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What surveys say about the latest Republican debate

On Dec. 15, the remaining nine Republican presidential candidates faced off during a televised debate in Las Vegas. Throughout the night candidates addressed foreign policy and national security issues. Since the attacks in Paris, these topics have gained importance within the electorate. According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 40 percent of Americans believe national security should be the federal government's primary concern.

Throwing punches
Like previous GOP debates, the Las Vegas event was contentious. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz spent much of the evening sparring, reported The New York Times. Rubio targeted the Texas senator's supposedly soft stances on immigration and defense funding. Cruz hit back by linking Rubio's foreign policy positions to those of the Obama administration.

"One of the problems with Marco's foreign policy is that he has far too often supported Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama undermining governments in the Middle East that have helped radical Islamic terrorists," Cruz said. 

Rubio was a common target for much of night. According to FiveThirtyEight, other candidates attacked or disparaged the Florida senator 22 separate times.

Donald Trump joined the dispute. In fact, the GOP front-runner nearly doubled his speaking time by employing off-the-cuff insults and lengthy rebuttals.

Surfing the Web
Cybersecurity was a key issue during the debate, reported Wired. Earlier this month, Trump said, if elected, he would close portions of the Internet to combat terrorism. The business mogul doubled down on these comments during the event, suggesting terror groups like the Islamic State could be paralyzed by network interruptions.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich touched off a discussion on encryption which is a key concern for national security organizations looking to bolster Web-based counterterrorism efforts, reported The Washington Post. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina implored private technology companies to give the government access to the encrypted data that passes through communication channels like WhatsApp, a messaging application IS fighters often use. She also touched on her own contributions to federal counterterrorism efforts, most notably a National Security Agency data-collection initiative.

"I stopped a truckload of equipment," Fiorina said, referencing a time during her stint at HP when she loaned hardware to the intelligence agency. "I had it turned around. It was escorted by the NSA into headquarters."

Approximately 45 percent of national security professionals believe cyberwarfare is gravest threat facing the country, reported Defense News Leadership.

Winners and losers
According to an informal pundit survey conducted by The New York Times, political experts believe the debate ended in a draw. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida governor Jeb Bush turned in strong performances. Trump drew applause and laughs but offered up flimsy policy. Cruz was understated and strong, and kept Rubio on his heels for much of the night. 

Over the past few weeks, Cruz has gained ample ground in the polls, reported The Times. According to Reuters, voters on the left and right praised the senator for confronting Trump over his latest controversial comments. The frontrunner responded by calling Cruz a "maniac." The senator also expanded his voter base by reaching out to a variety of conservative splinter groups.             

State of the race
Trump is currently polling at 33 percent nationally, reported RealClear Politics. His nearest competitor, the ascendant Cruz, is polling at 16 percent. Rubio has a weak hold on the third spot. And, Dr. Ben Carson continues to slide, a result of recent foreign policy gaffes. Jeb Bush, Christie, Kasich and Fiorina fill out the bottom of the poll.

Throughout the GOP primary race, commentators have attempted to predict Trump's inevitable downfall. However, as long as the frontrunner continues his unique path to the presidency, it seems voters will stay engaged. According to Pew Research Center, 69 percent of conservative voters say they are more likely to vote for an outlier, rather than a establishment stalwart. Additionally, many yearn for the unfiltered views Trump regularly offers. According to a Rasmussen poll, 71 percent of adults believe the U.S. is too politically correct.

Fox Business Network will host the next Republican debate which takes place in Charleston, South Carolina, on Jan. 14, 2016, reported The Washington Post. The Iowa caucuses, the opening electoral stages of the GOP nomination process, happen Feb. 1, 2016.              

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