Republicans just slugged it out in their big debate -- here are the highlights

Eleven candidates took the stage at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, Wednesday night for the second round of Republican presidential debates.

The debate focused on China, Iran, the Islamic State, gay marriage, immigration, efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and September 11.

CNN changed its debate criteria to allow former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who was excluded from Fox News’ main debate in August, to join the same 10 candidates who took the top-tier stage last month.

Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki participated in the lower-tier debate earlier in the evening.

That leaves Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, and, of course, Donald Trump.

According to Real Clear Politics’ average of six recent national polls, Trump is leading the pack at 29.8% (up from 24.3% before August’s debate), followed by the retired neurosurgeon Carson at 17.8% (up from 5.8%) and Bush, the former Florida governor, at 7.8% (down from 12.5%).

Here’s how the rest of them stand:

  • Ted Cruz, US senator from Texas: 6.7% (up from 5.5%)
  • Marco Rubio, US senator from Florida: 5.8% (up from 5.3%)
  • Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor: 4.3% (down from 6.8%)
  • Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett Packard CEO: 4.3% (up from 1.3%)
  • Scott Walker, Wisconsin governor: 3.8% (down from 9.5%)
  • John Kasich, Ohio governor: 3.5% (up from 2.8%)
  • Rand Paul, US senator from Kentucky: 2.7% (down from 4.5%)
  • Chris Christie, New Jersey governor: 2.0% (down from 3.5%)

Wednesday night’s debate was moderated by CNN correspondents Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, as well as conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Here are the highlights:

10:57 p.m. — Now for their secret service names!

10:54 p.m. — It’s getting a little lighthearted. Tapper asks what woman should be on the $US10 bill.

Paul: Susan B. Anthony. Huckabee: My wife. Rubio: Rosa Parks. Cruz: Rosa Parks (but put her on the $US20 bill). Carson: My mother. Trump: Ivanka Trump/Rosa Parks. Bush: Margaret Thatcher. Walker: Clara Barton. Fiorina: No change. Kasich: Mother Theresa.

10:46 p.m. — A question on any link between vaccinations and autism. Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon, “There have been numerous studies and they have not demonstrated any correlation between vaccines and autism.”

Trump, in response, “Autism has become an epidemic. I am totally in favour of vaccines but I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. If you take this little baby and you pump vaccines into it … We’ve had so many instances of a child having vaccines and coming back having a fever and getting sick and now is autistic.”

Carson — “It is true we are probably giving way too many vaccines in way too short a time.”

Paul, also a medical doctor, says, “I’m all for vaccines, but I’m also for freedom.”

10:43 p.m. — On to climate change. Christie, “We don’t need massive government intervention to deal with the problem of climate change.”

10:38 p.m. — Discussion turns to gun control. Cruz says, “I led 31 states before the Supreme Court defending the Second Amendment, and we won that landmark victory.”

10:34 p.m. — Fiorina, “My husband and I buried a child to drug addiction. We are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like drinking beer … Drug addiction is an epidemic and it is taking too many of our young people, I know this, sadly, from personal experience.”

10:30 p.m. — After being targeted by Paul as a hypocrite, Bush says, “40 years ago I smoked marijuana, I’m sure many people have done it and might not want to admit it in front of 25 million people.” Says his mum is not happy that he just admitted it.

“What goes on in Colorado should be a state decision.”

Paul agrees, “Colorado has made their decision, and I don’t want the federal government interfering.”

10:27 p.m.  — Back after a break. Question turns to marijuana legalization. Paul hits against drug war policies landing poor people in jail.

10:16 p.m. — Kasich says, “I called for boots on the ground many months ago. When we go somewhere we need to be mobile, lethal, take care of business, and come home.”

10:05 p.m. — Rubio says on foreign policy, “Belief that a retreating America makes the world safer has been disproven every single time. I’ve openly warned that void in Syria would be filled with radical jihadists if US did not intervene and arm moderate rebels, and that is what happened … The more we disengage, the more aeroplanes we are going to see flying out of Moscow to Damascus.”

10:03 p.m.  — Bush on Iraq —  “When we pull back, voids are created. We left Iraq, we should have stayed, and now we have the creation of ISIS. We don’t have to be the world’s policemen, but we do need to be the world’s leader.”

10:00 p.m. — Trump says, “I’m the only person on this stage who fought very hard against us going into Iraq.”

To Bush — “Your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama.”

Bush response — “My brother kept us safe.”

9:57 p.m. — Here’s the speaking times of each candidate so far:

9:53 p.m. — We’re back after break number two. Trump, on foreign policy, “I will have the finest team we’ve ever put together and we will solve a lot of problems.”

Rubio hits back, “You should ask Trump questions in detail about the foreign policy questions our president will have to confront. Foreign policy crises cannot be predicted or controlled … The federal government can and must keep us safe and a president must be up to date on those issues on his or her first day in office.”

Trump responds, “I am not sitting in the US senate, I am a businessman doing business transactions. I will know more about the problems of this world by the time I sit in office.”

9:47 p.m. — Fiorina brings up Hillary Clinton, “Clinton will have to defend her track record of lying about Benghazi, lying about her emails, lying about her servers. Flying around the world is not an accomplishment, it is an activity.”


9:42 p.m. — Trump — “The hedge fund guys won’t like me as much as they like me now after I introduce my tax plan.”

9:41 p.m. — Carson says, on taxing, “What made America into a great nation is saying, ‘That guy just made a billion dollars, let’s create an environment that makes it conducive to his growth so that next year he can make it two billion dollars.'”

9:35 p.m. — Christie gets applause for response to Trump and Fiorina back and forth on HP. “While I’m as entertained as anyone about the back and forth about Trump’s and Fiorina’s careers, the average worker doesn’t care about your careers. They care about their own.”

9:30 p.m. — Fiorina, asked about criticism of her time as HP CEO, “I led Hewlett Packard through the worst technology recession in years. We had very strong competitors who went out of business. We had to make tough choices. We went from lagging behind to leading, and we must lead in this nation again … I made a few enemies.”

Trump on HP, “Hewlett Packard is a disaster —  they continue to be a disaster. She can’t run any of my companies, I’ll tell you that.”

Fiorina responds, “I find it quite rich that you would talk about this. You ran up mountains of debt at your casinos, and you were forced to file for bankruptcy a record four times. Why should we trust you to manage the finances of this nation any differently than the way you’ve handled your casinos?”

9:25 p.m. — The question turns to birthright citizenship. Trump, “The 14th amendment says to a lot of legal scholars that it is wrong. A woman gets pregnant, she walks across the border, has the baby, and we take care of the baby for 85 years?”

“Other countries don’t have that policy, we’re the only ones stupid enough to have that.”

9:23 p.m. — Back on Rubio, “We have a legal immigration system that no longer works.”

9:22 p.m.  — Cruz says, “I am the only candidate on this stage who has never supported amnesty.”


9:15 p.m. — Bush is asked about immigration and Trump remarks on his wife. He says, “To subject my wife into the middle of a rau cus political conversation was completely inappropriate and I hope you apologise … My wife is Mexican-American and she wants to embrace the American values that make us special and unique.”

Trump replies, “I won’t do that because I said nothing wrong, but I do hear she’s a lovely woman.”

He continues, “Jeb says they come to this country in an act of love. But with all of the problems, this is not an act of love. Bush is weak on immigration, and he doesn’t get my vote.”


9:06 p.m.  — Fiorina is asked about Trump’s remarks about her face in a Rolling Stone magazine interview. In response, on her persona, “Mr. Trump said he heard Mr. Bush very clearly. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”

Trump’s response — “I think she has a beautiful face and is a beautiful woman.”

9:00 p.m. — Fiorina gets applause for an answer that ties in the Middle East and Planned Parenthood. She says, “This is about the character of this nation, and if we do not stand up and force President Obama to defund Planned Parenthood, shame on us.”

8:59 p.m. — Christie, touting his credentials for defunding Planned Parenthood in New Jersey, blasts Hillary Clinton — “Clinton believes in the systematic murder of children in the womb.”

8:58 p.m. — Kasich, speaking on Planned Parenthood and its funding, “I think we should defund Planned Parenthood —  there are ways to do it without shutting the government down.”

8:57 p.m. — Bush, in response, “In a tolerant country, we should respect the rule of law. There should be some accommodation for people like Kim Davis.”

8:55 p.m. — Huckabee asked about Kim Davis, the clerk from Kentucky who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, “The courts cannot legislate … We’ve made accommodations to detainees at Gitmo. You’re telling me we can’t make accommodations to a Kentucky county clerk?

8:38 p.m. — Fiorina also gets applause for her foreign policy answer, opening that she has met with Putin and we shouldn’t speak with him.

“I wouldn’t talk to Putin at all, we’ve talked too much to him. Russia is a bad actor, but we should not talk to Putin —  the only way he will stop is to sense strength and resolve on the other side.”

8:36 p.m. — Rubio gets applause for remarks on Russia — “Putin wants to reposition Russia as a geopolitical force. He will turn to other nations in the region and tell them to rely on Russia, instead of on the US. This president is allowing Putin to become the biggest power broker in the Middle East.”

8:35 p.m. — The conversation pivots to foreign policy, specifically Russia and Vladimir Putin. Trump says “Putin has absolutely no respect for presiden Obama. Syria is a mess. We’re fighting ISIS, ISIS wants to fight Syria, why are we fighting ISIS in Syria. I would talk to Putin. I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with right now. I would get along with Putin, and we would have a much more stable world.”

8:32 p.m. — Bush says, speaking about bringing casino gambling to Florida, “The one guy who tried to get me to change my values by giving me money was Donald Trump.”

Trump responds, “Right now, from special interests, I could have double or triple what Bush has got. I’ve turned it down. I am not accepting any money from anybody —  nobody has control over me other than the people of this country.”

Bush swung back with Trump’s support of Hillary Clinton, who attended his wedding, and Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

After an brief argument, Trump says, “You’ve got more energy tonight, I like that, but it was my business obligation to get along with everyone.”

8:30 p.m. — Former HP CEO Fiorina says, “People are supporting outsider candidates because no one [in the system] will challenge the status quo. A leader challenges the status quo. This is about changing the system.”



8:22 p.m. — Paul’s response to Trump’s critique —  “I am concerned about him having control over nuclear weapons because of his visceral response to attacking people based on their appearance … We’re not in junior high anymore.”

Trump replied, “I haven’t attacked your appearance, but trust me if I wanted to there’d be plenty of subject matter.”

8:20 p.m. — Tapper starts off with a question for Fiorina, with a question about Trump’s ability to serve as president. She defers to the voters to answer the questions.

The question is directed to Trump, who blasts Paul — “Rand Paul should not even be on this stage.”


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