HE HAD claimed he wanted to keep the debate “very civil”. But Donald Trump ended up fighting with the moderator and the other candidates during a testy first Republican US presidential debate.
The real estate mogul won over the crowd with a swaggering display of bravado and wit, mixed with a large helping of sexism. He got the biggest cheer of the night when challenged about calling women “disgusting animals” with the quip: “Only Rosie O’Donnell”.
I don’t frankly have time for total political correctnessDonald Trump
But he was booed when he admitted he was the only candidate who might run as an independent if he was not nominated by the Republicans.
In an interview on ABC News the morning afterwards, Mr Trump said he had had a “wonderful evening” but claimed he had been singled out by some “really unfair questions”.
He was front and centre in the debate of the ten most popular Republican candidates after coming top of the polls among the party’s voters.
He dominated so much that statistics released by Google afterwards showed he was the most searched-for candidate.
Right from the off, it was the Trump show and, as other candidates tried to reel off policy statements, the former host of Celebrity Apprentice in the US reeled off one liners.
To Jeb Bush’s face, he said his brother George W Bush’s administration had been a “catastrophe”.
On President Obama, he said: “I would say he’s incompetent but I don’t want to do that because it’s not nice.”
And on his incendiary rhetoric on illegal immigration, he said: “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration.”
Mr Trump was challenged by Fox News host and moderator Megyn Kelly over his misogynistic tweets, including calling women “pigs, dogs and slobs”. After insulting actress and comedian O’Donnell, Mr Trump said: “The big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness, and to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”
He also warned Kelly that he would not be “nice” to her, but she got her revenge later on. She delivered the night’s best zinger when she asked Mr Trump, who has donated to Democrats in the past: “When did you actually become a Republican?”
O’Donnell herself also hit back at his sexism and tweeted: “Try explaining that 2 ur kids.”
The debate took place on Thursday night in front of a packed crowd at the Quicken Loans arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
The fireworks began right from the off when Mr Trump was attacked by Senator Rand Paul for “buying politicians”.
But the tables were turned later when Mr Trump later revealed he had donated money to almost all of the candidates on the podium, sparking an awkward moment for them.
In what sometimes seemed to be a contest to be most boorish, the serious candidates faded into the background. Mr Bush, the former Florida governor who is seen as the most likely to win the Republican nomination, defended his family and said voters did want another Bush in the White House.