Last night's biggest winners? Analysts overwhelmingly say Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in a presidential debate at Reagan Library.
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

For once, Donald Trump didn't take center stage at a Republican presidential debate. With Trump surprisingly subdued last night in the third-round debate in Boulder, Colorado, other candidates were able to swoop in and steal the show: namely, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

As analysts' early takes on the third showdown roll in, both senators are consistently being mentioned as the candidates who made the biggest splash. Below, a sampling of opinions. Becca Stanek

The Atlantic:

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"The two candidates to thrive were a pair of senators who have been slowly but clearly gaining strength over the last few weeks: Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Rubio has emerged as something of a bettor's favorite: Though he still lags in the polls, pundits who assume Donald Trump and Ben Carson can't win have tabbed him as the man to benefit. He showed why his political abilities are so well regarded. The polished, poised Rubio repeatedly turned what might have been tough questions around on the questioner."

The Washington Post:

"[Marco Rubio] was good in the first two debates. He was outstanding in this one. The long-awaited showdown between Rubio and Bush wound up being a romp; Jeb tried to attack on Rubio's Senate attendance but got schooled by a very well-prepared Rubio.""Cruz had the single most memorable moment of the debate when, early on, he took on the CNBC moderators for the alleged "gotcha" questions they were asking. It drew a huge response in the debate hall and outside of it — and set the stage for a litany of attacks against the media from Cruz's rivals as the night wore on."


"Rubio's team was visibly elated after having gotten the better of Bush in a third straight GOP debate — and, by winning the first combative exchange between the two candidates, solidifying his position as the new establishment frontrunner."

The New York Times:

"A small but diverse sampling of commentary across the internet found many people declaring Senator Marco Rubio of Florida the winner, having bested his old friend Jeb Bush in a feisty exchange."

Fox News:

"In conventional terms Senators Cruz and Rubio won Thursday night's debate. They were laser focused, quick, smart, and passionate. They defended themselves, their records, and went on the offensive at all the right times, calling out the moderators on unfair questions that were focused less on policy than on personality."

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