WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Republican presidential contenders and party leaders are railing against the moderators of the third GOP debate.
The candidates complained during their face-off Wednesday evening that the CNBC moderators’ questions were hostile and based on inaccurate premises.
“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said early on.
“This is not a cage match,” he added. “How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about?”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took issue with one moderator’s interruption. “Do you want me to answer or do you want to answer?” he said. “Because, I’ve got to tell you the truth, even in New Jersey what you’re doing is called rude.”
In his closing statement Donald Trump chastised the network for trying to extend the debate past the two-hour mark, which he and Carson had teamed up to stop.
“In about two minutes I renegotiated it down to two hours so we could get the hell out of here,” he bragged.
The candidates were joined afterward by Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who told reporters he felt the debate had included too many “gotcha” questions.
“I’m disappointed at the moderators and I’m pretty disappointed at CNBC,” he said.
Priebus added that he felt the moderators had done “a disservice to their network, our candidates, and voters.”
“One of the great things about our party is that we are able to have a dynamic exchange about which solutions will secure a prosperous future, and I will fight to ensure future debates allow for a more robust exchange,” he added. “CNBC should be ashamed of how this debate was handled.”
Trump, who had predicted the debate would be “unfair” hours before it started, told CNBC after he walked offstage that he felt the Republicans had been treated far differently than the Democrats during their first faceoff earlier this month.
“If you looked at Hillary’s deal a couple of weeks ago, the questions were much softer, much easier, much nicer. It was like a giant lovefest,” he said. “That did not take place over here. This was pretty tough.”
Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz confirmed that he had expressed displeasure to a CNBC producer about the debate.
NBC spokesman Brian Steel responded with a one-sentence statement: “People who want to be president of the United States should be able to answer tough questions.” CNBC is part of the NBCUniversal group.
Meanwhile, all eyes were on Carson, who afterwards was coy about maintaining his campaign’s momentum.
“Well, you know, I always say when I was a surgeon ,’Why guess when soon you’ll know,'” he said.
Trump came to cameras insisting his campaign is not losing steam now that he is in second place in the latest CBS News/New York times poll.
“I am going to win the Hispanic vote,” he said.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush insisted he is not frustrated by the tone of the campaign and his sluggish poll numbers.
“No, I’m not frustrated and wasn’t frustrated over the weekend,” he said.
Analysts said Bush needed to stand out.
“By not winning, Jeb’s a loser,” said political consultant Richard Davis Jr. “He didn’t meet expectations. He had higher expectations than others.”
Bush, once seen as the top Republican contender, targeted Marco Rubio for his spotty voting record on Capitol Hill — signaling that he sees the Florida senator as the candidate most likely to block his political path.
“Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a 6-year term and you should be showing up for work,” said Bush, who is struggling to right his campaign after being forced to slash spending in response to slower fundraising. “You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job.”
Rubio, who has had a close relationship with Bush, responded sharply: “The only reason you’re doing it is that we’re running for the same position and someone has convinced you that attacking me will help you.”
The four lowest-polling candidates participated in an earlier undercard event: South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former New York Gov. George Pataki. None has gotten close to breaking into the upper tier of candidates.
Primary Voters cast the first ballots in less than 100 days.
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