During Thursday night’s debate, Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump acted out a debate almost verbatim that they’ve been having across separate radio interviews the past couple of days regarding Trump’s supposed “New York values.” And, at least on Thursday night, Trump got the better of Cruz.
Moderator Neil Cavuto asked Cruz to elaborate on his statement that Trump “embodies” New York values.
“I think most people know exactly what New York values are,” Cruz responded. Well, Ted, there are a couple of implications there, and he went with both. “Everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro–gay marriage.” Check. “Focus around money and the media.” Check.
That allowed Trump, as he has in radio interviews this week, to wield the one single time that conservatives have ever shown solidarity with New York City, Sept. 11, against Cruz. He did it well.
“New York is a great place. It’s got great people. It’s got loving people, wonderful people,” Trump began. “When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York. You had two”—an interruption for applause, including from Cruz—“You had two 110-story buildings come crashing down.”
Thousands of people killed and the cleanup started the next day, and it was the most horrific cleanup probably in the history of doing this. … I was down there. And I’ve never seen anything like it. And the people in New York fought and fought and fought, and we saw more death and even the smell of death; nobody understood it. And it was with us for months: the smell, the air. And we rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched, and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers, and I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made.
Trump managed to win the auditorium and make Cruz look callous.
It’s a question of how much the room itself matters. Even though Cruz won the room earlier parrying off Trump’s birther arguments, Trump was able to broadcast his message to millions of people about how Cruz’s eligibility for the presidency may run into legal trouble. Trump won the room in this exchange, but maybe the “New York values” attack will stick on him in the long run. It’s not as though it’s a surprise that Trump is from New York, though. Listen to him for half a second.