A question on the debt ceiling heated up on stage at Wednesday's Republican debate, when Sen. Ted Cruz said questions on the issue "illustrate why the American people don't trust the media."
"This is not a cage match," Cruz said. "The questions that are being asked shouldn't be getting people to tear into each other. It should be, 'What are your substantive solutions?'"
Cruz skirted the issue of the debt ceiling — which threatens to shake financial markets if the government shuts down. But the discussion on media bias set records in a focus group by famous pollster Frank Luntz, he tweeted.
Earlier this week, the White House and congressional leaders reached a tentative two-year budget deal to lift mandatory spending caps on defense and domestic programs and raise the federal debt ceiling, in an attempt to avert yet another fiscal standoff. Cruz has opposed agreements to avoid the shut down.
The deal would raise the government debt ceiling until March 2017, removing the threat of an unprecedented and market-rupturing national default after the government would have run out of spending authority next Tuesday. At the same time it would set the federal budget through fiscal 2017 and ease punishing spending caps by providing $80 billion more for military and domestic programs. It would be paid for with spending cuts and revenue increases touching areas from tax compliance to spectrum auctions.
Candidates discussed the issue Wednesday night as part of a two-part televised debate, where Republican hopefuls vied to debate their way to the party's nomination for president in 2016.
by The New York Times and CBS this week put retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at the front of the pack of candidates, with 26 percent of Republican primary voters, trailed by Donald Trump at 22 percent, Marco Rubio with 8 percent, and Carly Fiorina and Jeb Bush with 7 percent of the vote, each.
That's compared to an Oct. 20 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which showed real estate mogul Trump leading with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Carson in second place with 22 percent. Rubio ranked third with 13 percent, ahead of Cruz with 9 percent and Bush with 8 percent.
— CNBC's Reem Nasr, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.