NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2016, 9:36 PM
The smallest field yet of Republican candidates kicked off another raucous debate Thursday night with a flurry of yelling and insults, as the three men on stage not named Donald Trump took consistent aim at the GOP front-runner in an attempt to give the mogul’s backers with a last-minute opportunity to reconsider their support for him.
The debate began with a discussion on a literal below-the-belt blow delivered earlier this week by Marco Rubio.
“He hit my hands, nobody has ever hit my hands, he said ‘look at those small hands,’” Trump said of an insinuating attack line the Florida senator used earlier this week, in reference to the mogul’s manhood.
“He said if they’re small, something else must be small,” Trump continued. “I guarantee you there’s no problem there.”
Rubio wouldn’t relent Thursday, taking aim at Trump’s conservative credentials.
“We are not going to turn over the conservative movement … to someone who is not conservative. To someone who defended Planned Parenthood for 30 seconds on a debate stage, to someone who thinks the nuclear triad is a rock band from the 80’s.”
Trump didn’t hesitate to hit back.
“Very nice words, but happens to be wrong,” he said. “This little guy has lied so much about my personal record.”
Joining the pair on stage were Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — who along with Rubio trailed Trump mightily in a slew of national polls.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson announced a day earlier that he did not see “a path forward” for his campaign and did not appear at the event.
The debate, hosted by Fox News Channel from Detroit, comes just hours after 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney delivered a forceful attack on the controversial front-runner — he called Trump a “phony” and a “fraud” — as the party establishment further mobilized against the mogul’s candidacy.
The event also marked a rematch between Trump and FOX News journalist Megyn Kelly, whom Trump went after following the conservative network’s first debate in August.
It was also the first debate to come after Super Tuesday, when Trump swept eight states.