Republican Jeb Bush survives debate with steady performance

Republican Jeb Bush survives debate with steady performance

Republican Jeb Bush survives debate with steady performance

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. AFP Photo

A steadfast performance by Jeb Bush during the Nov. 10 Republican debate has halted the sense of desperation around his U.S. presidential campaign and may buy him time to counter the rise of chief rival Marco Rubio. 

The fourth Republican debate in the search for a 2016 presidential nominee was characterized by a steady stream of attacks against front-runner Donald Trump and mistake-free performances by Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, two up-and-coming U.S. senators in the race. 

But the most relieved candidate after the two-hour encounter inside the Milwaukee Theatre was Bush, the former Florida governor who was outclassed in the three previous debates and has suffered an erosion of support from Republican voters and a drop-off in financial donations. 

Trump, a billionaire businessman who has led opinion polls in the Republican race for months, gave Bush an opening when he said it was okay with him if Russian President Vladimir Putin “wants to go and knock the hell out of ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant],” in Syria and Iraq. 

Bush, who mostly steered clear of attacking his rivals after previous attempts had fallen flat, quickly interjected. 

“We’re not going to be the world’s policemen, but we sure as heck better be the world’s leader,” Bush said, saying Trump’s views of Putin and his policies in Syria were “like a board game. That’s like playing Monopoly or something. That’s not how the real world works.” 

That Bush was able to stop the bleeding may give him time to regain his footing in the unpredictable Republican race with the next debate more than a month away, on Dec. 15 in Las Vegas. Bush is campaigning on Nov. 11 in Iowa, which on Feb. 1 holds the first nominating contest of the November 2016 election. 

It is a critical time in the race for the Republican nomination, with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Trump fighting to hold their spots atop polls and Rubio trying to build on the momentum of his last strong debate performance. 

Rubio, 44, who is competing with Bush, 62, for establishment Republican votes, found himself under fire from fellow Senator Rand Paul for promoting what Paul called a 1 trillion U.S. Dollars increase in military spending. 

“Marco, how is it conservative to add $1 trillion in expenditures to the federal government?” Paul said. 

Rubio dismissed the criticism with a vow to do what it takes to protect U.S. national security, a pledge other candidates embraced, and the crowd roared its approval. 

“We have to make our military bigger, better and stronger than ever before,” agreed Trump. 

Social media rewarded both Cruz and Rubio. 

Cruz had the highest social media sentiment score of 59 with nearly 9,500 tweets mentioning his name during the fourth Republican debate, according to Topsy, an analytics platform that tracks and analyzes mentions and trends on social media websites Twitter and Google+. 

Rubio followed with 4,695 social media mentions and a score of 57. A score higher than 50 indicates there are more positive mentions of the candidate than negative ones. 

Trump came under fire for his immigration plan, which envisions building a wall on the border with Mexico and round up and deport undocumented immigrants. 

Ohio Governor John Kasich and Bush both criticized Trump’s plan, which many Republicans fear will alienate Hispanic voters who are vital to winning the election. 

“That’s the problem with this. We need to win the presidency, and the way you win the presidency is to have practical plans,” Bush said, adding Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s staff was “high-fiving” over the proposal. 

A Clinton campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, tweeted during the debate that “we actually are doing high-fives right now.”