US Republican presidential candidates have held another fiery TV debate; the first since the terror attacks in California and Paris.
The candidates clashed over national security issues and how best to counter the Islamic State (ISIS).
Front runner, Donald Trump was on the defensive, with Jeb Bush calling him a “chaos candidate”.
Mr trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the US put him on the defensive in the early minutes of the debate.
Insults, attacks and policy critiques were all part of the mix as the candidates squared off in Las Vegas.
“Donald is great at the one-liners, but he’s a chaos candidate, and he would be a chaos president”, Bush, the former Florida governor, said, calling Trump’s idea after the San Bernardino terrorist attack to block all Muslims from entering the U.S. not serious. That set off one of the most strident exchanges.
Trump said Bush’s candidacy was a “total disaster”. At one point, he boasted: “I’m at 42 and you’re at 3”, referring to each candidate’s best and worst standing in the national polls.
“Jeb is a very nice person. But we need toughness”, Trump said.
“Donald, you are not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency. And I do have strength”, Bush countered.
On the issues of national security and immigration, Mr Rubio faced off against his two congressional colleagues in often acrimonious exchanges.
Given how all the candidates assiduously avoided the subject, one would never have guessed that it was a story that merited global headlines and ignited a firestorm of controversy.
But the top nine candidates disagreed over the scope of government surveillance and how to end the civil war raging in Syria.
“If terrorists strike again, the first question will be, ‘Why didn’t we know about it and why didn’t we stop it?” said Mr Rubio, taking aim at Mr Cruz, who had voted to curtail government surveillance powers.
Speaking to reporters after the debate, Trump said Mr Bush’s attacks were because he was having a “hard time” in the polls.