SIMI VALLEY, United States, Sep 17 – Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump stepped into a hornet’s nest in Wednesday’s debate as rivals turned their sights on the billionaire, while Carly Fiorina showed she had earned her place on the main stage.
Ten challengers flanked Trump on stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, seeking an opening against the man who has defied all political odds to lead the race for the party’s nomination ahead of the November 2016 election.
“Mr Trump, we don’t need an apprentice in the White House, we have one right now,” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker told Trump – a snarky reference to the title of the real estate mogul’s reality television show.
Trump swiftly returned fire, living up to his billing as the campaign bulldog by attacking his rivals, further imposing himself on the race to determine who will battle the Democratic nominee, likely Hillary Clinton, for the White House.
“In Wisconsin I went to number one, and you went down the tubes,” Trump retorted, highlighting Walker’s slumping poll numbers.
The remarks near the top of the marathon three-hour debate kicked off several minutes of Trump-related thrusts and parries that have so far defined much of the 2016 presidential race.
Many, like early presumptive frontrunner Jeb Bush, were under intense pressure to deliver a breakout performance – or risk a campaign meltdown that could see them shunted aside as the first state nomination votes in February draw nearer.