Saturday’s GOP debate in Greenvile, South Carolina took on the aspects of a knock-down drag-out fight as candidates faced something different: booing. The audience was booing so much, in fact, that it caused a huge spike in search traffic on Google.
According to Google Trends, search interest in “why are people booing” spiked by an incredible 1,400 percent in the first hour of the debate on CBS.
Some are calling this one of the most acrimonious debates in memory. The brawling candidates viciously tried to wound each other ahead of next weekend’s South Carolina primary.
Fox News pollster Frank Luntz tweeted: “For the first time ever, a #GOPDebate audience booed more than they cheered. This isn’t just insane, this is suicidal. This is pathetic.”
“Donald Trump skewered Jeb Bush for standing by his brother and the Iraq War,” Politico summed up. “Bush slammed John Kasich for supporting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Marco Rubio and Trump called Ted Cruz a serial liar, and Cruz bit back, retorting that Rubio is weak on undocumented immigrants and Trump would nominate liberal judges.”
CBS began hosting the 90-minute debate at 9 p.m. EST at the Peace Center, an ornate perming arts facility. The event was broadcast on CBS and streamed online at CBSNews.com.
The debate opened with a moment of silence to mark the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, which sets the stage for an ideological showdown during a critical presidential election year. He was part of a 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
Opening question involved the vacancy Scalia leaves in the Supreme Court.
Trump called Scalia’s passing a “tremendous blow to conservatism.”
Responding to the question of appointing Justice Scalia’s replacement, Trump had some advice to those interested in protecting Scalia’s legacy of conservatism: “Delay, delay, delay.”
Rubio said Scalia’s loss is “tremendous” and indicated the next justice needs to understand the constitution is not a living and breathing document.
Cruz pointed out how we are one justice away from a Supreme Court that can alter decisions on abortion, the Second Amendment, and religious liberty.
It was apparent the audience was stacked with GOP loyalists which disapproved of the non-establishment candidates. They gave tremendous cheers and applause for Bush and Rubio, while booing Trump frequently.
Because of limited seating in the facility, Chad Groover, chairman of the Greenville County Republican party, said supporters who work hard for the party would be rewarded tickets. Groover said the Republican National Committee gave a lot of tickets to supporters. He said more were then allocated for the state party to distribute among the county chairs.
While friction was anticipated between Trump and Cruz, in fact the most conflict occurred between Bush and Trump during the first part of the debate as they traded insults on the subject of Middle East policy, immigration, and budgets.
Fireworks erupted between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump on the subjects of former President Bush and his role in destabilizing the Middle East. Trump called the war in Iraq a “big fat mistake,”
The two candidates locked horns for the second time in the debate when Trump took a swing at one of his favorite subjects of ridicule – the Bush family.
“I am sick and tired of him going after my family,” Bush began in response, going on to say that, “While Donald Trump was building a reality TV show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe.”
Trump interrupted, pointing out that 9/11 happened while George W. Bush was in office – and was greeted with a round of angry boos.
“He had the gall to go after my mother,” Bush went on. “My mom is the strongest person I know.”
But Trump, never being one not to have the last word, quipped, “She should be running.”
After Jeb Bush explained his policy for going after ISIS, Donald Trump ripped into the former Florida governor – and was met with ferocious boos from the audience. “Let me just tell you this: Jeb is so wrong. Jeb is absolutely so – ah,” Trump began.
A chorus of booed in the audience interrupted Trump, who then suggested that the crowd was stacked with pro-Bush elites in the GOP establishment.
“Just so you understand: You know who that is? That’s Jeb’s special interests and lobbyists talking,” Trump continued.
Trump took another shot at the audience shortly after. The crowd loudly booed Trump when he mocked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), for having “0%” in the polls before dropping out of the presidential race and endorsing Bush.
“I only tell the truth, lobbyists,” Trump told the people booing him. “We’ve spent $5 trillion all over the Middle East. We have to rebuild our country.”
“Politicians are all talk, no action – that’s why they’re listening to me,” said Trump.
The predicted accusations between Cruz and Trump heated up toward the middle of the debate where each called the other liars. The fierceness of the debate appeared to surprise even moderator John Dickerson, who tried to rein in the acriomony.
The melee is a sign of the rising stakes in South Carolina, which “could define the contours of the race over the next few months as a three-way contest among Trump, Cruz and an establishment-backed candidate like Rubio, Bush or Kasich,” noted Politico. “The moment marked a rapidly intensifying campaign that could be dramatically reordered by the results of the South Carolina contest next Saturday. Trump has held a dominant lead in most early polling in the state, and he’s fighting to keep Cruz at bay.”