For their third debate the Republican candidates for the presidential nomination took the stage at the University of Colorado on Wednesday night for an event hosted by CNBC. Though the focus of the conversation was intended to be on business and details of their economic policies, the evening quickly devolved into a mess of accusations between candidates and moderators Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick and John Harwood and a near complete oversight of debate structure.
Candidates Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie , Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul took part in the event, once again after an earlier debate known as the "kids table" featuring Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal and George Petaki.
Check out the highlights from the main debate:
1. Hillary Clinton, Republican enemy No. 1. The current leader in the Democratic race was clearly cause for concern for the Republican candidates, who repeatedly called out the former Secretary of State by name, taking hits at her record. Bush said that Trump would be a better president "every week and twice on Sunday, rather than Hillary," and Fiorina even declared herself "Hillary Clinton's worst nightmare" as she vowed to beat Clinton in a head-to-head debate. Watch her bold statement below:
2. Donald Trump was out to win his cred back. No longer the party's frontrunner, Trump went on the offensive, taking a shot at Gov. Kasich for his dwindling polling numbers and lousy placement on the stage. Trump later gave an extensive, semi-unorganized speech about gun control, explaining that he sometimes carries a gun because he "likes to be unpredictable" and that gun-free zones are "a feeding frenzy for sick people." In his closing statement, Trump attempted to take credit for the debate's runtime, suggesting that he "negotiated" with the network to keep the length under three hours. Harwood contradicted him, saying the debate was always intended to be only two hours long.
3. Everyone else also went into attack mode. Many of the candidates took the opportunity to go after each other for various reasons, as well as the moderators in a manner that seemed to show disrespect for the debate rules. After Bush criticized Rubio's voting record while in office, Rubio retorted, "Someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you." After Mike Huckabee noted that he was wearing a Trump tie, Bush asked, "Is it made in China or Mexico?" Throughout the night, all of the candidates repeatedly spoke over their allotted time, each other and the moderators. Huckabee even instructed Becky Quick not to cut him off because "everybody else has fudged their time and gone over."
4. Candidates questioned the questions. After a bizarre question posed to Bush about regulating fantasy football, Christie berated the moderators for wasting time with such inanity when they could discuss real issues. At another point, Cruz also criticized the poor questions at length (that's "why the American people don't trust the media"), so much so that he ran out of time to answer the actual question he was asked. Later, Trump responded to one pointed query as "nasty and ridiculous."
5. Chris Christie went right for the viewers. The charismatic New Jersey governor came to the debate with a mission to take big swings and instill fear into the audience. Numerous times, Christie looked pointedly into the camera to either tell viewers what's wrong with the government, or ask questions. "The government has lied to you and they have stolen from you," he said at one point, later asking in a very PSA-esque manner, "Are you fed up with how Washington taxes you?"
6. It's hard out there for a blimp. In one of the most bizarre and prepared speeches of the night, Gov. Huckabee presented an elaborate metaphor to make his point about government waste. "If you saw the blimp that got cut loose in Maryland today, it's the perfect example of government," he said, which of course led to viewers to make comparisons to other large bags of hot gas. Watch video of Huckabee's analogy below:
And now check out Jesse Ventura's reaction:
7. CNBC was the real loser. The network may have had good intentions, but CNBC's moderators for the event dropped the ball, not only with their questions, but by failing to keep the candidates in check and missing opportunities to hold them accountable for flaws in their arguments. One particularly egregious moment occurred when Trump denied that he ever called Marco Rubio "Mark Zuckerberg's personal senator," to which a baffled Quick responded, "Where did I read this and come up with this...?" By the time the team revealed the quote originated from Trump's official website, too much time had passed to save face.
Ultimately, we're not really sure what we learned about the candidates policies from this debate, but we know that Jeb Bush is 7-0 in his fantasy football league, so at least there's that?
What did you think of the latest Republican debate?