O’Connor: 3 takeaways from the final GOP debate before Super Tuesday

The remaining candidates for the Republican Party took the stage Thursday night at the University of Houston in a crucial debate with the primaries already in full swing and Super Tuesday looming ahead.

Front-runner Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Ben Carson all took the stage to duel, fighting for their shot at delegates in key states – an integral component to winning the nomination.

Here are the top 3 takeaways from the debate.

Trump is still king for the Republicans on immigration policy

When Trump first announced that he was running for president in June, he set the tone for the rest of the Republican Party on immigration policy. By making strong promises like the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and building a wall between the United States and Mexico, Trump took a lot of heat from the media and was written off as too radical. However, as his ideas gained traction, the Republican field began to follow suit.

Early on in the debate, when Rubio and Cruz tried to double-team Trump, the New York businessman shut them down. Rubio accused Trump of using undocumented workers to build Trump Tower and that they would be the ones tending to the southern border wall.

The discussion then dissolved into the former Mexican president’s comments over the country not paying for the wall. In response, Trump said, “The wall just got 10 feet taller, believe me.” None of the other candidates have been aggressive enough to take on the Mexican government, its officials or the border like Trump, an area he excels in due to his keen business sense.

It was a great demonstration of strength for Trump as he noted that there was no reason for Mexico, with the current trade imbalance, to not pay for the wall.

Rubio bests the field on health care

After a fiery back and forth on health care, Rubio dominated Trump on the issue. While each GOP candidate believes in repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, Rubio caught Trump being overly vague.

When Rubio asked Trump explicitly what his plan was, Trump kept saying that he would take away state lines and bring competition back into health care to make it more affordable in a privatized approach that conservatives would favor.

Rubio took advantage of the fact that Trump was at a loss for words in an ironic scene, considering repetition is something Rubio has struggled with in past debates.

But this turned out to be a shining moment for Rubio because he was able to exacerbate how little Trump knows about the issue compared to a career politician like himself. Trump tried to make it seem like Rubio didn’t understand the main concept that he was advocating, but it didn’t work. The crowd sided with Rubio on the exchange and it wouldn’t be surprising to see his poll numbers get a slight boost.

Trump stands out on women’s health issues

With conservatives constantly bashing Planned Parenthood, the general public tends look down in disapproval. Yes, abortion is a controversial concept. But that’s not all the organization provides for women’s health.

However, the Republican presidential hopefuls would likely never admit that due to the political emphasis on the importance of conservative values among voters. Cruz constantly spouts off that there should be a criminal investigation of the organization. Even Kasich, who has been the most relaxed and socially accepting candidate, attacked the organization with the same argument.

In contrast, Trump said, “I am totally against abortion having to do with Planned Parenthood, but millions and millions of women of women with cervical cancer, breast cancer, are helped by Planned Parenthood.”

Trump is right in his claim and the people deserve to know that there are areas of Planned Parenthood that can do good. Yet the Republican establishment has yet to realize that people respond well to this, something that has most likely aided Trump with attracting more liberal voters.


The debate may prove to be the most pivotal down the road leading up to the Republican nomination due to the major aspects it made clear for conservative voters: It’s time for Kasich and Carson to drop out due to a lack of popularity and though Cruz performed fairly well, he was clearly outdone by his biggest competition, Rubio, for second place.

And while Rubio had a great showing going into Super Tuesday, it’s doubtful that he will stop the Trump machine with its loyal followers and large delegate lead.

Kyle O’Connor is a sophomore sport management major and political science minor. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at


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