Sen. Ted Cruz. (Fox News)

The clear winner of the final Republican debate before the first votes are cast in Iowa was nowhere to be found, and poor Ted Cruz suffered terribly for it.

Richard Wolffe at The Guardian reports:

Cruz, standing exposed in the middle of the stage, was subject to a barrage of fire from the moderators and his rival candidates. And Trump didn’t have to do any of the dirty work himself.

At first, Cruz’s Olympic-sized debate skills allowed him to shape the debate. When Fox’s Megyn Kelly asked a tough question about why he flip-flopped on his feelings towards Trump (he used to praise him but now suggests he’s a closet Democrat) Cruz chose to answer a completely different one.

Cruz pretended that Kelly had asked him to insult the Republican frontrunner: an imaginary question he was only too happy to condemn as an outrageous attempt to lure him into gutter politics. If they couldn’t snag him on Trump, the moderators would try national security. Once again, Cruz proved himself a world-class question-dodger.

Chris Wallace asked him about his votes against defense budgets, so Cruz launched into an extended diatribe against Barack Obama’s defense budgets. Even when asked a follow-up – in response to a few barbed comments by Marco Rubio – Cruz talked not about his own position, but about his idol: Ronald Reagan. In all cases, it is far easier to talk about Reagan’s status as a Republican idol than your own awkward budget votes.

Soon even the expert debater was wilting. Cruz began complaining about “mean questions” and offered an underwhelming joke about threatening to leave the stage. The Des Moines audience seemed unamused, and began cheering for the moderator.

Continue reading here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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