Here’s a quick rundown of what happened:
- The candidates for the GOP presidential nomination faced off in their fourth debate. It was in Milwaukee and was sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal.
- The main debate featured businessman Donald Trump, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
- The stage was less crowded this time around as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee were bumped to Tuesday night’s earlier “undercard” debate.
- The strongest performances seemed to come from Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich, though the Ohio governor did get booed for an answer about bailing out failing banks. (Then again, the real winner may have been moderator Maria Bartiromo’sbrooch.)
- Trump, the co-frontrunner, came under attack from Kasich on his immigration plan and Bush for his comments on foreign threats to the nation. Trump largely blended in with the crowd and didn’t dominate as much as he did in the earlier contests.
- Carson, the other frontrunner, largely wasn’t attacked by his rivals but did have to defend questions about exaggerating his past from moderators.
- Paul and Rubio got into a heated back-and-forth over military spending after Rubio called the Kentucky senator an “isolationist.”
- Rubio managed to stay out of the tough immigration fight.
- The moderators largely stuck to economic and foreign policy questions — as promised — and blowups between candidates were sprung from those types of questions.
Paul accused Rubio of not being fiscally conservative based on his plan to expand the child tax credit, which he called “welfare,” and push for increasing military spending.
“Is it conservative to have a trillion dollars in transfer payments — a new welfare program that’s a refundable tax credit?” Paul asked. “Add that to Marco’s plan for a trillion dollars in military spending and you get something to me that looks not very conservative.”
Rubio responded: “Here’s what i don’t understand: If you invest that money in a piece of equipment, if you invest that money in a business, you get to write off that money in your taxes, but if you invest that in your children and the future of America and strengthening your family, we’re not going to recognize that? Family is the most important institution.”
“I know that Rand is a committed isolationist, but I believe that the world is a stronger and better place when the United States is the strongest military power in the world,” Rubio added.
When Paul questioned his conservative credentials once again, Rubio went on to list foreign threats to the United States. “We can’t even have an economy if we’re not safe,” he said.
“The wall will be built…the wall will be successful,” Trump said. He added he was “so happy” when a federal court this week upheld a block on President Obama’s immigration plan.
But Kasich challenged Trump’s planned deportation of 11 million people, saying, “Come on folks, we all know you can’t pick them up and ship them across the border…it’s a silly argument.”
Trump shot back, “I own a billion dollar company I don’t have to listen to this man” — that earned him a mess of boos and oohs from the audience.
When asked if they would raise the minimum wage, both Trump and Carson said no.
Increasing the minimum wage would make it hard for the U.S. to compete with other countries, Trump said.
“There’s nothing that we do now to win. We don’t win anymore,” he said.
“We’re not going to be able to compete against the the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is.”
Cruz, when asked about the economy, decried — in end-times language — “the army of regulators, that have descended like locusts on small businesses.”
And Paul, when asked about the financial gap between rich and poor, said income inequality “seems to be worst in cities run by Democrats, states run by Democrats and countries run by Democrats.”
“Well, first of all thank you for not asking me what I said in the tenth grade,” Carson joked. “I appreciate that.”
Carson’s comments during the debate come as his recent front-runner status has drawn greater scrutiny from the media and put him on the defensive in recent days. His claims of being offered a “full scholarship” to West Point and attempting to stab someone are among those now being questioned.
“The fact of the matter is we should vet all candidates,” he continued. “I have no problem with being vetted. What I do have a problem with is being lied about and then putting that out there as truth. I wouldn’t mind it so much if they did that everybody like with people on the other side.”
Carson, who usually stays away from negative attacks, then went on to target Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi attacks. “You know when I look at somebody like Hillary Clinton, who sits there and tells her daughter and a government official that was a terrorist attack and then tells everybody else that it was a video, where I come from, they call that a lie. I think that’s very different from you know someone misinterpreting when I said that I was offered a scholarship to West Point.”
“We have to start treating people the same and finding what people really think and what they’re really made of. People who know me know that I am an honest person,” he said.
Cruz seemed to put on a consistent performance — and got decent speaking time. When asked about how he would cut taxes without running up debt and deficits, he said, “the current system isn’t fair.”
“There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible — and — and not a one of them is as good,” he said to laughter.
“Every one of them reflects a carve-out or a subsidy, and it’s all about empowering the Washington cartel. My simple flat tax says that, for a family of four, for the first $36,000 you earn, you pay no taxes whatsoever. No income taxes, no payroll taxes, no nothing.”
Cruz also went back to his biggest applause line from the third debate: criticizing the media.
“I understand that when the mainstream media covers immigration, it doesn’t often see it as an economic issue. But, I can tell you for millions — of Americans at home watching this, it is a very personal economic issue. And, I will say the politics of it will be very, very different if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio Grande,” he said, adding to cheers, “or if a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down the wages in the press.
Before we move on, here’s a brief intermission for some of the most ~notable~ one-liners of the evening. We’ll keep this updated:
- “Thank you donald for allowing me to speak at the debate.” — Bush
- “There are more words in the IRS code than in the Bible.” — Cruz
- “I want a government really, really small — so small you can barely see it.” — Paul
- “I own a billion dollar company, I don’t have to listen to this man.” — Trump
- “We have a president that treats the prime minister of Israel with less respect than what he gives the ayatollah in Iran.” — Rubio
- “That’s like playing a board game — like monopoly or something.” — Bush on Trump’s plan for foreign threats to the nation.
- “You can take all the rich’s money and it won’t make a dent in the problem that we’re having.” — Carson on income inequality.
In the heated back-and-forth on immigration with Trump and Kasich, Bush jokingly thanked Trump for giving him time to talk. “Thank you, Donald for allowing me to speak at the debate. That’s really nice of you. Really appreciate that. What a generous man you are,” Bush said.
Earlier, he complained, “I got about four minutes in the last debate.”
In two different instances, Kasich interrupted Bush and answered questions before he could.