Post GOP Debate Analysis: Rubio, Cruz Shine Among the Pack

All eyes were on Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush starting the third GOP debate, but perhaps now Republicans will be feeling the most reassured by the candidacies of Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

In a world of sound bites and news clips, Rubio and Cruz certainly provided some of the night's greatest zingers.

Let's first start with Rubio, who turned questions about his personal finances and Senate voting record on the moderators and eventually his opponents.

A lively exchange between the Florida Senator and Bush became one of several key and defining debate moments:

"But Marco, when you signed up for this," Bush charged after moderator Becky Quick mentioned the Florida-based Sun Sentinel, who called for Rubio's resignation after he missed more Senate votes while on the campaign trail than any other Republican candidate. "This was a six-year term and you should be showing up to work."

Rubio quipped: "I don't remember you ever complaining about John McCain's voting record... Someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you."

The argument left Bush, who needed a breakthrough moment tonight more than anyone, looking irrelevant for much of the evening when he couldn't maneuver his way back into the limelight.

Perhaps the worst part of tonight's scattered CNBC GOP debate was that the moderators allowed the candidates to turn them into talking points. No one used that opportunity better than Cruz.

"Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues?" Cruz critiqued. The statement opened the floor for fellow candidates to pile on the rest of the night and received the loudest applause of the evening.

More zingers ensued:

Rubio: "The Democrats have the ultimate super PAC, the mainstream media."

Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie in response to John Harwood interrupting his answer to a question with a prompt on climate change: "Even in New Jersey what you're doing is called rude."

Cruz and Rubio manhandled last night's scattered moderators and effectively kept Bush, Trump and Carson at arms length. Expect to see a bump in the next GOP poll for both of them.