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Rubio Becomes A Target In Republican Presidential Debate

Republican presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio and Donald Trump participate in the Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College Saturday in Manchester, N.H.

Saturday's GOP debate was the final one before Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. Here are some key moments:

Rubio targeted: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wasted no time in taking shots at Sen. Marco Rubio on Saturday night.

Citing his own record as governor, Christie said that responsibilities like responding to natural disasters meant he had to make tougher and more important decisions than Rubio has had to as a senator. He also attacked Rubio's pattern of missing votes in the Senate, a criticism that has dogged Rubio throughout this nomination contest.

The attack led to a heated exchange. While Rubio insisted that President Obama "knows what he's doing" and is trying to make the U.S. like the rest of the world with policies like Obamacare, Christie attacked him for not responding to his criticisms and instead for reciting a "memorized 25-second speech."

Donald Trump leads in recent New Hampshire polls by 10 to 20 points, but Rubio has become the candidate to beat for the so-called "establishment" candidates, like Christie, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich. Those three are fighting for survival in New Hampshire, while Rubio's numbers have surged there in the last few days.

That awkward start: One key thing has to happen before the debate starts: the candidates have to take the stage.

That proved more complicated than usual on Saturday night, as the ABC News Republican debate began with Ben Carson refusing to walk out to his podium, even after the moderators called his name.

Called second, Carson stood and waited, allowing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to go out after him. Making matters weirder: Donald Trump then stopped to stand beside Carson, rather than walking out himself. Jeb Bush walked past them as he took the stage.

After the moderators (again) called Carson, they also "lastly" called out Donald Trump ... only to then to (seemingly) realize they still had to call out Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Trump keeps a low profile: Even though Donald Trump skipped the last debate, some commentators nevertheless decided that he won. In bowing out, he garnered massive media attention, and he also avoided tough questions like those Cruz and Rubio fielded on their past immigration positions.

This debate, he showed up, and he had (what was for Trump) an unremarkable performance. He stuck to typical Trump talking points — on topics like China, job losses and America not winning anymore — and had few major tangles with his opponents. When he did argue with Jeb Bush on a question about eminent domain and subsequently commanded Bush to be "quiet" while he answered — the crowd booed Trump.

But then, Trump is far ahead in New Hampshire while the so-called "establishment" candidates battle it out. And while Saturday's performance may not have rocketed him further ahead, it also could help hold him in first place through Tuesday's primary vote.

Cruz on defense: Sen. Ted Cruz, fresh off a strong victory in Iowa, found himself on the defensive immediately in Saturday night's Republican debate in Manchester, N.H. First, he was asked to answer his comments that Donald Trump does not have the temperament to be president. Cruz demurred, saying that was for the voters to decide.

Then, moderators asked him to answer for voicemails, emails, and text messages that his campaign sent out on the night of the Iowa caucuses, reporting that Ben Carson was suspending his campaign.

Cruz, whose campaign has confirmed that it sent the messages, explained that it was based on a CNN report that Carson was "taking a break" after Iowa, as Cruz said, adding that CNN said it was a "highly unusual" move.

CNN has said that Cruz's characterizations of the network's reports this past week were "false," pointing out that CNN never reported Carson was dropping out of the race. Indeed, CNN reporter Chris Moody tweeted on the night of the caucuses that Carson was going home to Florida, but then shortly thereafter added that Carson was not suspending the campaign.

Cruz apologized on stage to Carson. For his part, Carson said the incident was indicative of Cruz's "DC values."

"Washington ethics basically says 'if it's legal you do what you need to do in order to win.' that's not my ethics. my ethics say you do what's right."

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