Republicans Throw Down In First Primary Debate -- Now We Got Bad Blood
What did you expect? Just two minutes into Thursday night's (Aug. 6) first Republican primary debate the undisputed leader of the field, billionaire real estate mogul and former reality show star Donald Trump threw a bomb into the proceedings.
Trump started out the evening to a chorus of boos -- in the place where the RNC will hold its nominating convention next year -- when he was the only one to raise his hand to say he wouldn't promise not to run as an independent or vow to support the eventual GOP nominee, even if it meant a Democrat might win.
"I cannot say I have to respect the person that, if it's not me, the person that wins," he said, adding some of his signature braggadocio, "If I do win, and I'm leading by quite a bit..." That brash statement got Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul in the mix right away, with a claim that Trump's refusal to support the party's nominee meant he might actually be backing the Democratic opponent.
Everyone quickly moved on, though, trying to not inflame frontrunner Trump and instead focusing their fire on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and President Obama during a two-hour debate where each candidate worked hard to tout their resumes, get in their share of partisan zingers and pledge allegiance to Ronald Reagan in a bid to gain ground on the billionaire, one of only two people on the stage who has never held public office.
A few things we learned about each candidate:
>> Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was asked if he'd really rather let a woman die than have an abortion, even with 87 percent of the country in favor of a life exception. Though he didn't answer that question directly, he did say his hardline pro-life position is in line with "everyday America."
He later also claimed that "everywhere in the world" that Clinton touched while Secretary of State is "more messed" up now than it was before.
>> Neurosurgeon Ben Carson (the other political newbie) was taken to task for his lack of knowledge about foreign and domestic policy basics, to which he said "the thing that is probably most important is having a brain." Also invoking political correctness when it comes to war, Carson said he wouldn't broadcast it if he planned to use illegal tactics such as waterboarding.
>> Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said the election isn't a resume competition and if it is, Clinton will win. "If I'm our nominee, how is Hillary Clinton going to lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck?" he asked. "I was raised paycheck to paycheck... I owed over $100,000 [in student loans] just a few years ago."
>> Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush bragged about his badass nickname while governor, "Veto Corleone," because he wasn't afraid to use his veto pen. Like Walker, he noted that he voted to defund Planned Parenthood as Gov. and passed parental notification laws.
>> When asked about his checkered relationship with women -- who host Megyn Kelly said he'd called "fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals" ("only Rosie O'Donnell" he quipped) -- Trump said the problem is that he doesn't have time for "total political correctness." He claimed those disparaging comments were often made in "fun" and "what I say is what I say."
Trump also claimed if it wasn't for him we wouldn't even be talking about immigration and when asked again what specific evidence he has that the Mexican government is sending criminals across the border, he cited "people I deal with, that I talk to" and blamed our current government, which he called "stupid."
>> Texas Sen. Ted Cruz explained that he put forward the "expatriate terrorist act" to make sure that if any American travels overseas to join ISIS they would forfeit their citizenship "so they don't use a passport to wage Jihad on Americans."
>> New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie kept his notoriously prickly side in check (for the most part), but lashed out at Paul when the Kentucky Senator brought up Christie's literal embrace of Obama in the wake of superstorm Sandy.
"Sen. Paul, you know, the hugs that I remember are the hugs I gave to the families who lost their people on September 11," he said in one of several mentions of the 2001 terror attacks. "Those are the hugs I remember... And those had nothing to do with politics, unlike what you’re doing by cutting speeches on the floor of the Senate then putting them on the Internet within half an hour to raise money for your campaign and while still putting your country at risk."
>> Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee went further than anyone in his pro-life stance, saying ignoring a fetus' personhood at the moment of conception is a violation of its 5th and 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. "It's time that we recognize the Supreme Court is not the supreme being," he said.
Faced with a question about the changing face of the American military following the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the acceptance of women in combat roles and the possibility of welcoming transgender soldiers, Huckabee said, "the military is not a social experiment. The purpose of the military is kill people and break things. It's not to transform the culture by trying out some ideas that some people think would make a different country and more diverse."
>> Ohio Gov. John Kasich was, not surprisingly, a favorite of the Cleveland crowd. Faced with a question about how he would explain to a gay son or daughter his opposition to same-sex marriage, Kasich said he accepts the Supreme Court's ruling and recently attended a gay wedding. "Because somebody doesn't think the way I do, doesn't mean that I can't care about them, or can't love them," he said.
>> Paul said he wants to "collect more records from terrorists but less records from innocent Americans" in response to a question about Christie's claims that the senator's stance against the bulk collection of phone records has made the U.S. weaker and more vulnerable to terror attacks.
Earlier in the evening the other 7 Republican candidates -- the ones whose poll numbers were too low to make it to the main event -- held their own one-hour showdown, dubbed the "cocktail hour" debate.
And, because Trump wasn't there to answer back, both former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina took a few swings at him, with just about everyone else also launching pointed takedowns of Clinton and Obama.