The four presidential candidates who arrived at the RedState Gathering on Saturday afternoon were bombarded with the same question: What do you think of organizer Erick Erickson's decision to ban Donald Trump from the event?
The brief backstory: Erickson rescinded the Donald's invitation to speak Saturday night after his controversial comments about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. What's followed is a war of words between Erickson and Trump.
Each of his presidential rivals tried to dodge the debate in different ways, reluctant to shower more attention on the man leading many polls. Here's how:
U.S. SEN. TED CRUZ OF TEXAS:
Cruz said he was "not going to engage on the back-and-forth of personalities." He hastened to add:
"I think every candidate should treat everyone else with civility and respect. And that's a standard I hope all of us aspire to. I also think we're not going to defeat the Washington Cartel by obsessing over the politics of personality."
WISCONSIN GOV. SCOTT WALKER:
Walker told the AJC's Daniel Malloy he agrees with a tweet sent by fellow Republican Carly Fiorina that expressed outrage over Trump's comments:
"Those comments are inappropriate and certainly I think it's worth focusing on. And now I hope, having pointed that out, that I hope we can spend time here in Atlanta and across this country in the media actually talking about the real opponent, who is Hillary Clinton. It's not anybody else we saw on stage the other night. It's Hillary Clinton."
FORMER ARKANSAS GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE:
In an interview with the AJC and Channel 2 Action News, Huckabee heaped praise on Kelly:
"I did find the statement very, very disappointing, mainly because I have such a respect for Megyn Kelly. I worked with her for six-and-a-half years at Fox News. I know her well. She is beloved in that building and rightly so. She is as intellectually keen as anybody I’ve worked with or known.
"She’s as professional as anyone I’ve ever seen in the business. She’s the consummate pro when it comes to doing her job. She’s hardworking and she’s a person quite frankly even though I worked with her for six-and-a-half years, if I’m on her show now, she’s going to press me like I've never met her before."
FORMER FLORIDA GOV. JEB BUSH:
Bush took an indirect shot at Trump without mentioning the candidate's name: "If you think those questions are tough, how about dealing with [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin."
"The big personalities on the stage matter nothing for the person who is stuck in poverty," he added. "They matter nothing to the person who is stuck in the middle."
When asked directly about Trump, Bush replied: “Give me a break. Do we want to win? Do we want to turn away 53% of voters?"
“Your decision is the right one,” he told Erickson. “Mr. Trump ought to apologize.”
Check out the rest of our recent RedState stories:
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.