GOP debate swings from personal barbs to policy ideas

Associated Press

Along with the back-and-forth bickering over Donald Trump, the Republican presidential contest took a substantive and serious turn in Wednesday’s prime-time debate, with candidates wrangling over immigration, gay marriage and foreign affairs.

The policy shift quieted Trump, the brash billionaire who has roiled the GOP field, for long stretches during the three-hour debate and appeared to come as a relief to other candidates who have struggled to break through.

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Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the GOP field, was one of the main benefactors, launching an emotional plea for defunding Planned Parenthood, touting her experience in business and taking aim at Trump for derogatory comments he made about her appearance. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who came into the debate facing questions about whether he had the grit to take on Trump, also engaged directly with the real estate mogul while still trying to fulfill his promise to run a joyful campaign.

In one exchange that typified the broader battle within the Republican Party, Bush and Trump clashed over the influence of big-money donors who have helped the former governor raise more than $100 million. Trump, who is largely financing his own campaign, said of campaign contributors: “I understand the game, I’ve been on the other side my entire life and they have a lot of control over our politicians.”

At another point, Bush pressed Trump to apologize for comments he has made about Bush’s Mexican-born wife. Trump refused and called Bush “weak on immigration.”

Trump’s unexpected rise and surprising durability is seen as a reflection of voters’ frustration with Washington and career politicians. As the son and brother of presidents, Bush more than any other candidate is seen as a representative of the status quo.

Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard executive, is also seeking to capitalize on her outsider status. She was making her first appearance on the main debate stage after a standout performance in an undercard event last months.

Fiorina emphasized how their business backgrounds would help them negotiate with difficult world leaders, including Russia’s president.

“Vladimir Putin would get the message,” she said.

A third outsider — soft-spoken retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson — entered the debate with high expectations after a recent rise in the polls that determine debate participation. But he largely faded to the background on the crowded debate stage.

Even in a lengthy debate, the 11-candidate field limited the amount of time each participant had to make his case to the American people.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio sought to take advantage of his moments, reminding voters about his compelling personal story, including his parents’ move to the U.S. from Cuba. He also argued he was most qualified to be commander in chief in a turbulent world.

“You better be able to lead our country on the first day, not six months from now, not a year from now, on the first day in office,” he said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also tried to capitalize on his limited time, saying that while he was entertained by Trump and Fiorina trying to one-up each other’s business records, “for the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight who doesn’t have a job, who can’t fund his child’s education — I gotta tell you the truth — they could care less about your careers.”

Perhaps more than any other candidate, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker entered the debate needing a breakout performance. He spoke vigorously about his conservative record as governor but still struggled for attention.

On foreign policy, the candidates were split on whether they would tear up President Barack Obama’s nuclear accord if elected. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz argued for walking away from the deal, despite the fact that it was negotiated alongside allies. Ohio Gov. John Kasich took a measured approach, saying anyone who wants to rip up the deal isn’t prepared to be president.

In an exchange on gay marriage and religious liberty, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee argued forcefully for the right of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis to defy the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage. “I thought that everyone here passed ninth grade civics. The courts can’t legislate,” he said. “I thought we had three branches of government.”

Still, Huckabee declined to criticize Bush for saying Davis did not have the right to deny gays marriage licenses. Bush said he supports defending the rights of religious people to refuse to endorse gay marriage, but he said someone else in Davis’ office should sign the certificates since the Supreme Court ruling is the law of the land.

“I think there needs to be accommodation for someone acting on their faith,” he said.

Even as Trump faded somewhat in the policy discussions, he was hardly invisible. He praised himself while deriding and scoring his rivals in the opening minutes of the debate at the Regan Presidential Library in southern California.

Standing at center stage, Trump said he had a “phenomenal temperament” and a record in business that would help him on the world stage. With his signature brashness, he immediately took on his rivals, saying Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a vigorous critic, didn’t deserve to be on the crowded debate stage.

Trump has become increasingly critical of Fiorina as her standing has risen and he was quoted in a recent interview making derogatory comments about her looks, though he later denied he was referring to her appearance.

Asked about Trump’s comments, Fiorina said simply, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”

Supreme Court justices

Mike Huckabee says “darn right” he would have a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees.

He says, “I’m tired of the liberals having them.”

Huckabee, a leader among the social conservatives, says he would make opposition to abortion rights a linchpin to a Supreme Court nomination.

The former Arkansas governor says he would ask any nominee if he or she believed a fetus is a human being “or a lump of tissue.”

Texas Senator Ted Cruz says it was a mistake for him to support the nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court.

Cruz made the admission at the second Republican presidential debate. He was criticizing the record of the Bush family in nominating justices like Roberts. The chief justice has drawn conservative ire for two votes that upheld President Obama’s health overhaul.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush pointed out that Cruz had backed Roberts. He said the problem was that the nomination process has become so politicized that presidents put forward people with limited judicial track records like Roberts.

Bush says, “We need to make sure that we have justices with a proven, experienced record of respect for upholding the Constitution.”

Roberts was nominated by Jeb Bush’s brother, president George W. Bush. Cruz also cited former Justice David Souter, nominated by Jeb Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush.

War in Iraq

Donald Trump is pointing out that he was against the 2003 Iraq invasion. He’s linking Jeb Bush to the war, which was ordered by his brother, then-President George W. Bush.

Trump says, “Your brother and your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama because it was such a disaster in the last three months.”

Jeb Bush, who laid out a strategy to fight radical militant jihadists at the Reagan Library last month, has discussed his philosophy of peace through strength and acting through coalitions against global threats.

But when Trump attacked George W. Bush, Jeb Bush stopped cold and looked directly at Trump, saying, “You know what, as it relates to my brother, he kept us safe.”

It’s not a new line for Bush. But it earned him one of the biggest ovations of the event.

Rand Paul says if voters want a president who will send troops to Iraq, “you got 14 other choices.”

The Kentucky senator says, “There will always be a Bush or Clinton for you if you want to go back to war in Iraq.”

Paul says the first war in Iraq was a mistake, it would not be in the United States’ best interests to start another one and “I’m not sending our sons and our daughters back to Iraq.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says “political restrictions” placed on troops already in the Middle East that prevent them from taking on the Islamic State should be lifted. Walker says he will only send in troops “when our national security is at risk.”

Personal vs. policy

​The policy debates still exposed rifts within the Republican Party, particularly the split between political outsiders and candidates with long resumes in Washington and governor’s mansions. Trump and Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard executive and only woman in the GOP field, emphasized how their business backgrounds would help them negotiate with difficult world leaders, including Russia’s president.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is suggesting the country can’t risk selecting a foreign policy novice like Donald Trump to be president.

At the second GOP presidential debate, Rubio rattled off a list of threats. He cited North Korean missiles, Russian incursions into the Ukraine and China cyberattacks. He said people need to ask candidates like Trump about foreign policy because “these are extraordinarily dangerous times.”

Rubio added that the next president had “better be someone that understands these issues and has good judgment about them.”

Trump acknowledged he has a lot to learn about foreign policy but vowed to be up to speed in time.

Progressive vs. flat tax

Billionaire Donald Trump is advocating for a progressive income tax, speaking out against a flat tax where everyone pays the same percentage no matter how much they earn.

Trump says during the second Republican presidential debate that it’s not fair for someone who makes $50,000 a year to pay the same percentage in taxes as a millionaire.

Trump also promises to release a tax reform plan in a couple weeks that hedge fund managers won’t like, but that those in the middle class will.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul disagrees, saying a flat 14.5 percent tax on everyone is the way to go.

Fiorina vs. Trump

Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, left, and Jeb Bush spar early in the GOP debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.

Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump are trading barbs about their business records.

Fiorina says the roughly 30,000 layoffs she oversaw as CEO of Hewlett-Packard from 1999 to 2005 are an example of “tough calls” the next president will have to make. She argues the job cuts took the country from “lagging behind to leading.”

Trump called the technology firm a “disaster,” blaming another 30,000 layoffs announced by the company this week on Fiorina’s leadership. He says, “She can’t run any of my companies.”

Fiorina has fired back, pointing to debt and bankruptcies stemming from Trump’s casino investments. She retorts, “Why should we trust to you to manage the finances of this nation any differently than you manage the finances of our casinos?”

'Women ... heard clearly what Mr. Trump said'

Carly Fiorina was asked to respond to one of the most biting insults of the 2016 campaign: “Look at that face,” Trump had said of her recently, going on to appear to say she didn’t have the looks to be president.

Fiorina used another of Trump’s comments as a comeback. On the stage, he had just called out Bush for trying to walk back comments on funding women’s health care.

“You know it’s interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly in what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” she said, drawing loud applause from the live audience.

Trump, looking sheepish, said, “She’s got a beautiful face, and she’s a beautiful woman.”

Passion against Planned Parenthood

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina says Republicans in Congress should stand fast on defunding Planned Parenthood even if it triggers a government shutdown.

Fiorina spoke at the second Republican presidential debate. She said undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials purportedly selling fetal organs make it a moral imperative to do anything possible to stop the organization. Planned Parenthood says it provides fetal tissue for medical research, charging a minor fee to cover costs.

Fiorina said, “This is about the character of our nation.”

She won the first standing ovation of night when she added, “If we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also condemned Planned Parenthood and defended his statement that the federal government should spend less on women’s health care. He said he was talking specifically about Planned Parenthood but he has been attacked repeatedly by Hillary Clinton for the line.

Chris Christie touts abortion record

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is touting his anti-abortion rights record but stopping short of saying he’d shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood.

Asked three times whether he would press to defund the women’s health organization even if it results in a government closure, Christie punted on the question.

Christie says he’d put it “on the list” of issues that Republicans should use to force a compromise from President Barack Obama, along with tax legislation.

Christie has described the past government shutdown, which Republicans forced over the health care law, as a political misstep for the GOP.

Huckabee stands by clerk

In an exchange on gay marriage and religious liberty, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee argued forcefully for the right of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis to defy the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage. “I thought that everyone here passed ninth-grade civics. The courts can’t legislate,” he said. “I thought we had three branches of government.”

Huckabee declined to criticize former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for saying Davis does not have the right to deny gays marriage licenses. Bush said he supports defending the rights of religious people to refuse to endorse gay marriage, but he said someone else in Davis’ office should sign the certificates since the Supreme Court ruling is the law of the land.

“I think there needs to be accommodation for someone acting on their faith,” he said.

Iran deal, foreign policy

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush say the next president should not immediately reverse the nuclear agreement with Iran.

The Republican party was staunchly against the deal cut by the Obama administration. Several GOP candidates have vowed to overturn the agreement, should they win the White House.

Paul took a different approach, saying it would be “absurd” to “cut up the agreement immediately.”

Bush echoed that position, saying “it’s not a strategy to tear up an agreement.” Instead, he would strengthen ties with Israel, a move he says will create “a healthier deterrent effect than anything else I can think of.”

Donald Trump says as president he would get along better with world leaders, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, than President Obama and that will make the world more stable.

Trump says Putin has “absolutely no respect for President Obama.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says Putin is “trying to replace us as the single most important power broker in the Middle East.”

And former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina says Russia is a bad actor and the only way to stop Putin is to show “strength and resolve.” She says she would rebuild the U.S. missile defense system as part of her foreign policy strategy.

Candidates confront one another

Jeb Bush and Donald Trump are mixing it up over big-money donors’ influence.

Trump has contended that Bush and others are puppets of their campaign contributors. At the second Republican presidential debate, Bush shot back. He said Trump once gave him money hoping to expand casino gambling in Florida while Bush was governor there. But Bush stood firm.

Trump denied he wanted the gaming expansion. The two men began to argue.

Bush noted that Hillary Clinton attended Trump’s most recent wedding and said the developer has praised House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Trump said he had to get along with all politicians and quipped that Bush has “more energy.” He has been making fun of what he calls Bush’s low-energy presentation for weeks.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson jumped into the exchange. He’s risen in polls to just behind Trump and boasted he has refused to court big donors. Carson said he would not “lick the boots of billionaires.”

Plea for details on issues

Ohio Gov. John Kasich figuratively is waving his arms at the start of the debate, which has quickly turned into a group attack on Donald Trump.

Kasich says anyone tuning into the debate would see it and change the channel.

He says with desperation in his voice: “People want to know what we’re going to do to fix this place. It may be buzzing out there. But I think it’s important that we get to the issues.”

Less personal

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson is declining to single out his rivals for attack, saying he’s running because he concerned about the country’s divisiveness and fiscal state.

He says, “I don’t want to really get into describing who’s a politician and who’s not.”

Carson has cast himself as an outsider running above the political fray.

Donald Trump, target

Scott Walker is asserting himself early in the second Republican presidential debate by going after front-runner Donald Trump.

Walker tells Trump: “We don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We have one right now.” And he says Trump has put projects into bankruptcy and he can’t do that to America.

Trump says he would do better than Walker has leading Wisconsin since 2011, saying the state is losing $2.2 billion. The state faced that shortfall heading into this year, but Walker signed a budget in July that eradicated it.

Walker says he is someone who will take on the special interests in Washington and fight for average Americans.

Brash, careless

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is unveiling a new line of attack against Donald Trump at the opening of tonight’s debate: He’s too brash to lead.

Paul is arguing that Trump’s temperament would make him untrustworthy in high-level international negotiations.

Paul says he’s worried about having Trump in control of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, citing his “careless language” and attack on people’s appearances.

Trump quickly shot back with a slam on Paul: “I never attacked him on his looks and believe me there’s plenty of substance right there.”

Questions for candidates

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina isn’t saying whether she trusts Donald Trump in control of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Fiorina punted on the first question posed in the second Republican presidential debate, about whether she felt comfortable with Trump having access to the nuclear launch codes.

Instead, Fiorina calls Trump a “wonderful man,” adding that “all of us will be revealed over time and under pressure.”

She says whether Trump can be trusted with nuclear weapons is for voters to decide.

The debate between top-tier Republican presidential candidates is underway. Eleven candidates are opening the debate with introductions.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee took a shot at Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton and her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson says he’s in the race because he’s concerned about the future for America’s children.

Front-runner Donald Trump reminds the crowd he’s “made billions and billions of dollars.”

The candidates then shifted to a discussion of Trump's fitness for office, and Trump firing back, taking a shot at Rand Paul's polling numbers.

Points to ponder from first debate


Three of the four candidates eagerly took the bait offered by the debate moderators to attack GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who was the subject of the first several questions.

Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, hurled the sharpest verbal jabs, saying Trump shouldn’t be treated as a Republican or a conservative. “He’s a narcissist who only believes in himself,” he said. Pataki, the former chief executive in New York, chimed in to call Trump “unfit to be president of the United States or the party’s nominee.”

Santorum held his tongue, the former senator from Pennsylvania saying such personal attacks “just please one person, Hillary Clinton.”



Graham made the wrong impression during the undercard debate last month, as the South Carolina senator came across as the saddest candidate in the room. At one point, he gloomily noted that he is unmarried and doesn’t have any children.

This time, Graham let his quirky personality and his foreign policy knowledge shine. The approach took an odd tone at times, as he repeatedly called for more military action in places such as Syria, but did so while delivering cheeky one-liners.

Shortly after declaring, “We’re at war, folks,” Graham said: “First thing I’m going to do as president? We’re going to drink more.”



Graham and Santorum rumbled on immigration policy, an exchange representative of the dispute inside the Republican Party over how to approach an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system.

Santorum, who finished second to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, said Americans are hurt by immigration and he accused much of the GOP field as being for “amnesty.”

Graham and Pataki said it’s impractical to deport all estimated 11 million people who are in the country illegally. Graham also argued that Hispanic voters are an untapped source of voters for Republicans.

“We need to win fighting for Americans. We need to win fighting for the workers in this country who are hurting,” Santorum said, leading Graham to rebuke him: “Hispanics are Americans”



Along with his comments on immigration, Pataki sounded like a Democrat in one other way: He forcefully said that Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, should have lost her job.

“If she worked for me, I would have fired her,” he said, drawing applause from the crowd at the debate. “When you’re an elected official and you take an oath of office to uphold the law, all the laws, you cannot pick and choose or you no longer have a society that depends on the rule of law.”

He closed by arguing that he is a pragmatist who can get elected in a general election and work in a bipartisan way.



Jindal allowed that he had one thing in common with Trump: They both dislike Washington “insiders.”

“It’s time to fire all of them,” he said. He later gave credit to Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid for fighting for what they believe in, something he said Republican leaders in Washington no longer do.

In his closing remarks, Jindal tried to emphasize his “outsider” credentials. He said he’d “take on the D.C. permanent governing class.” It was a nod to Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who have never held political office and stand atop the latest GOP preference polls.

Philosophy debated

The closing question for the first debate encapsulated the 90-minute debate, with two candidates calling for a pragmatic approach to politics, and the others calling for a hard turn to the right.

Bobby Jindal says, arguing for cleaning House in the GOP-held Congress, “I’m angrier at the Republicans in Washington than I am at the president,” a Democrat.

George Pataki says Republicans cannot govern without appealing to more voters, which means a more progressive approach to immigration. It doesn’t matter, he says, “if you don’t win.”

Rick Santorum touts being outside of government, after losing re-election to the Senate almost a decade ago: “It’s time,” he says, “to get someone who is an outsider.”

Graham, capping the program with a pragmatic note, took a closing shot at Donald Trump. “Our leading candidate gets his foreign policy from watching television.” Graham says, adding, “And what I heard last night is the Cartoon Network.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is arguing that Republicans could learn a lesson from their Democratic adversaries.

Jindal says the GOP must take principled stances, noting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid “fight for what they believe in.”

His remarks came in the midst of a larger dispute with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham over whether the Republican party should compromise with Democrats for political gains.

Graham argues that the party should accept the health care law and other political realities of the Obama era. Graham says, “I’m trying to lead this party to winning.”

Jindal takes a different approach, saying Republicans must take steps like defunding Planned Parenthood even if their efforts result in a government shutdown.

He says, “If we can’t win on that issue … it is time to get rid of the Republican party, start over with a new one that’s at least conservative.”

Graham vows to bomb Iran if necessary

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham says he would “absolutely” bomb Iran if he believed the country was close to having a nuclear weapon.

Graham says the Iranian nuclear deal is a “nightmare” for Israel and he would cancel the agreement and put a better one in place to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki says he would work with Israel to ensure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon.

And former Pennsylvanian Sen. Rick Santorum says on his first day as president he would tell the Iranian government it has to open all its nuclear sites to inspection “or else we will take out those facilities.”

He says that would stop a war, not start one.

Santorum's higher minimum wage

Santorum is making a hard pitch for a higher minimum wage, a position uncommon among the Republican presidential candidates.

He says it’s not just economic, it’s a way Republicans can win.

Santorum says, “How are we gonna win if 90 percent of Americans don’t think we care about them and their chance to rise in America?”

Graham says a federal increase in the minimum wage would hurt businesses. Referring to his parents’ business when he was a child, Graham says, “I don’t know if my parents could have afforded a 50-cent increase.”

Terrorism, gay marriage licenses

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is making fighting terrorism the overarching theme of his debate performance.

When asked about gay marriage, Graham said the Supreme Court ruling has made same-sex marriage the law of the land.

Then he quickly pivoted to his issue of choice: “Radical Islam would kill you all if it could,” he said. “Let’s not lose sight of the big picture.”

His remarks came amid a larger dispute over whether Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, was acting legally.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki says Kim Davis should have been fired for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

But former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum equates her decision with Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience. Santorum says Davis has a fundamental right under the First Amendment to deny the license. He says there has to be room in America for such a demonstration of religious beliefs.

Pataki says there is a “huge difference” between standing up for religious beliefs and ignoring the rule of law as an elected official.

Graham says he doesn’t agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling, but since same-sex marriage is legal the law must be followed.

Student's clock discussed

The second-tier Republican presidential contenders are discussing the case of a 14-year-old arrested for bringing a homemade clock to his high school.

At the GOP presidential debate, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was asked about the case of Texas student Ahmed Mohammed. Police suspected the boy’s science project was a bomb. President Obama tweeted in Ahmed’s support earlier Wednesday.

Jindal said the country shouldn’t back off its vigilance against Islamic extremism and said the greatest discrimination in America is against Christians. He did say a 14-year-old should not be arrested for bringing a clock to school.

Immigration, migrant issues

Jindal says the answer to the Syrian refugee crisis is not allowing more people to come into the United States.

Jindal says in the second-tier Republican presidential debate that the answer is to hunt down and “destroy” the Islamic State. He says enemies do not fear or respect the U.S.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham says blame rests with President Obama. He says the president’s policies for combating Islamic terrorists are not working.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki references the Sep. 11 terrorist attacks, saying the U.S. is at greater risk of attack now than then.

Graham and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are vigorously arguing over immigration reform.

Graham supports allowing people in the country illegally to stay, arguing in part that Hispanic voters are an untapped source for Republicans. Graham says sharply, “In my world Hispanics are Americans.”

Santorum says he had a bill in 2006 to address illegal immigration, though it did not advance in the Senate.

Santorum, who supports slowing legal immigration, says, “American workers are being hurt by immigration.”

The Republican presidential candidates are fighting over whether the U.S. should immediately deport 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the country.

Santorum is accusing much of the GOP field of supporting “amnesty” by proposing plans to legalize some illegal workers.

Pataki and Graham say deporting millions of people is impossible. Says Graham: “I’m trying to fix the problem. We’re not going to deport the 11 million here.”

All four candidates say they would secure the border and crack down on local officials who opt not to prosecute illegal immigrants.

Donald, Donald, Donald

Donald Trump isn’t in the second-tier GOP presidential debate but he’s still dominating it.

The first several questions were about the reality show star and front-runner. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal defended his attacks of Trump. He argued the developer “isn’t serious.” Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said he’d spend his time attacking Democrat Hillary Clinton rather than other Republicans. Former New York Gov. George Pataki was asked about his statement that he wouldn’t support Trump if he were the Republican nominee.

That led Pataki to complain about all the opening questions being about Trump.

Trump, Trump, Trump

The first question in the second-tier GOP presidential debate is for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. CNN reporter Jake Tapper has asked Jindal why he is violating Ronald Reagan’s famous dictum to not attack other Republicans. Jindal has been explicitly attacking Trump for days.

Jindal replied that Trump “is not a conservative” and Reagan’s rule doesn’t apply to him.

Ready to go

The 16 Republican candidates are poised to take the stage for the marathon pair of debates, President Ronald Reagan’s plane at their backs and a trio of questioners before them.

First up: Four candidates who did not qualify for the top-tier group debating later. They are former Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. Some of what they say, if interesting enough, could be played at the later debate between 11 hopefuls who performed better in the polls, according to sponsor CNN.

The main event includes 10 men and one woman — business executive Carly Fiorina — arrayed shoulder-to-shoulder. At center, front-runner Donald Trump. On either side: retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The others will be arrayed outward, with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the ends.

Altogether, the event is expected to last about five hours.

Main event

Eleven top-tier Republican presidential hopefuls face off in their second prime-time debate of the 2016 campaign Wednesday, in a clash between outsiders and establishment candidates under a cathedral of political conservatism.

Set in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, the debate is expected to turn on a rapid-fire series of questions and answers on foreign and domestic policy and politics, according to sponsor CNN. More broadly, the question is about the viability of untested candidates challenged by experienced public policymakers, in a wide-open contest that counts as its front-runner a billionaire developer expected by many to have self-destructed by now.

Donald Trump will again be center-stage in the broadcast that begins at 8 p.m. EDT. He’ll be flanked by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The other candidates will be arrayed outward, with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on either end. Looming in the background: Reagan’s presidential plane.

Some things to look for:


Against most expectations, Trump’s candidacy hasn’t self-immolated, and rivals have no choice but to take him seriously. “Now they’re saying, oh, how do we stop this guy?” Trump said this week. “I haven’t heard the word ‘clown’ in a while.” Look for some Republicans — but not all — to try to work within short windows of speaking time to try to take him down, either explicitly or by comparison with themselves.

Before the debate, some candidates tested their approaches. Bush, who at the first debate called Trump’s rhetoric divisive, told a crowd in Spanish that Trump doesn’t think the former governor can speak the language. “Pobrecito” (poor guy), Bush said.

Former executive Carly Fiorina has dismissed Trump as “an entertainer running for president.” Paul told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he wants to expose Trump as a fake conservative.

And Christie, who has little trouble being heard, complained Monday that Trump and his feuding partners are getting so much attention.

“We have to do the job to make sure that people hear our voices,” Christie said of himself and his fellow candidates on Fox News’ “The Kelly File.”

Trump seems ready to take what comes.

“I hear they’re all going after me,” he said. “Whatever.”


The stakes are particularly high for Bush. In this debate, though, there’s no presumption that Trump’s candidacy will collapse. Bush must distinguish himself from Trump as an able policymaker in his own right.

Judging from his recent comments, Bush will have his pick of examples from the past of Trump taking Democratic positions and saying nice things about Hillary Rodham Clinton, now the Democratic front-runner. He may try to call out Trump for his comments about immigrants, too.

To hone his approach, Bush trained for the debate with Peter Flaherty, a top aide to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney.


Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican nomination fight, has crafted the first heavyweight response to a Trump insult. The super PAC supporting her campaign released a video this week, “Faces,” in response to Trump’s remark in a Rolling Stone interview in which he says of her, “Look at that face!” and “Would anyone vote for that?”

Says Fiorina in the video, “Ladies, look at this face, and look at all of your faces — the face of leadership.” She goes on to say that hers “is the face of a 61-year-old woman. I am proud of every year and every wrinkle.”

It’s a clear poke at Trump’s repeated insults of women, including his spat with Fox’s Megyn Kelly that began with her asking him at the first debate about calling women names. Trump then launched a series of insults at the TV anchor.

Paul is wading into the matter, too.

He said Tuesday, “If Trump keeps up his sophomoric insults, particularly of women … and I think if he does that directly to a woman on stage, I think it’ll be the beginning of the end.”


He’s no wonk. He communicates ideas mostly in boasts and hyperbole. But by the time Trump takes the stage Wednesday night, he will have released two proposals on major public policy topics — and could be pressed to defend the details.

Last month, he outlined proposals to deny citizenship to U.S.-born babies of immigrants living in the United States illegally as part of an immigration plan. Emphasizing border security and millions of deportations, he also says he would build a wall along the U.S. southern border and force Mexico to pay for it. Those proposals, and his comments suggesting that Mexicans coming across the border are largely “criminals and rapists,” have angered a population group national Republicans see as critical to the party’s success.

And on the eve of Wednesday’s debate, he appeared aboard the U.S.S. Iowa, where he called for a military buildup so broad that he says no foe would challenge the U.S., as well as a new health care deal for veterans.