As I noted in my debate round-up, he is the only candidate who has figured out how to tangle with Trump without emerging beaten and humiliated. Cruz’s debate style is a kind of quicksand that bogs his opponent down the more he struggles. But it doesn’t result in the kind of outright triumphs that Trump has enjoyed over, say, Jeb Bush.
Then again, these are all subjective matters. Michael Barbaro at the New York Times saw a much more formidable Cruz:
Mr. Cruz did not just dominate much of the Republican debate, he slashed, he mocked, he charmed, and he outmaneuvered everybody else onstage—but none as devastatingly and as thoroughly as this campaign’s most commanding performer, Donald J. Trump.
Cruz was so intimidating, we read, that Trump’s “leg jiggled.” Trump was “flustered, frustrated, and unable to regain his footing.”
I didn’t quite see that. But for what it’s worth, Cruz’s attempt to turn the birther table on Trump, held up here as an example of his skill, made no sense, given that the theory underlying Cruz’s hypothetical argument is totally bunk, whereas Trump’s theory is at the very least debatable. Trump’s counterargument—“But I was born here”—pretty much settled that particular dispute.