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The first GOP debate of 2016 was missing a crucial face

Last night Republican presidential hopefuls took the stage for the 6th — and final — GOP debate of the 2016 primary election cycle. Kidding! We are only like halfway done with these things, y’all. Here are five memorable moments from last night’s debate, and why they mattered — through the eyes of a conservative Republican.

Sen. Marco Rubio: “Hillary Clinton is disqualified from being commander-in-chief of the United States.”

Sen. Rubio drank his Red Bull before this debate and came out swinging. He qualified his statement by referencing both Sec. Hillary Clinton’s email scandal and Benghazi in the same sentence. While Democrats may be tired of hearing about her “damn emails,” Republicans still want answers for why a government official and presidential candidate can get away with storing highly classified information on a highly insecure server.

More: Why I won’t tell my kids who I’m voting for in this election

Sen. Ted Cruz on birtherism: “Since September, the Constitution hasn’t changed, but the poll numbers have.”

Trump started this whole brouhaha by alleging Sen. Cruz was ineligible for president because his mom was vacationing in Canada when he was born. It’s silly, and it shows not only how concerned Trump is about Sen. Cruz’s rising poll numbers, but how little he knows about the Constitution. In his response Trump basically admitted Sen. Cruz was right and that the entire attack was poll-driven, proving Sen. Cruz’s point.

More: A conservative Republican re-enacts the 3rd Democratic debate

Dr. Ben Carson: “Yes, they said everybody.”

Carson didn’t get much debate time last night — a good thing for him, really — and this was his chance to get in on the action. It showed why he is still doing well in the polls (hello, likeability?), but also proved to illustrate what a non-entity he is in this election now. When your biggest debate moment is a toss-up between a joke to get mentioned and a comment on how Internet commenters are mean (when specifically asked to speak about Sec. Clinton), it’s time to head home.

Sen. Rubio: “The 2nd Amendment is not an option. It’s not a suggestion. It’s a right.”

Statements like this one made by Sen. Rubio equal word porn for conservatives. Granted, it’s a topic that shouldn’t need to be discussed in a GOP debate — everyone on the stage should be for gun rights — but for some reason it keeps coming up. Sen. Rubio brought his answer around to President Obama, claiming the president uses shootings as an excuse to make gun grabs, a statement that also resonates with many conservative voters.

Crowd: “WE WANT RAND!”

Shortly after the two-hour mark, a small group of lively folks in the audience chanted, “We want Rand!” about three times. This was in reference to Sen. Rand Paul being shuffled from the main debate stage to the undercard time slot (which he boycotted in protest). Sen. Paul’s presence was missed last night, especially during foreign policy topics. He may not be leading the polls, but he certainly has more to add to the Republican conversation than Dr. Carson, Gov. John Kasich and Gov. Jeb Bush.

More: A Republican’s take on the 5th GOP debate

Et Cetera: Gov. Bush tried his darnedest to have a big moment but, like every other debate, fell flat. Any marginally decent point he made was immediately followed up with a bigger version of it by another candidate. Really, all that’s memorable of Gov. Bush from this debate were his awesome dad shrugs. Gov. Chris Christie seemed to have a strong debate, but the Internet might end up breaking from all of the fact-checking after most of his statements. Suffice it to say he wasn’t entirely honest in his exchanges, and that will end up hurting him with voters. And Gov. Kasich did his usual: stay far-left of everyone else on stage and accentuate every response with his sweet, sweet knife hands.

This GOP debate was down to seven candidates, folks! Here’s hoping we can knock a few more off before the next one — and maybe add one back.

Don’t miss the Democrat’s take on the debate.

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