CLEVELAND - US Republican presidential candidates who did not qualify for a prime-time debate wasted no time in criticizing poll leader Donald Trump on Thursday, calling him a flip-flopper on key issues and too close to Democrats Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Seven low-polling candidates squared off at Quicken Loans Arena for a nearly 90-minute debate hours before the top 10 ranking Republicans were due to hold the first major debate of the 2016 presidential race.
The seven, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former New York Governor George Pataki, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, were in search of a breakthrough moment that would help them rise in the polls and give themselves some much-needed momentum.
There was a general consensus among commentators afterward that Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, had done herself the most good at the debate. Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said she and Jindal turned in good performances and "made you wonder why they weren't at the big boy table."
Trump, the New York billionaire real estate tycoon who has rocketed to the top of opinion polls, proved to be an easy target for Perry and Fiorina when they were asked about Trump's rapid rise.
Since Trump was appearing at the later event, he was not at the first event to defend himself.