Republicans just duked it out in their first big debate -- here are the best moments

Ten Republican candidates took center stage in Cleveland for the first presidential debate of the 2016 campaign.

Fox News, the host of the first debate, limited the Republican participants in the prime-time debate to the 10 candidates polling best in an average of five recent national polls. It comes hours after the bottom-tier candidates went head-to-head in a separate forum.

According to Real Clear Politics’ average of five recent national polls, here’s a look at where the candidates stand going into Thursday night:

  • Donald Trump, real-estate magnate: 24.3% average as of Thursday
  • Jeb Bush, former Florida governor: 12.5%
  • Scott Walker, Wisconsin governor: 9.5%
  • Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor: 6.8%
  • Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon: 5.8%
  • Ted Cruz, US senator from Texas: 5.5%
  • Marco Rubio, US senator from Florida: 5.3%
  • Rand Paul, US senator from Kentucky: 4.5%
  • Chris Christie, New Jersey governor: 3.5%
  • John Kasich, Ohio governor: 2.8%

Here are the best moments from our live-blog:

11:08 p.m. — In his closing statement, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) winked at Donald Trump’s candidacy.

“It seems like this election has been a whole lot about a candidate who is very high in the polls who doesn’t have a clue how to govern, who has been filled with scandals, and who can’t lead,” Huckabee said. 

“I’m talking, of course, about Hillary Clinton.”

10:56 p.m. — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) took a question about his faith and used it to slam the Democratic party.

“God has blessed the Republican party with a number of good candidates. Democrats can’t even find one,” Rubio said.

10:48 p.m. —  About to go to commercial, Fox cuts off Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after he attempts to weigh in on providing funding to Israel.

“Megyn, can I get in on that?” Cruz said.

Kelly said no.

10:45 p.m. — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said that he opposed allowing transgender Americans to serve in the military.

“The military is not a social experiment,” Huckabee said

“The point of the military is to kill people and break things,” Huckabee said.

“I’m not sure how paying for transgender surgery…makes our country safer,” Huckabee said.

10:32 p.m. —  Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) dodged a chance to criticise Donald Trump after the real estate magnate said that President George W. Bush was responsible for helping get President Barack Obama elected.

After reiterating that Trump’s rhetoric was “divisive,” Bush said that he wanted to win by bringing people together.

“We’re going to win when we unite people with a hopeful optimistic message,” Bush said.

“We don’t have time for tone, we have to go out and get the job done,” Trump responded.

10:20 p.m. —  Pressed by Fox News host Chris Wallace about his business losses in New Jersey, Donald Trump said that Wallace was naive about the world of business, and didn’t understand the bad business climate in New Jersey.

“You’re living in a world of make believe, Chris,” Trump said, referring to lenders who lost money on one of Trump’s deals.

“Every company — Chris can tell you — every company virtually in Atlantic City went bankrupt,” Trump said, mocking New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who smirked while the reality television star was speaking.

10:10 p.m. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) butted heads again over entitlement reform.

“He’s not lying, he’s just wrong,” Christie said of Huckabee, saying that the next president would have to make tough choices to curb the rising costs of Social Security and Medicare.

“The lying and stealing has already occurred,” Christie said, noting growing budget deficits.

Huckabee responded that he would find ways to tax people who don’t have salaries including “freeloaders” like pimps and prostitutes, who Huckabee alleges are mooching off of the system.

10:05 p.m. —  Dr. Ben Carson said that he doesn’t believe that Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee. When Carson was asked about how he would respond to Clinton’s criticisms of the Republican party, Carson didn’t provide many specifics, but said that he welcomed the debate.

“If Hillary is the candidate, which I doubt, that would be a dream come true,” Carson said.

9:51 p.m. — Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Donald Trump got into a heated debate over Trump’s past support for a single-payer healthcare system.

“I think you’re on the wrong side of this if you’re still arguing for a single-payer system,” Paul said.

“I don’t think you heard me. You’re having a hard time tonight,” Trump said.

9:45 p.m. — Ben Carson joked with Fox News host Megyn Kelly about not getting enough time to speak.

“Thanks Megyn. I wasn’t sure I was going to get to talk again,” Carson said.

9:43 p.m. —  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) got into a heated exchange over the National Security Agency’s bulk telephone metadata collection program exposed by Edward Snowden.

“We need more records from terrorists, and less from innocent Americans,” Paul said.

“That’s a completely ridiculous answer,” Christie replied, saying that you can’t know which records are which.

“How are you supposed to know, man?” Christie said.

“Use the Fourth amendment,” Paul replied.

Christie noted his record as a prosecutor, and slammed Paul for his Senate filibusters over the NSA’s data collection program.

“When you’re sitting in a committee, you can say things like this,” Christie said.

“I don’t trust President Obama with our records. I know you gave him a big hug,” Paul said.

“You know the hugs that I remember? The hugs of families from 9/11,” Christie said.

9:35 p.m. —  Ohio Gov. John Kasich avoided a chance to critique Donald Trump’s comments about immigration. When asked by Fox News moderator Chris Wallace about Trump’s suggestion that Mexico was sending over immigrants to the US, Kasich dodged, praising Trump for talking about a subject that Americans care about.

“Donald Trump is hitting a nerve in this country,” Kasich said.

“Mr. Trump is touching a nerve because they want the wall to be built,” Kasich said.

Kasich highlighted his record as a Congressman who helped to balance the federal budget during the 1990s.

9:29 p.m. — Fox News moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump about the Mexican government’s role in sending “bad” immigrants over to the US. Trump dodged the question, turning it around on the moderator. 

“If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration, Chris,” Trump said.

Wallace pressed Trump, who doubled down on past conspiratorial comments, saying that he talked to US Border Patrol agents who told him that the Mexican government was duping the US.

“They sent the bad ones over,” Trump said.

9:21 p.m. —  Fox News Host Megyn Kelly asked Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker about his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Walker noted that he’s “pro-life.”


9:20 p.m.  — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) treaded lightly around a question about if his connection to his family was hurting his presidential chances. He acknowledged his love for his brother and father, but quickly transitioned to his tenure as governor of Florida, noting his accomplishments.

“I’m my own man, I governed as a conservative, and I governed effectively,” Bush said.

9:11 p.m. —  Fox News Host Megyn Kelly confronted Trump about his past comments about women, noting that Trump had objectified women and called them “pigs.”

“Only Rosie O’Donnell,” Trump replied.

Kelly shot back saying that Trump had made derogatory comments about numerous women beyond O’Donnell.

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” Trump shot back.

“Oftentimes it’s fun, it’s kidding,” Trump said.

“Honestly, Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could very well not be based on the way you’ve treated me,” Trump said.

9:08 p.m. —  Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) came out of the gate attacking Trump for his ties to the Clintons, referencing Trump’s donations to Hillary Clinton’s senate campaigns.

“He’s already hedging his bets,” Paul said after Trump refused to rule out a run as an independent candidate.

“He buys and sells politicians of different stripes,” Paul said.

9:04 p.m. — Trump is booed by the crowd for saying that he could run as an independent.

“I will not make the pledge at this time,” Trump said as the crowd booed.


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