SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — The four Republican presidential candidates who didn’t make the cut for the 11-person prime-time GOP debate met Wednesday for an undercard event at the Ronald Reagan presidential library, each searching for a breakout moment.
George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal sought the kind of performance that former technology executive Carly Fiorina put on at the first GOP debate last month, which helped propel her onto Wednesday night’s main stage.
Absent from both debates was former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, the lone Republican who did not register high enough in national polls to make the cut for either debate.
Key takeaways from the first of Wednesday’s two debates:
Three of the four candidates eagerly took the bait offered by the debate moderators to attack GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who was the subject of the first several questions.
Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, hurled the sharpest verbal jabs, saying Trump shouldn’t be treated as a Republican or a conservative. “He’s a narcissist who only believes in himself,” he said. Pataki, the former chief executive in New York, chimed in to call Trump “unfit to be president of the United States or the party’s nominee.”
Santorum held his tongue, the former senator from Pennsylvania saying such personal attacks “just please one person, Hillary Clinton.”
Graham made the wrong impression during the undercard debate last month, as the South Carolina senator came across as the saddest candidate in the room. At one point, he gloomily noted that he is unmarried and doesn’t have any children.
This time, Graham let his quirky personality and his foreign policy knowledge shine. The approach took an odd tone at times, as he repeatedly called for more military action in places such as Syria, but did so while delivering cheeky one-liners.
Shortly after declaring, “We’re at war, folks,” Graham said: “First thing I’m going to do as president? We’re going to drink more.”