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Tuesday night's Fox Business/Wall Street Journal debate in Milwaukee provided clues as to why Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have been climbing, not by wide margins but perceptibly, into the top polling positions of the candidates behind the two poll leaders, Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

The widespread assumption among political insiders is that in crunch time, when things really matter, Republican voters will abandon the front-runners for candidates with experience in public office. That hasn't happened yet. But if it does, Rubio and Cruz are clearly better positioned than anyone else.

With his smiling demeanor, unhesitant phrasing and ease at pivoting from one point to where he wants to go, Rubio has become a star in debate formats. He parried his first question, about reducing benefits, to how his modest-income immigrant family achieved the American Dream, how higher minimum wages accelerate automation, to his wider economic program and the need for vocational education: "We need more welders and less philosophers." All in 333 words.

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Asked about automation, he said it took 75 years for the telephone but only one year for "Candy Crush" to get 100 million users, a signal that he's in touch with contemporary tech, and then referenced his plans to reshape higher education, which has been performing especially badly of late.

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