BOULDER, Colorado: Republican frontrunners Donald Trump and Ben Carson were accused of peddling “fantasy” economic policies at their party’s presidential debate on Wednesday, as less-known rivals managed to grab campaign limelight.
Upstart Senator Marco Rubio caused a stir at the third Republican primary debate, fighting off a frontal attack from his one-time ally Jeb Bush, and then calling the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton a liar.
The 10 White House candidates on stage were quick with the personal barbs, sign of the rising tension between the country’s established politicians and political neophytes Trump and Carson, who top the polls less than 100 days before the first statewide nominating contests.
“Folks, we got to wake up,” said Ohio Governor John Kasich, raising an alarm at the outset.
“We cannot elect somebody that doesn’t know how to do the job. You have to pick somebody who has experience.”
The language appeared clearly aimed at Trump, a real estate billionaire, and the retired neurosurgeon Carson, who were the targets of early brickbats as candidates ripped into their policy plans.
Kasich said the tax plans of both were “fantasy tax games” that would add trillions of dollars to the national debt.
Even the debate moderator joined in, asking Trump if he was running a “comic book version” of a campaign — notably by promising to keep out immigrants with a wall on the Mexican border.
Millions of Americans were estimated to be tuning in to the sparring at an arena at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
As traditional candidates struggle to make headway against strong populist currents in their party, Carson appears to be catching up to Trump, overtaking him in the state of Iowa and edging ahead of him in one national poll released Tuesday.
With his star rising, Carson came under pressure to expand on his political platforms.
And the hyper-competitive Trump — facing a slippage in his poll ratings — seemed determined to reaffirm his position atop the Republican pyramid.
But with all eyes on the front running pair, other candidates vied for the camera.