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GOP Debate: Four Things We Learned From Second Republican Showdown

Important takeaways from the second presidential debate, held at the Ronald Reagan Library in California Wednesday night.
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The second presidential debate, held at the Ronald Reagan Library in California Wednesday night, was much different than the first. Here's a closer look at how:

There Is a War Against Trump

This debate was the latest sign that influential Republicans are increasingly worried that Donald Trump could become the party’s nominee, and they are determined to stop him.

A day after a major conservative group, the Club for Growth, launched a series of ads targeting Trump, several of his rival candidates at the debate in California aggressively attacked the man who leads the polls of the Republican race.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul referred to Trump as “sophomoric.” Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush demanded Trump apologize to Bush’s wife, Columba, for suggesting Bush’s views have been largely shaped by the fact that he is married to someone who is Mexican-American. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said, “We don’t need an apprentice in the White House, we have already have one.”

Carly Fiorina cast Trump as a “wonderful entertainer” and slammed his business acumen, noting that four companies he has been associated with have gone bankrupt.

“He supported Clinton, he supported Schumer, he supported Pelosi,” Bush said, referring to campaign funds Trump has provided to some leading Democrats.

Trump, as is his trademark, had plenty of attacks of his own. Trump has repeatedly mocked Bush as low-energy, so after the former governor kept trying to interrupt Trump, the mogul needled him, saying, “more high-energy tonight, I like that.”

Carly Fiorina Is the Best Informed of the Outsiders

When the debate entered a detailed discussion about U.S. foreign policy with China, Iran and Syria, it was as if Ben Carson and Trump left the stage. Neither man spoke very much. On the other hand, Fiorina was clearly fluent on national security and offered precise answers on nearly all policy questions.

Carson at times seemed unsure of his own positions on issues. He backtracked from previous comments that Trump’s immigration proposals are unrealistic. He said he was “possibly” or “probably” for increasing the minimum wage.

Trump said he would learn more about foreign policy issues once he was elected president.

Trump Is Not Going to Start Acting Like a Traditional Candidate

Trump started the debate with a joke about why Paul was on stage, considering how low he is in polls. He said ex-New York Gov. George Pataki, another 2016 GOP candidate, today “wouldn’t be elected dogcatcher.”

The mogul defended his proposal for building a wall between Mexico and the United States and his view that Bush should not speak Spanish in public.

"He was number one. Now you’re number six or number seven in the polls," Trump told Walker, referring to the governor’s slide in Iowa polls.

Marco Rubio and John Kasich Are Taking the Trump-Less Strategy

While Bush in particular seemed determined to blast Trump, two of the other more moderate candidates, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, went out of their way not to attack the mogul. Kasich went further: he wouldn’t attack Hillary Clinton either, unlike nearly all of the other candidates.

Both Rubio and Kasich seem to taking a longer view of the nomination process, namely that they don’t have to rush to take Trump down. Responding to Trump’s argument that people in the U.S. should assimilate by speaking English, Rubio spoke of his grandfather becoming a conservative Republican while largely communicating in Spanish. He defended those in America who speak Spanish but did not rebuke Trump.