Prez Debate: Cruz Scores Points and Cash

Ted Cruz, center, speaks as Carly Fiorina, left, and Chris Christie look on during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo.
Ted Cruz, center, speaks as Carly Fiorina, left, and Chris Christie look on during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. AP

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a champion college debater, was such a standout at the third GOP presidential debate Wednesday night that he scored nearly $775,000 in contributions overnight.

Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler told McClatchy Thursday that the campaign collected “772K thru midnight last night. We are having a great day today, too.”

The surge, said Tyler, was due to one thing: “Viewers last night rewarded Cruz for his debate win.” And a large part of that was due to how Cruz attacked the CNBC questioners.

Late Thursday afternoon Cruz decided to capitalize on his success and announced a “money bomb” - an online effort to raise $1 million over 24 hours. “I am declaring war on the liberal media,” Cruz said in an email appeal. The fund raising tactic was used effectively by former presidential candidate Ron Paul (father of Rand Paul) in earlier campaigns.

Cruz scored early in the two-hour debate conducted by CNBC at the University of Colorado Boulder by turning the tables on the questioner. CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, asked Cruz about the debt limit agreement in Congress but made it personal: “Does your opposition to it show you’re not the kind of problem solver that American voters want?”

Cruz replied: “The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media,” Cruz told CNBC moderator Carl Quintanilla, as the audience erupted. “This is not a cage match.”

Then, dramatically pointing at each fellow candidate as he said their name, Cruz said: “You look at the questions: ‘Donald Trump: Are you a comic-book villain? Ben Carson: Can you do math? John Kasich: Will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio: Why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush: Why have your numbers fallen?’” Cruz said. “How about talking about the substantive issues people care about?”

In each case, CNBC moderators had asked barbed questions, such as Chief Washington correspondent John Harwood, who also writes for the New York Times, saying to Trump, a billionaire and political newcomer: “Let's be honest. Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?”

Retired neurosurgeon Carson was questioned about “the math” behind his flat tax plan that moderater Becky Quick said she couldn’t make work; Ohio Gov. Kasich was prodded to repeat what he’d said the day before about “crazy”proposals from two rivals; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was asked about a newspaper editorial urging him to resign and Harwood told former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush “the fact that you're at the fifth lectern tonight shows how far your stock has fallen in this race.”

The crowd roared at Cruz’s attack and so did social media. Some of the other nine candidates on the stage soon followed with attacks of their own.

University of Virginia Director of Politics Larry Sabato rated Cruz and Rubio as the night’s big winners. “Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas probably had the best nights, in part because they mixed it up with the moderators and used the debate to make larger points about what they see as an anti-Republican mainstream press,” said Sabato in the Crystal Ball report.

According to Thomson Reuters’ social media sentiment analysis Cruz had the highest volume of tweets mentioning him, 14,090. And the Wall St. Journal reported that “Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the night on Facebook for the third Republican debate as the most-talked about candidate.”

Cruz, an attorney, was a debater as an undergraduate at Princeton University and at Harvard Law School.

Cruz has been a strong fundraiser in the presidential race, with his campaign reporting $26.6 million in contributions since his March announcement. Super PACs that support him reported raising $38.4 million as of June 30.

In the most recent average of polls by the non-partisan website Real Clear Politics, Cruz was in fifth place with 6.6 percent support.