised questions about Cruz's position on sending troops to the Middle East as well as whether he would allow immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to stay here.

Cruz's campaign has dismissed the criticism, with spokesman Rick Tyler saying, "Nobody believes Senator Cruz is weak on national defence and security."

The debate is particularly crucial for some of the more experienced Republican politicians who have struggled to gain traction in a crowded field.

That's particularly true for ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the former front-runner and elite fundraiser who has been languishing for months. While Bush's advisers have brushed aside suggestions he should drop out of the race before voting begins, a weak performance would increase those calls.

One establishment candidate who does appear to be gaining ground is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. He's hanging his White House hopes on a strong finish in the New Hampshire primary, where he's winning important endorsements and climbing in preference polls.

Also on the main stage Tuesday night will be retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, whose campaign is on the decline after surging in recent months; former business executive Carly Fiorina; Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

------

Pace reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, Kathleen Ronayne in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, and Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Another sex assault charge laid against Ont. massage therapist

    Canada News CTV News
    WHITBY, Ont. -- Police have laid another sexual assault charge against a massage therapist from Whitby, Ont. Police originally charged 51-year-old Robert Newey earlier this month after a woman alleged that he had touched her inappropriately during an appointment in December. Source
  • 10-year-old boy drives to store, speeds away in police chase

    World News Toronto Sun
    FOSTORIA, OHIO - Ohio police say an erratic, speeding driver who led an officer on a brief pursuit turned out to be a 10-year-old boy who took his parents’ car without permission and drove 11 miles to a nearby city to shop at a convenience store. Source
  • Victim killed in Surrey, B.C. shooting was targeted: police

    Canada News CTV News
    SURREY, B.C. -- RCMP in Surrey, B.C., say the latest shooting in that city has killed one person and the attack is believed to be targeted. It happened just before 9:15 Monday night as the victim was in a vehicle on 96 Ave. Source
  • Federal court to rule on bid to block Canada-Saudi Arabia arms deal

    Canada News CBC News
    A federal court will rule today on the case of a Montreal law professor who challenged the federal government's decision to approve a $15-billion deal to sell armed military vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Daniel Turp filed for a judicial review in Federal Court, arguing the sale should be blocked due to the country's human rights violations. Source
  • Florida man stabbed dog that wouldn't stop barking: Cops

    World News Toronto Sun
    SUNRISE, FLA. - Police say a South Florida man stabbed his dog in the leg with a kitchen knife when it wouldn’t stop barking. The SunSentinel reports the dog was injured in November but Michael O’Brien wasn’t arrested until Jan. Source
  • Israel approves 2,500 West Bank settlement homes

    World News CTV News
    JERUSALEM -- Israel said Tuesday it approved plans to build 2,500 new settler homes in the West Bank, signalling a major ramp-up of construction just days after the swearing-in of U.S. President Donald Trump, whose election has emboldened the settlement movement. Source
  • Garland trial: Police extinguished smouldering burn barrel, found bone, tooth, glasses

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The burn barrel on the farm where the Crown believes Douglas Garland disposed of his victims was left smouldering overnight after the initial police raid, court heard Monday. Staff Sgt. Timothy Walker testified he went to the Airdrie farm north of Calgary the morning of July 5, 2014. Source
  • Internet charmed by small band of women who marched in tiny N.S. village

    Canada News CTV News
    DIGBY, N.S. -- When Gwen Wilson and Melissa Merritt decided at the last minute to organize their own women's march on Saturday, they were prepared to be the only ones trudging down the only road in their rural Nova Scotia village. Source
  • Todd Nicholson named Team Canada's Paralympic chef de mission

    Canada News CBC News
    The Canadian Paralympic Committee has announced that retired sledge hockey player Todd Nicholson will be Team Canada's chef de mission for the 2018 Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The 47-year-old Ottawa native competed in five Paralympic Games, including sledge hockey's debut at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Source
  • 'Murder gives me a high'; Teen’s diary leads to 15-year sentence after innocent woman stabbed 21 times

    World News Toronto Sun
    "I stabbed an innocent woman to death earlier today ... It was absolutely fantastic. Murder gives me a high unlike any other. It feels like this crisp unreality, flashing and sparkling, adrenaline and shock." While these lines might sound like the demented writings of John Wayne Gacy or perhaps Charles Manson, they actually appeared in what police said was a diary kept by a teenage girl named Pearl Moen. Source