The 11th GOP debate in Detroit had one clear target, front-runner Donald Trump, and most of the attacks had to do with what Ted Cruz at one point called “Trump’s tenuous relationship with the truth.”
The real estate mogul’s stance on immigration was one of the first issues to come up during the FOX News event, when he was consistently questioned about an off-the-record conversation he recently had with the New York Times editorial board.
The conversation in question allegedly contains comments made by Trump that seem to greatly soften the immigration hardline persona he has worked so hard to project.
During Thursday night’s debate, however, Trump refused to delve into details about the Times conversation, but said that despite what he may have said there, he's "not very flexible" when it comes to his proposals to build a wall across the southern border, a wall he insisted Mexico will have to pay for.
Trump reportedly told the Times that he was flexible on some aspects of the plan. But he said many of those comments were off the record.
When questioned by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly specifically about his immigration stance, Trump said that “in terms of immigration or anything else, there’s always going to be some tug and pull.”
Rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz repeatedly demanded Trump authorizes the Times to disclose the audio that, they say, would show the American people he is not being truthful about what his real deportation plans. Trump didn’t concede, saying all candidates talk with reporters off the record and privacy should be honored.
Trump was also questioned on his "changing" and "softening" position on a visa program for highly skilled foreign workers.
Trump's website outlines a policy for encouraging American companies to hire native workers rather than giving out more H-1B visas for people from overseas. But Trump told the audience in Detroit that he'd be more open to bringing in highly skilled workers, especially for jobs in Silicon Valley.
Trump's admission of "softening" his position is fresh fodder for his opponents.
At one point Cruz hit back against Donald Trump's proposed immigration program, saying that millions of Americans are out of work because of existing immigration policies, and called out Trump for supporting members of the so-called Gang of Eight immigration deal.
“If you don’t like amnesty, if you don’t like the Gang of Eight,” Cruz said. “Donald Trump funded five out of the eight members.”
Trump, however, wasn’t the only Republican candidate to get asked toughed questions on the immigration issue.
Rubio was forced to answer for his role in the so-called Gang of Eight deal that would have provided a path to citizenship for people living in the country illegally. Rubio said he did the best he could in a Democratic-controlled Senate and that he hoped the Republican-led House would have worked out a better deal.
The response gained a surprising bit of praise from Trump, who said he thinks it's just fine that he negotiated with other lawmakers when debating how to deal with people living in the country illegally.
Trump frequently touts his deal-making ability on the campaign trail and during the debate he said that give and take is OK, although he may differ with Rubio on the degree to which that happens.
With Ben Carson's exit from the race this week, the field of Republican candidates has now been narrowed to four.But any number of predictions that GOP voters would unite behind one anti-Trump candidate have come and gone without a change in the overall dynamic.
Trump, with 10 state victories, continues to dominate the conversation and the delegate count.
Thursday's debate was the first time Trump faced his rivals since scooping up seven victories on SuperTuesday.
It was also the first time he faced questioning from FOX News’ Kelly since the two clashed in the first primary debate. That's when Kelly's tough questioning about Trump's treatment of women blew up into a running argument between Fox and the candidate. Trump, who dismissed Kelly as a "lightweight" and a "bimbo," ended up boycotting a subsequent Fox debate, claiming the network was unfair.
Trump signaled he was ready for a truce. When Kelly posed her first question to him, Trump told her "you're looking well. You're looking well."
Trump has continued to pile up delegates during the long, and so far unsuccessful, effort to topple him.
He leads the field with 329 delegates. Cruz has 231, Rubio 110 and Kasich 25. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination for president.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.