I'll be live-blogging the debate here, so keep reloading this post for more updates.
As everyone has been observing, there will be enormous pressure on Jeb Bush to do well tonight, after his widely panned performance last time. There will also be fewer people in this debate (8) than any of the previous main Republican debates.
As always, I'll be writing down quotes on the fly, so they might not be exactly right, but I'll try to keep them reasonably accurate (and I might correct some of them later).
For more live-blogging, check out National Review, the New Republic, TPM, Althouse (my mom), and Alex Knepper.
[Here's the transcript.]
9:06 — Donald Trump is asked if he has any sympathy with those calling for a $15 minimum wage. He says "we have to leave it the way it is," and he uses this as an opportunity to repeat his standard points: "we don't win anymore," etc.
9:08 — Ben Carson notes the high unemployment among "black teenagers" — "if you lower the minimum wage, that comes down." He mentions his early jobs — "no one would have given me those jobs if I had required a large amount of money." He uses my favorite metaphor on this issue: we need to let people "ascend the ladder of opportunity." My added comment: raising the minimum wage is like cutting off the lowest rungs on the ladder and feeling pleased with yourself for encouraging people at the bottom to jump higher. Not everyone is able to jump that high!
9:11 — Marco Rubio raises the specter of robots replacing workers: "If you raise the minimum wage, you're going to make people more expensive than a machine." He adds: "Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers!" [VIDEO.] Alex Knepper responds:
The sentiment he's expressing here is precisely what's wrong with our nation's attitude toward education. Our politicians think the meaning and purpose of education is to make money. If something doesn't have an immediate economic purpose, it's treated as useless, even offensive. The irony that Rubio will never grasp is that this exceptional country — the country that made his life possible, and made it possible for the son of a maid and a bartender to run for president — was made possible by philosophy.9:18 — Jeb Bush talks back at John Kasich for trying to jump in when the moderator is about to ask Bush a question. "You've already made two comments, John! It's my turn!" [Politico calls this one of the most "explosive" moments of the debate.]
9:19 — Bush tries to stand out as a conservative, noting that the Wall St. Journal said he's put forward the most pro-growth plan. Also: "We need to repeal every rule that Obama has."
9:21 — The moderator notes that far more jobs were created under Presidents Obama and Clinton than under President George W. Bush. Carly Fiorina doesn't directly address this, and instead goes into her standard speech about how Democrats have enlarged the government and made the economy worse. (See my update at 10:01.)
9:23 — Rand Paul is asked about income inequality. He points out that it's "worst" in places where Democrats are in control — so "let's look for root causes!"
9:30 — Neil Cavuto asks Carson about "potential inconsistencies in your life story." Carson's response: "I don't mind being vetted. I do mind being lied about." He pivots to attacking Hillary Clinton for her conflicting comments about the Benghazi attack. [VIDEO.]
9:33 — Trump praises the recent decision by a federal appeals court blocking President Obama's executive order on illegal immigration.
9:34 — Kasich lambastes Trump for his proposal to deport illegal immigrants: "Think about the families! Think about the children!" Trump repeats his same retort to Kasich that he used in the last debate: "You're lucky in Ohio that you struck oil." When Kasich starts to respond (though this whole exchange started with Kasich usurping someone else's turn), Trump says: "You should let Jeb speak!" Bush lobs some sarcasm at Trump: "Thank you, Donald, for allowing me to speak at the debate! What a generous man you are!"
9:37 — Bush bears down on his "lose the primary to win the general" strategy by saying we need to be more pragmatic and compassionate on immigration, and the Clinton campaign is doing high-fives when they listen to Trump.
9:38 — Rubio is asked about the problem of robots taking away jobs — though Rubio already made that point on his own in response to the earlier question about the minimum wage. It would be nice if the moderators had some flexibility to change their questions on the spot so that the same candidate doesn't get to make the same point repeatedly.
9:43 — Ted Cruz comes down hard against illegal immigration, pointing out that his family immigrated from Cuba legally.
9:44 — Carly Fiorina says Obamacare is hurting the people it's trying to help. "No one can possibly understand [Obamacare] except the big companies." She says we need to try the free market — and to do this, government should require health care providers to publish their costs and outcomes, because right now we don't know what we're buying. I'm glad to see her make the point that just repealing Obamacare wouldn't give us a "free market" system — there isn't nearly enough price transparency for that. When pressed by moderator Maria Bartiromo, she emphasizes letting the states come up with their own policies, and she gets passionate when saying: "I'm a cancer survivor. I understand: you can't have someone who's battling cancer become known as a 'pre-existing condition.'"
9:53 — Cavuto asks Paul about his comment that "you don't want your tax plan to be revenue-neutral, and that's the idea" — to deprive the government of money. Paul confirms: "I want lower taxes and much more money in the private sector." However, he claims that his tax plan will "balance the budget over five years." And he repeats his point from the last debate (which didn't seem to help his long-shot campaign) that he'd get rid of the payroll tax.
9:56 — Cruz quips: "There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible, and not a one of them is as good."
Alex Knepper correctly observes:
This debate is flowing much more smoothly with 8 people on the stage.10:01 — Bush shows that he's decided to have a vigorous debate by going back to the moderator's earlier question about how more jobs are created under Democratic than Republican administrations: all those jobs created under the Democratic administrations don't pay as well.
10:02 — Rubio botches his attempt at a moving insight: "The most important job any of us can have is being president" — he meant "being a parent."
10:04 — Paul says Rubio's policies of cutting taxes while increasing military spending are "not very conservative." Rubio retorts that Paul is "a committed isolationist." Paul keeps up his attack: "How is it conservative to add a trillion-dollar expenditure that you're not going to pay for?" Rubio says we're safer when America's is the strongest country in the world, but Paul says we won't be "safer from bankruptcy court." Cruz chimes in to support Rubio: "You think defending this nation is expensive? Try not defending it!" [VIDEO.]
10:08 — At this point, almost every remaining candidate tries to jump in — Fiorina, Trump, Kasich. The moderators let Fiorina talk for a long time when no one had said anything about her, yet the moderator was about to prevent Rubio from defending himself against Paul's explicit attack! Trump positions himself as a hawk: "I agree with [Rubio], I agree with [Cruz]."
10:13 — For some reason, soaring orchestral music starts to accompany a discussion between the moderator and Paul on trade and China. [In-depth analysis!]
10:20 — Carson, who was asked in the first debate about the perception that he's not knowledge about world affairs, tries to show his foreign policy chops in talking about how to destroy ISIS. He slips in that he's talked with "several generals."
10:22 — "What does President Trump do in response to Russia's aggression?" Bush keeps cutting into Trump's answer, but Trump is firm: "Hold it! Wait a minute!"
10:26 — Bush scolds Trump for being naive in thinking we can just let Russia take care of the Middle East. "That's like a board game. That's like playing Monopoly or something. That's not how the world works."
10:27 — After Trump talks about meeting Putin when they were both on 60 Minutes, Fiorina remarks: "I have met Putin as well — not in a green room for a show, but in a private meeting."
10:31 — Rubio calls Putin "a gangster" — "an organized crime figure."
10:41 — Bush talks about bank regulations, and contrasts himself with Hillary Clinton. In every one of his answers tonight, you can see him trying to be stronger to revive his campaign. I'm not his target audience so I'm not in a great position to say, but he seems to be doing this pretty effectively.
10:45 — Rubio takes a page from Fiorina's playbook: "You know why the big banks are so big? The government made them big by making thousands and thousands of pages of regulations." Only the big banks can afford the lawyers to navigate those regulations. It's a good point, but it's also a point that sounds a lot like what Fiorina said over and over in the last debate.
10:52 — Cruz says he would let Bank of America fail. Kasich counters that when people's livelihoods are on the line, you can't just rely on "philosophical concerns." So philosophy has really taken a hit in this debate (see 9:11). Kasich presents himself as "an executive" (a governor), who has to be more pragmatic than Cruz (a Senator). This leads to a fiery exchange between the two, and the audience loudly boos Kasich.
11:00 — Bartiromo asks Rubio how he can beat Clinton when she has so much more experience. Rubio laughs at first, then doesn't hold back from contrasting himself with Clinton based on age. Rubio says the election will be about "the future," and about "a generational choice." Clinton is offering "the tired ideas of the past."
11:01 — Cruz jumps in to make the obvious anti-Clinton argument Rubio failed to make: "She has a lot of experience, but her policies have proven disastrous."
11:05 — Paul sounds a note of skepticism on global warming, noting that the earth has been warmer and had higher levels of carbon at times in the past.
11:11 — Paul uses his closing statement to say he's the only fiscal conservative because he's the only one who'll cut both "welfare" and military spending. So he's been really coming down against military spending in this debate. I agree with him, but I find it hard to believe this will be effective in the Republican primaries.
11:13 — Fiorina's closing statement goes for Hillary Clinton's jugular, saying her presidency would "erode the character of this nation, because that is the Clinton way."
11:16 – Carson gives a chilling closing statement, listing the terrible things that have happened in the 2 hours they've been debating — the amount added to the federal debate, the number of Americans who have died of drugs, the number of abortions, and the number of veterans who have committed suicide. Some of the numbers seemed shockingly high, so I'd like to see a fact check.
11:17 — Trump says, in contrast with the several candidates who plugged their URLs tonight, "I don't have to give you a website, because I'm self-funding my campaign."
That's all. It was a much better Republican debate than the last one, but I don't expect it to change much, except perhaps to stop the media narrative about Bush's weak debating skills. We've gotten pretty used to all these characters, and it would be pretty hard at this point for any of them to surprise us anymore.
Jonah Goldberg's take:
Biggest loser on merits: Kasich. He’s done. He came across angry, condescending and unprincipled. By the end of the debate he came across as the drunk, obnoxious uncle everyone wishes hadn’t accepted the invitation to Thanksgiving dinner.The consensus among "insiders" interviewed by Politico:
Biggest loser politically: Jeb Bush. On the substance, I thought his performance during the first half was the best he’s done. But by the second half he started to fade and grew more incoherent. On several occasions he gave passable answers if you could cut through the word clouds, but then Rubio came in and gave essentially the same answer better, both on substance and style. This was particularly true during the discussion of the bank bailouts. More than anything, Bush needed to outshine Rubio and lay the groundwork for a “Bush comeback” narrative. He simply didn’t do that. He didn’t do what he needed to do stop the slide of donors and voters to Rubio. . . .
Trump . . . has definitely become a better candidate and he’s still the best at the body language of these debates. His “Let Jeb speak” moment was a very unsubtle way of declaring he was the guy in charge on the stage. So was his peacemaking bit about how all the tax plans are good. Still, I don’t think he gave anyone who’s opposed to him (like me) a reason to change their mind.
Marco Rubio won the fourth Republican debate -- and John Kasich lost.
That’s the assessment of this week’s POLITICO Caucus, our bipartisan survey of the top activists, strategists and operatives in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Nearly 40 percent of Republican participants said Rubio won the debate in a survey taken immediately following Tuesday night’s contest -- no other candidate had more than 12 percent. . . .
For the second Republican debate in a row, the POLITICO Caucus named the Florida senator the biggest winner of the night, noting his vigorous defense of a muscular American foreign policy — one of the biggest applause lines of the evening — and forceful remarks concerning Wall Street as evidence of a strong and articulate candidate.
Forty-two percent of Democrats also agreed that Rubio won the night.
“He is engaging, articulate, comfortable in his own skin and has a hopeful positive message...he packages well for a party that is looking for change but still wants a foot in policy and politics,” a New Hampshire Democrat said. . . .
The runner-ups for best performance, according to the survey, were Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina with 12 percent each, followed by Rand Paul with 8 percent and Ted Cruz and Ben Carson at 6 percent, according to Republican insiders.
As for the biggest loser of the night, 38 percent of Republican insiders pointed to Ohio Gov. John Kasich. . . .
Kasich had a contentious evening, as the moderate conservative tussled with Donald Trump over immigration reform and was booed when he suggested there was room for government involvement in saving big banks from going under.
“Kasich's awkwardness was on full display, and his ideas are getting lost in the power of his peevishness,” a South Carolina Republican said.
“He was whining about not getting to speak, but actually had one of the highest [speaking] times,” said a non-partisan respondent from Iowa. “He came across as angry and kept trying to inject himself in the conversation. Not a good night for him.”