Republican frontrunner celebrates veterans while his GOP opponents face off
Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Rand Paul used Donald Trump’s absence to escape the Republican frontrunner’s dominance during Thursday night’s GOP debate, the last one before voters in Iowa head to the polls.
Meanwhile, Trump decided to skip the whole thing after a highly publicized feud with Fox News boss Roger Ailes and anchor Megyn Kelly. Trump was busy, only two miles away, hosting his own event.
Kelly, Bret Baier and Chris Wallace returned to co-moderate the network’s second debate of this campaign season. The first one was a record-setting event that finished as the most-watched non-sporting event in cable history and sparked the drama between Trump and Fox.
The question now is: Will this debate challenge the ratings success of the first Fox debate in August?
It will be interesting to see if viewers tuned out all together without the presence of The Donald.
Here are some of the most memorable moments from both the GOP debate and the Trump fundraiser as they happened (all times are PT):
6:01: Kelly introduces the candidates. Most of the cheers were fairly equal, with Rand Paul getting a nice ovation.
6:02: Kelly wastes no time getting into the Trump debacle. She asks Cruz about the “elephant not in the room” and what message it sends to the people of Iowa.
“If I’m elected president, keep an eye on the tarmac, because I’ll be back,” Cruz says.
“I’m a maniac, and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly. And Ben, you’re a terrible surgeon,” he said taking a jab at Trump’s signature insults. “And now that we’ve got the Donald Trump portion out of the way, I want to thank everyone on this stage for showing the respect to show up and make their cases to the people of Iowa.”
6:07: Rubio is asked about unifying the Republican party. He says the election is not about Trump (as he brings up Trump).
“He’s an entertaining guy, he’s the greatest show on Earth,” Rubio says.
He then takes a shot at President Barack Obama, calling him a “disaster.”
6:09: Bush is asked about being the establishment candidate.
“I kind of miss Donald Trump. He was a little teddy bear to me,” he says.
6:09: Meanwhile, in Trump world …
6:13: Fox News sends out this statement:
“Roger Ailes had three brief conversations with Donald Trump today about possibly appearing at the debate – there were not multiple calls placed by Ailes to Trump. In the course of those conversations, we acknowledged his concerns about a satirical observation we made in order to quell the attacks on Megyn Kelly, and prevent her from being smeared any further. Furthermore, Trump offered to appear at the debate upon the condition that FOX News contribute $5 million to his charities. We explained that was not possible and we could not engage in a quid pro quo, nor could any money change hands for any reason. In the last 48 hours, we’ve kept two issues at the forefront — we would never compromise our journalistic standards and we would always stand by our journalist, Megyn Kelly. We have accomplished those two goals and we are pleased with the outcome. We’re very proud to have her on stage as a debate moderator alongside Bret Baier & Chris Wallace.”
6:16: Kasich says how strong he’s been in recent weeks: “I’ll keep heading in that direction, believe me.”
6:16: It’s showtime… Trump takes the stage for rival rally
6:17: Trump isn’t late, he’s just very considerate. He says he intentionally started the rally 15 minutes late to allow the Fox News debate to begin first.
6:18: Watch Trump take the stage:
6:18: Cruz is asked why he flip-flopped on his feelings towards Trump, after treating him with kid gloves initially. But he sidesteps the question. Kelly doesn’t follow up.
6:21: A protester is thrown out of the Trump rally as supporters boo and chant the candidate’s name. “I love protesters,” Trump says.
6:24: Watch the Trump protesters get thrown out:
6:28: Christie says the country should really be worried about Hillary Clinton.
“She put American secrets at risk for her convenience … Let me tell you who’s not qualified to be president of the United States … Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
6:29: Bush says we need to “train a Sunni-led force in Syria to take out ISIS with our support.”
6:30: Cruz complains that the questions are too mean: “If you guys ask one more mean question, I may have to leave the stage.”
He says the first thing to do is fix the department of Veterans Affairs. He then calls for a choice card for veterans so they won’t have to travel for care, and calls for more private programs.
“Give veterans choices and you’ll get a much better result,” he said to big applause.
6:44 Trump promises not to talk polls, right before mentioning a poll:
“We’ve had amazing polls in Iowa. We’ve had amazing polls no matter where we’ve been,” Trump said. “People are tired and they’re sick of what’s going on in our country.”
6:46 Paul talks drugs.
6:48: Christie is asked to name something the federal government does now that it should not do.
“Get rid of Planned Parenthood funding for the United States of America.”
Pushed by Baier to name anything bigger, Christie says,”Let me tell you something, when you see thousands upon thousands upon thousands of children being murdered in the womb, I can’t think of anything better than that..”
6:59: Rubio sounding tough on immigration, talking about “mandatory” tracking systems and how America won’t have “unconstitutional executive orders” like the ones Obama has issued if he’s elected. He said he opposes citizenship or blanket legalization amnesty for undocumented immigrants.
But then moderators hit him with the fact that two years after being elected he supported legislation that included a path to citizenship.
“Haven’t you already proven the you can’t be trusted on this issue?” Kelly asked him.
Rubio, speaking 100 miles a minute tries to say he’s been consistent but what’s really important is to secure the border.
But Bush hits him hard.
“I’m kind of confused, because he was the sponsor of the Gang of 8 bill,” Bush says. “And I supported him, because I think people, when they’re elected, you need to do things.”
7:05: Meanwhile in Trump country, more protesters are thrown out of the rally. Trump rolls his eyes.
7:10: Trump says that under his leadership, the country will start to win again.
“We don’t win anymore, when was the last time we won?”
7:11: Still no word on where the money’s going …
Trump says the money raised will go to some “amazing” veterans organizations, but doesn’t say which ones.
7:12: Look who’s done? Trump’s event ends as he thanks veterans, his family and the people of America.
7:15: Cruz promises to “tell the truth” and “do what I said I would do” if elected. He even held up two fingers because he was making two promises. He means business y’all.
7:18: Apparently not everyone is crazy about the idea of appointing President Obama on the Supreme Court. Rubio thinks it would be a “disaster”(Clinton was recently asked if she would nominate Obama to SCOTUS and said it was a “great idea”).
7:21: Sorry we couldn’t resist …
7:21: Who are you watching?
7:29: Christie is asked about Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to a same-sex couples.
“The law needs to be followed, and someone in that office needs to do their job,” Christie says.
7:31: Rubio goes on a religious tangent.
“My faith will not just influence the way I’ll govern as president, it will influence my way of life. Because my goal is not just to live on this earth for 80 years, it is to live for eternity with my creator.”
So much for separation of church and state.
7:33: Rand Paul is asked whether abortion should be a state’s right issue.
“If you had the court reverse Roe v. Wade, it would become a state issue once again,” he said.
7:35: Carson gets to show off all the foreign policy stuff he’s been studying up on.
Asked about Nato’s military posture in eastern Europe, Carson says, “Putin is a one-horse country: oil and energy. And we ought to fight them on that level.”
7:37: Rubio says under his presidency, counties would have to choose between the U.S. and Iran.
Kasich isn’t a big fan either, saying that, “the president needs to be laying the groundwork right now for the ability to slap those sanctions back on worldwide.”
7:49: Cruz is asked about Iowa Governor Terry Branstad basically telling people not to vote for Cruz because of his opposition to ethanol.
“I don’t believe that Washington should be picking winners and losers,” Cruz said, adding that he doesn’t oppose ethanol, but would phase out the ethanol mandate over five years.
7:59: Closing arguments
Paul: I’m an eye surgeon … I miss doing surgery. I’m worried about the country … I’m the one true fiscal conservative.
Kasich: We look at each other and say, why can’t we solve problems. I got news to you, we can. Set the tune as conservatives but invite other people in to be part of that orchestra. At the end of the day, I’m an optimist.
Christie: On September 11, My wife was two blocks from the World Trade Center. She was trapped in her building and I didn’t hear from her for over 6 hours … Terrorism in this country scares everyone. We need a commander in chief that not only understands what it means to face the possibility of loss. No one will keep this country safer than I will.
Bush: I have a proven record. I have a plan. I’ll restore the military and defeat Hillary Clinton.
Carson: Folks it’s not too late. Enough said.
Rubio: America’s light is shining on the world but Obama dimmed it … America’s light will shine again.
Cruz: It’s time for Iowa to decide. Who do you know will kill the terrorists and repeal Obamacare. Caucus for us.
8:28: Determined to have the last word as always, the Trump campaign releases a statement saying that he donated $1 million and raised an additional $5 million for veterans at his event.
“Our Veterans have been treated like third-class citizens and it is my great honor to support them with this $1 million dollar contribution — they are truly incredible people. We are going to strengthen our military, take care of our Vets and Make America Great Again,” Trump says in the statement.
While still not specifying exactly where the money is going, “the night benefited 22 different organizations, a number of which are Iow- based Veterans groups,” the campaign says.