DETROIT (CN) - Toilet humor has long pervaded the Republican primary season, and Donald Trump flushed any dignity remaining in the race Thursday night by assuring voters about the size of his least visible endowment.
"I have to say this, he hit my hands," Trump said, of Marco Rubio's recent uptick in roast-style humor to chip away at Trump's lead.
"Nobody has ever hit my hands. I've never heard of this one. Look at those hands. Are they small hands? And he referred to my hands - if they're small, something else must be small.
"I guarantee you there's no problem," Trump said. "I guarantee you."
As snow gently descended on the Fox Theater where candidates and hundreds of protesters gathered, Trump's now familiar bravado seemed to mostly withstand withering attacks from Sen. Rubio and fellow candidate Sen. Ted Cruz. Ohio Gov. John Kasich meanwhile attempted to present himself as the crossover candidate who could help unite a deeply divided country and Republican party.
Cruz accused Trump of writing checks to Hillary Clinton's campaigns 10 separate times, four of which occurred in 2008, but Trump described such payments as the price of doing business. The reality-television star said it demonstrated he could work with people on the other side of the aisle.
A scratchy-voiced Rubio questioned whether Trump could beat Clinton in an election, but Trump brushed off this concern too. "I beat Hillary Clinton in many polls," Trump boasted. "I haven't not started on Hillary yet."
The candidates also quibbled about the military directives Trump promises to deliver as president, such as targeting the families of terrorists.
While the other candidates said soldiers would be duty-bound to ignore such illegal orders, Trump was adamant that he would command respect.
"If I say do it, they'll do it," he said.
Using logic possibly picked up from his four young children, Rubio justified the mudslinging by saying Trump started it.
"If ever there was anyone who deserved to be attacked that way, it's Donald Trump."
Trump seemed to get the last word between the two, however, when his "Little Marco" remark became a trending hashtag on Twitter.
The subject of the contaminated-water crisis in Flint, Mich., did not come up until late in the debate. Rubio was the only candidate to respond, but only to say that he supported Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, saying he believed Snyder "took responsibility."
"I don't think someone woke up one morning and said 'Let's ... poison someone,'" Rubio said.
Cruz pounced as the subject quickly turned to the failing Detroit Public School system, suggesting the problem was "60 years of failed liberal policies."
The Texas senator also birthed another Internet moment when a white particle surfaced on his lips as he spoke, moving from his upper lip to his bottom before returning to his mouth.
Fox News Channel hosted the debate with Bret Baier, Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly moderating. Trump was more pleasant with Kelly after a well-publicized dustup between the two in a debate last year.
The moderators were less pleasant later when they confronted Trump with a video montage of his political flip-flopping, as well as exaggerations of Better Business Bureau ratings for his controversial Trump University that is the target of fraud complaints. A flustered Trump maintained the university had an A grade but documents showed it was downgraded to a D-minus before the name was changed. There is no public grade available currently.
Kelly also quoted an appeals court decision regarding the university where the students were likened to victims of a Ponzi scheme. "Victims of con artists often sing the praises of the victimizers until the moment they realize they've been fleeced," Kelly said, paraphrasing the ruling.
Protesters outside the debate focused their chants on the minimum wage: "What do we want? Fifteen! When do we want it? Now!"
Another group of demonstrators in a nearby parking lot used projector lights on a building, as well as on strategically placed people, to present questions like, "Is the legal system against me?" (See video of the scene at Courthouse News Service's YouTube channel.)