Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) weren’t onstage for the first official debate between the Republican candidates.
Four hours before the first official debate on Thursday night, seven of the lower-tier candidates who didn’t make the cut faced off in a “happy-hour debate.”
Though some of the 5 p.m. debaters weren’t thrilled about their second-class status, the early debaters laid out their visions for the presidency, and took plenty of shots at their opponents in the top-tier.
At this point, the percentages separating the top- and bottom-tier candidates is pretty small, so if one of the candidates stumbles in the main debate, there’s room for a lower-tier candidate to shoot up in the polls and qualify for the next debate in mid-September.
Thursday’s early debate featured some of the most interesting, if lesser-known, GOP candidates in the field.
Check out our recap of the debate below. For a list of candidates participating in the debate, check the bottom of this post.
6:30 p.m. — In his closing statement, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) talked about his vision for immigration reform, and warned about the impacts of immigrants living in the US without permission.
“We must insist on assimilation — immigration without assimilation is invasion,” Jindal said.
6:15 p.m. — The Republican candidates were each asked about how they would describe Hillary Clinton in two words. Few of them actually did that — here’s how they responded instead:
Former New York Gov. George Pataki (R): “Divisive with no vision.”
Carly Fiorina: “Not trustworthy, no accomplishment.”
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania): “Secretive and untrustworthy.”
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R): “Good at email.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina): “Not the change we need at the time we need it.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R): “Socialist and government dependent.”
Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (R): “Professional politician that can’t be trusted.”
6:09 p.m. — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) continued to stake out his position as one of the most vocal critics of Planned Parenthood following a controversial hidden-camera video that showed a representative from the family planning organisation discussing the harvesting of fetal tissue from aborted fetuses.
“Planned Parenthood had better hope that Hillary Clinton wins this election. Because I guarantee you under President Jindal, January 2017, the Department of Justice and the IRS and everyone else we can send from the federal government will be going into Planned Parenthood. This is absolutely disgusting, and revolts the conscience of the nation,” Jindal said.
6:00 p.m. — Answering a question about national security, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (R), who is running on his record as a national security expert, referred to the Islamic State as, “This ISIL thing.”
5:55 p.m. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said that he’d rather have former Hewlett-Packard CEO negotiating the multinational Iran nuclear deal than Secretary of State John Kerry.
“I will tell you one thing. I would whole lot rather have Carly Fiorina over there doing our negotiation [sic] than John Kerry. Maybe we wouldn’t have gotten a deal where we wouldn’t have given everything away,” Perry said, without being prompted about his thoughts on Fiorina.
5:45 p.m. — After some nudging from Fox News moderator Bill Hemmer, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) criticised Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) for agreeing to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, which many other Republican governors have refused to do.
“I don’t think that anyone should expand Medicaid. It was a mistake to expand Medicaid everywhere in Ohio and across the country,” Jindal said.
Asked the same question, former New York Gov. George Pataki agreed.
“I think he’s right,” Pataki said.
5:40 p.m. — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) said that he’ll be a more hawkish president than his Republican rivals and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and will do more to defend the US against ISIS.
“If I have to monitor a mosque, I’ll monitor a mosque. If I have to take down a cyber wall, I’ll take down a cyber wall,” Graham said.
5:35 p.m. — Here’s how long each candidate has spoken for so far:
Talking time of the candidates so far: Perry 3:55Fiorina 3:41Pataki 2:52Santorum 2:41Jindal 2:08Graham 1:54Gilmore 1:42
— Domenico Montanaro (@DomenicoNPR) August 6, 2015
5:20 p.m. — Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina criticised Donald Trump’s relationship with the Clintons following revelations that President Bill Clinton called Trump weeks before the reality television star announced his presidential campaign. Fiorina pointed out that Trump donated to Hillary Clinton’s New York senate campaigns.
“I didn’t get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race. Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton?” Fiorina said. “Maybe it’s because I hadn’t given money to the foundation or donated to his wife’s Senate campaign.”
5:10 p.m. — The first question that the Republican candidates had to answer was if they should even be in the presidential race at all. Fiorina, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (R), and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) all faced questions about their relevancy.
“Has your moment passed, Senator?” Fox Host Bill Hemmer asked.
“I would say that the message that got us the win in Iowa and 10 other states against overwhelming odds is the message that’s going to deliver us this election. We didn’t start out 4 years ago at the top of the heap, we were behind where we were today,” Santorum said.
“I think the times are different now,” Gilmore said when asked a similar question.
Here’s a list of the candidates who are participating:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)
The Texas governor just missed the cut for the main debate after Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) experienced a bump in the polls following his late entry into the race. Perry has been preparing for Thursday’s debate with the intent of avoiding a repeat of his highly-publicized 2012 primary debate performance where he forgot one of the government agencies that he wanted to eliminate.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania)
Santorum’s campaign was particularly vocal about its displeasure with Fox News and the Republican National Committee for the debate format. The former senator won several states in the 2012 primary, and was the only serious challenger to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R). But this time around, he’s been overshadowed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who appeals to the same block of evangelical primary voters that helped fuel Santorum’s run in 2012.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R)
Once considered a rising star in the Republican Party, Jindal stumbled in a bizarre response to President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2009. The governor’s speech was widely panned for being overly simplistic, awkward, and a bit condescending. He’s since attempted to recover by re-branding himself as a smart Republican, then a staunch conservative. Jindal has started to shape his policies around hot national political topics, announcing an investigation into Planned Parenthood and signing an executive order supporting religious liberty, which allows businesses to refuse service to gay people based on religious beliefs.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)
Graham has one of the more interesting messages of the GOP field — he’s supported immigration reform and talked about working with Democrats on reforming entitlements. But despite his high-profile spat with Donald Trump, the hawkish Republican hasn’t been able to make a dent in the polls. Expect him to talk about the dangers of the Iran nuclear deal.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina
Fiorina has attempted to raise her profile by targeting Hillary Clinton. But she has little political experience — she lost a challenge to US Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) in 2010.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki (R)
Pataki has attempted to win over primary voters by highlighting his status as a successful Republican governor of a blue state. He’s also brawled with Donald Trump, who said that Pataki “couldn’t be elected dog-catcher.”
The former governor has dismissed his low poll numbers, saying that he’ll rise as people get to know him.
“It reminds me so much of when I ran for governor of New York the first time. No one had heard of me. I was from this small town: Peekskill, New York. If someone had taken a poll, I would have been at zero. But I knew I had the right ideas, the right vision, and I certainly enjoy meeting people,” Pataki said. “The polls have never bothered me.”
Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (R)
The last major entry into the GOP race, Gilmore hasn’t won an election in more than a decade. But that didn’t stop the former governor from jumping into the race last week. Gilmore, who chaired a federal homeland security commission in the early 2000’s, is hoping to emphasise his record on national security issues, though it’s difficult to see how he’ll wrestle the authority away on that issue from Graham or Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida).
Check back here for frequent updates.
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