Never one known for being understated, his position on terrorism is, simply, kill them. How? By doing it. By leading. In the wake of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., that position has been as appealing to voters as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson's lack of experience on national security has given them pause.
A foreign policy debate in the wake of those attacks was always going to be drowned out by the rattling of sabers. But Trump's lead and his framing meant that the entire affair was one drawn in similarly stark terms. (Weirdly, it was Trump himself who added the most nuance, suggesting that the money spent in Iraq and Afghanistan could better have been spent on infrastructure.)
So when the candidates talked about foreign policy, they talked about it in positively Trump-ian terms: Who was "winning," and why it wasn't America.
"Listen, ISIS is gaining strength because the perception is that they're winning," Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) agreed: "ISIS is winning the propaganda war."
It got Trump-ier still. Cruz: "America can win again, and we will win again."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: "I've fought terrorists and won, and when we get back in the White House, we will fight terrorists and win again and America will be safe."
Even former Flordia governor Jeb Bush, who spent the two hours trying to go after Trump and trying to be heard (not necessarily in that order), summarized his political goals in terms that might look nice on a red baseball cap: "This is a serious challenge, and if we can get it right, yes, we'll start winning votes again."
At one point, Trump himself noted that his competitors were stealing his bits. Ben Carson, desperate to counter the perception that he was unprepared on foreign policy, announced part of his strategy to combat the Islamic State. "We have to take their oil, shut down all of the mechanisms whereby they can disperse money," Carson said, "because they go after disaffected individuals from all over the place, and they're able to pay them."
Trump, unsurprisingly, couldn't hold his tongue. "I've been talking about oil for three years," he said. "I've been saying, 'Take the oil, take the oil.' I didn't say, 'Just bomb it,' I said, 'Take it and use it.'"
You know who did just say "bomb it?" Cruz, whose hawkishness clearly mirrored the man in whose shadow he's happy to stand. He explained that his plan against the Islamic State was to "[use] overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy" the group.
Cruz had by far and away the most explicit rip-off of Trump on a related topic: immigration. Explaining that securing the border was critical to stopping terrorists, Cruz agreed with the real estate developer's main campaign plan. "We will build a wall that works," Cruz said, adding jokingly, "and I'll get Donald Trump to pay for it."
Trump, amused, said he'd be happy to build it. After all, it's not as if he has copyrighted the idea.