I'm live-blogging tonight's main debate, which has all but a few of the Republican candidates. This is the first debate where Carly Fiorina is on the same stage as the other top candidates. A CNN announcer tells us that Fiorina is the only one who "graduated" from her last debate.
Keep reloading this post for live updates.
I'm going to write down quotes on the fly, so they might not be verbatim, but I'll try to make them reasonably accurate. (I might go back and correct some of them later.)
You can see more live-blogging by Althouse (my mom), Alex Knepper, TPM, National Review, and Jim Gilmore.
[Here's the transcript.]
8:11 — They're debating in front of Ronald Reagan's presidential airplane.
8:14 — Marco Rubio uses his opening statement to make fun of himself: "I'm aware that California has a drought, which is why I brought my own water" — he holds up a water bottle.
8:16 — Donald Trump starts his opening statement by reminding us — but "not in a braggadocious way" — that he's made "billions and billions of dollars," and promising to bring the talents that let him earn all that money to the job of president.
8:20 — Carly Fiorina is asked whether Trump can be trusted with nuclear weapons. "All of us will be revealed over time and under pressure. I look forward to a long race."
8:21 — Trump: "Rand Paul shouldn't even be up here on this stage. He's got 1% in the polls." Trump wasn't asked about Paul, so that seems to be a brazen ploy to give more time to Paul — the moderator now has to let Paul speak since he was directly attacked.
8:22 — Paul calls out Trump for making fun of people's looks: "Short! Tall! Fat! Ugly!" Paul says Trump sounds like he's "in middle school." Trump responds: "I never attacked him on his look [sic], and believe me, there's plenty of subject matter there." [VIDEO.]
8:25 — Scott Walker pulls out a prepared zinger: "Mr. Trump, we don't need an apprentice in the White House — we have one right now."
8:26 — Trump attacks Walker's fiscal record as Governor of Wisconsin. "When people found that out, I went up in the polls; you went down the tubes."
8:28 — John Kasich says if he were watching the debate at home, which so far has been almost entirely about Trump and other candidates squabbling with each other, he'd "be inclined to turn it off."
8:29 — Chris Christie pithily deflects the charge of being a political insider: "I am a Republican in New Jersey — I wake up every morning as an outsider."
8:31 — Fiorina on "why people are supporting outsiders": "A fish swims in water — it doesn't know it's water. It's not that the politicians are bad people — it's that they've been in that system forever."
8:34 — Jeb Bush interrupts Trump, and Trump says: "More energy tonight — I like that!"
8:34 — Bush and Trump get into an extended, hostile dispute over Trump's supposed contribution to Bush in connection with Trump's casino project. Trump: "Don't make things up!" Bush: "Don't cut me off!"
8:36 — Trump is asked how he would get Russia out of Syria. His answer is that he would "get along with" Russian President Vladimir Putin, and President Obama doesn't.
8:37 — Marco Rubio has a sharper answer on Syria and Russia. Excerpt: "[Putin] is exploiting a vacuum that this administration has left in the Middle East."
8:38 — Fiorina tries to flaunt her foreign-policy fluency, reeling off several specific tactics she'd used against Russia.
8:42 — Ted Cruz promises to "tear up" our deal with Iran; Kasich says that "doing it on our own" would be the wrong policy.
8:43 — Paul suggests that Cruz's approach is "reckless." Paul would check to see if Iran is complying before he'd tear up the deal.
8:45 — Walker on Obama: "I'd love to play cards with this guy, because he folds on everything."
8:48 — Trump is asked if Obama should have bombed Syria after Syria crossed Obama's "red line." Trump says Obama had to do so after he made the "red line" statement, but Trump wouldn't have declared the red line in the first place.
8:49 — Paul: "ISIS would be in charge of Syria if we had bombed Assad."
8:53 — Huckabee predictably defends Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and attacks the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges as "legislating from the bench." Since "we made an accommodation for the Fort Hood shooter to let him grow a beard," Huckabee thinks we should let a government official deny couples their constitutional rights under Obergefell.
8:56 — Bush says someone else in Kim Davis's office should issue the same-sex marriage licenses instead.
8:59 — Cruz says we shouldn't be funding "a criminal enterprise," referring to Planned Parenthood.
9:00 — Christie: "I have vetoed Planned Parenthood funding 8 times in New Jersey." He says Hillary Clinton "supports systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts in a way that maximizes profit."
9:02 — Fiorina gets very passionate when challenging Obama or Clinton to watch a video in which Planned Parenthood employees talk while a live fetus is on the table. [Fact check.] She gets huge applause for this, although the audience has otherwise been pretty reserved. Alex Knepper says:
Fiorina is killing it, and may have sucked all the air Walker needed away from him.9:05 — Trump attacks Bush for saying we shouldn't spent too much money on "women's health issues." Bush says he was only referring to Planned Parenthood, but Trump keeps asking why Bush made the comment.
9:07 — Fiorina is asked about Trump's infamous comment about her: "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!" (Trump later said he was being "jocular" and was talking about her "persona.") Fiorina's response is perfect, and maybe the best line of the night: "Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly in what Mr. Bush said [about women's health]. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said." Trump tries to salvage himself by saying: "I think she's got a beautiful face and she's a beautiful woman." [VIDEO.] My mom observes:
Carly utterly refrains from giving an appreciative smile. She's got her game face.9:14 — Ben Carson talks about visiting the Mexican border and seeing "the kinds of fences that, when we were kids, would have barely slowed us down."
9:15 — Carson says it would be "worth discussing" deporting all illegal immigrants — if anyone had a practical way to do it.
9:16 — Bush: "My wife is a Mexican-American. She's an American by choice. She wants to embrace the values that make this country unique." Bush asks Trump to apologize for suggesting that his views on immigration are influenced by his wife's background.
9:18 — Bush says Trump's immigration plan would "destroy community life" and "tear America apart." Trump responds: "They'll come back legally!"
9:19 — Trump is asked about his comment that Bush should speak English. "I did it a little bit half-heartedly but I did mean it to a large extent. . . . This is a country where we speak English! Not Spanish."
9:26 — Trump is asked about birthright citizenship. Trump says that the Constitution doesn't provide for birthright citizenship and that an act of Congress could undo the policy. He says the 14th Amendment issue would probably need to be decided by the Supreme Court. Fiorina responds that getting rid of birthright citizenship would involve a very "arduous" process of amending the Constitution (which, she doesn't mention, the President has nothing to do with).
9:30 — Fiorina is asked why a voter who cares about private-sector experience should prefer her over Trump, since she was "viciously fired." Fiorina says her company, Hewlett-Packard, had to make "tough choices" (firing lots of people), but she lists the ways she improved the company. [Fact-check.] "Steve Jobs called me the day I was fired to say: hey, been there, done that." Trump disagrees: "The company is a disaster. They still haven't recovered." Then Trump has a devastating line: "She can't run any of my companies." Fiorina fires back hard: Trump ran his casinos by "running up debt with other people's money," so why should we expect him to be any more careful with the American people's money? Alex Knepper notes that the details of this Fiorina vs. Trump tiff probably matter less than the candidates' demeanor:
Voters might not necessarily understand the ins-and-outs of the details thrown around in the Fiorina-Trump dispute over their business histories, but they surely noticed that she was able to get him flustered while she kept her cool and defended herself confidently.9:34 — Christie snaps at Fiorina and Trump: "We don't want to hear about your careers! You're both successful people — congratulations!" Christie says he's more interested in talking about the career of the "55-year-old construction worker" watching this debate. Fiorina points out that Christie has been talking about his career.
9:39 — Mike Huckabee tries to cut the Gordian knot of the candidates' claims about their experience: "We've all done great things, or we wouldn't be on this stage." Reagan "didn't get elected telling everyone how great he was. He got elected by talking about how great the American people were."
9:41 — Carson, a neurosurgeon, accidentally refers to Huckabee as "Dr. Huckabee." Huckabee wryly comes back: "You don't want me operating on you."
9:42 — Trump says hedge-fund managers "all know" him, but won't like him as much as president. "I know people making a tremendous amount of money and paying almost no tax, and I think it's unfair."
9:44 — Carson says "both sides" should "negotiate a reasonable minimum wage, and index that, so that we never have to have this conversation again in the history of America."
9:46 — Moderator Hugh Hewitt asks Kasich why he doesn't attack Clinton. This is a softball question because it's basically asking him to give a speech about what's so great about him (which, of course, is what he's more interested in talking about than Clinton). "Don't worry about me and Hillary. I'm from Ohio — she won't beat me there."
9:47 — Fiorina says Clinton has to "defend her track record" — "her track record of lying about Benghazi, lying about emails . . ."
9:49 — Christie says there should be a "former federal prosecutor," like him, on the debate stage in the general election. "I will prosecute her. She knows she's wrong and she cannot look in the mirror at herself, and she cannot tell the American people the truth."
9:51 — I just realized this debate isn't two hours, like the last one, but three hours! Alex Knepper says:
Time to pop out whatever Carly Fiorina is on so I can stay up.9:53 — Moderator Jake Tapper brings up Rubio's attack on Trump for flunking a pop quiz in a radio interview by one of the other moderators, Hugh Hewitt. "We had a misunderstanding about his pronunciation of a word. Hugh was giving me name after name — Arab name, Arab name, Arab . . . And there are few people anywhere who would have known those names." [VIDEO.]
9:56 — Rubio bears down on Trump's lack of knowledge, and Trump comes back: "I am not sitting in the Senate with the worst voting record." Trump says he'll know more by the time he's president. Rubio shows that a politician can make an uplifting speech about anything by saying he missed so many Senate votes because "the political establishment is completely out of touch with the lives of the American people."
9:59 — Hugh Hewitt points out Bush's "last name," and asks if his foreign-policy advisors would include anyone who hasn't also advised his family members. Bush says he "has to look to 41 and 43 — my dad and my brother." It's not really true that he's limited to the last two Republican presidents — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have both had Republicans as foreign-policy advisors.
10:02 — Trump tells Bush: "Your brother gave us Barack Obama, because it was such a disaster in those last three months, Abraham Lincoln couldn't have been elected." Bush defends George W. Bush: "There's one thing for sure: he kept us safe." (With one exception.)
10:05 — Trump repeats his line from the last debate that he's the only candidate who opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. Carson points out that he urged George W. Bush not to invade Iraq. Trump leans over to shake Carson's hand. [ADDED: Carson wasn't an advisor to George W. Bush; Carson just sent him a letter.]
10:08 — When the moderator asks about our invasion of Afghanistan, Christie tells a chilling story about how his wife went through the World Trade Center to go to work two blocks away on September 11, 2001, and he spent 5 hours wondering if he was going to be a single parent.
10:21 — Ted Cruz says he shouldn't have voted to confirm Chief Justice John Roberts, because he isn't conservative enough. Cruz touts his experience clerking for former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
10:31 — Paul says he won't enforce federal marijuana laws against states that have repealed their marijuana laws. Paul says there's at least one candidate on the stage who's been hypocritical on this issue, since that "privileged" candidate has smoked pot, but "wants to put poor people in jail." A moderator asks if Paul will identify that candidate by name, but Bush does it for them: "40 years ago, I smoked marijuana. My mom isn't happy about me admitting that. . . ." Of course, Bush emphasizes that this was 40 years ago, so it's not a big deal. He's 62. Has he stopped to think about the 22-year-olds today, who are the same age he was 40 years ago, who could be thwarted by the government from having the opportunity to have anywhere near Bush's success?
10:32 — Christie supports mandatory drug treatment for first-time drug offenders. "I'm pro-life, but . . . it gets a lot tougher when they get out of the womb."
10:34 — Christie suggests that Paul is wrong to paint him as a hardliner on medical marijuana, since Christie has supported New Jersey's medical-marijuana laws. As Paul points out, that doesn't change Christie's stated position on what he would do as president, which would be to enforce federal law against the states regardless of state policy. So President Christie would presumably crack down on medical marijuana in New Jersey, which, of course, is illegal under federal law.
10:35 — Fiorina: "My husband Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction. . . . We are misleading [Americans] when we tell them that smoking marijuana is just like drinking beer. And the marijuana today is not the marijuana that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago."
10:40 — Trump, a multi-billionaire, generously offers to stop receiving Social Security.
10:43 — While Christie speaks in defense of Rubio on climate change, Rubio appears nervous, grimacing and rubbing his hair. I'm sure he doesn't realize CNN is keeping him on camera in a split screen.
10:46 — Jake Tapper asks Carson about Trump's comments linking vaccines to autism, "which the medical community adamantly disputes." Carson agrees that the studies don't support that connection. "I think [Trump] is an intelligent man who can make a decision after reading the facts." Trump says: "I am totally in favor of vaccines — but I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. . . . And I think you would see a big impact on autism." Carson agrees that there are too many vaccines given in too short a period of time. [VIDEO.]
10:49 — Paul calls vaccines "one of the greatest medical discoveries of all time." "I'm all for vaccines, but I'm also for freedom."
10:55 — The candidates are asked what woman they'd put on the $10 bill. Huckabee says he'd put his wife, and Trump says he'd put his daughter. (They'd need to be dead for two years first.) Fiorina says she wouldn't put a woman on the $10 or $20 bill, because "women aren't a special-interest group." Multiple candidates say Rosa Parks, and others say Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, and Abigail Adams. No one gives the right answer.
10:59 — The candidates are asked what their Secret Service code name should be. Bush: "Everready. It's very high energy, Donald!" Trump sticks out his palm, and Bush gives him a low five. Then Trump says he'd want his code name to be "Humble." [VIDEO.]
10:04 — Carson admits: "I was a radical Democrat before I started listening to Ronald Reagan. And he didn't sound like other Republicans — he sounded logical."
10:07 — Trump, asked to talk about what will happen if he's president, adopts a gentle tone: "The world will respect us, and it'll be, actually, a friendlier world."
10:09 — Fiorina sums up her candidacy with an extended metaphor about "Lady Liberty and Lady Justice." Lady Justice wears a blindfold because "it doesn't matter who you are; it doesn't matter what you look like. . . ." This seems to be not just an obvious reference to the potentially historic nature of her candidacy, but also a subtle reprise of her retort to Trump's comments about her face.
Without reading any mainstream punditry, I feel confident in saying that Carly Fiorina won the evening.
Alex Knepper agrees:
Winners: Carly FiorinaMy mom's verdict:
Losers: Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump
Wash: Everyone else
Who most improved his case? I asked the question out loud and immediately thought: Rand Paul. Meade answered: Rand Paul. But he's got a long way to go. Did anyone hurt his case significantly? I don't think so. It's more: Who needed to make some real progress here and didn't? Maybe Walker.I don't agree that Paul especially helped himself. He was good, but he was also good in the first debate, and that didn't improve his poll numbers. With such a crowded field, I don't expect Paul to get any bump from tonight.
I agree that Walker needed to make something happen tonight, and he didn't do much of anything.
Rich Lowry says:
Carly had a terrific night. . . . I’d be shocked if she doesn’t keep rising in the polls.Jonah Goldberg had a similar reaction:
Rubio was excellent. Everything he said was well-received. He knows the issues and is a smooth, relatable communicator. Of course, he got good reviews last time, but didn’t get a bump in the polls, perhaps because he didn’t have one signature moment. He didn’t tonight, either. But it’s clear that he is going to excel in these forums.
Bush had a tough time grappling with Trump. Even when he had cutting points to make about Trump, even when he had cause to be righteously indignant over Trump’s attacks on his wife and brother, he couldn’t quite pull it off. He had nice moments–his reminder that W. kept us safe, his jokes about his mom probably being disappointed in his admission he smoked pot and about “everready” being his prospective Secret Service name because it’s high energy. But he didn’t show mastery. The contrast with how Mitt Romney manhandled Rick Perry in the debates and Bush’s inability to wrestle Trump to the ground is striking.
As for the others: Carson seemed much more like he was during most of the last debate, without the strong finish; Cruz was good, although a number of his answers got cut off at the end by Jake Tapper and I’m not sure he made a big impression; Christie was crisp and forceful; Kasich seems in a rush to occupy the Jon Huntsman space in the race; Walker was fine, but didn’t stand out; Huckabee was his fluid, folksy self, but there don’t seem to be anything transformative; Rand Paul isn’t much of a factor.
Finally, Trump. He wasn’t any better than last time, and he presumably won’t be able to spin a narrative of victimhood coming out of this debate. One hopes for his sake that there is someone around him who can approach him tomorrow and say, “Sir, I regret to inform you that you actually have to know something to run for president and that I have no choice [but] to recommend that you read a policy briefing or two.”
I’m pretty much on the same page as Rich. . . . I think Fiorina was the winner. Rubio was, again, surefooted and relatable (except for that awful water joke at the beginning). I actually think that, after Fiorina, Chris Christie may have helped himself the most. He doesn’t need a huge pop in the polls right now. He merely needs people to be open to giving him a second look, and I think he did that. Maybe he’ll gain a point or two in the rankings, but the real sign he helped himself will be whether he gets bigger crowds in New Hampshire and an uptick in donations."GOP insiders" agree with me:
I am very disappointed in both Ben Carson and Rand Paul for not being more forceful on the issue of vaccinations — one of the only topics Trump discussed with any specificity. Both of these guys claim to be unconventional politicians — Carson more plausibly than Paul — and legitimately tout their medical careers. But their response to Trump smacked of political pandering.
As for Trump, who knows? From my perspective he continued to confirm that he has no place on the stage. He was boorish, uninformed and often pretty tedious. But he was also at times entertaining, and his fans have a keen gift for editing out the parts of his act they don’t like. I don’t think he’ll go down in the polls because of anything that happened last night. But I suspect his ceiling of support got a little lower and a little thicker.
Carly Fiorina nailed it in the second Republican debate.
That's the assessment of GOP insiders in a special edition of the POLITICO Caucus, our weekly survey of the top operatives, activists and strategists in Iowa and New Hampshire. . . .
Sixty percent of Republican insiders called Fiorina the biggest winner of the evening — no one else was even close — pointing to everything from how she handled Donald Trump to her grasp of policy issues. . . .
Republicans were divided by geography over who was the biggest loser of the evening. Trump had the worst night, according to 40 percent of New Hampshire Republicans. Walker came in second with 20 percent. But in Iowa, Republicans thought Walker had the worst night — 42 percent said the Wisconsin governor flopped.
"Walker who? Was he even in the debate?" jabbed one Iowa Republican.
"It's hard to believe he was once the frontrunner in this race," agreed another.