ISIS and the war on terror took center stage at the GOP undercard debate Tuesday in Las Vegas.
The Republican presidential candidates gathered at the Venetian Hotel for the first time since the terror attacks that shook Paris and San Bernardino, California.
The stakes were high for the four lowest-polling Republican candidates — former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki. They gathered for the CNN debate just weeks before the first votes in the Republican presidential nomination contest come on Feb. 1 with the Iowa caucuses.
Here are the seven takeways from the GOP undercard debate
1. Radical Islam and Donald Trump
It took less than two minutes from the start of the debate for the words “radical Islam” to come up. That honor went to Gov. Pataki who also brought up frontrunner Donald Trump right out of the gate, saying the GOP frontrunner is “not fit to be president.”
2. Santorum announces: “World War III has begun”
As the candidates introduced themselves, Santorum upped the fear factor, declaring World War III was underway. “We have entered World War III,” Santorum said. “World War III has begun. And we have a leader who refuses to identify and be truthful to the American people of the stakes involved. The Iran deal is bad. Barack Obama created ISIS. Elect me.”
3. Candidates weigh in on Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims
Even though Trump was nowhere near the stage, his presence was felt throughout the debate. Candidates were asked what they thought of the real estate developer’s proposed plan to ban Muslims from entering the county. Santorum came out as a partial supporter of Trump’s proposal – a move that won him some applause from the crowd. But Huckabee, Pataki and Graham all opposed it.
Graham apologized to the Muslim world for Trump’s proposal. Pataki echoed a similar disapproval of the plan. “Donald Trump is the know-nothing candidate of the 21st century and cannot be our nominee,” he said. But Santorum countered that while “not all Muslims are jihadists… all jihadists are Muslims.”
4. More monitoring and broader data collection
All four candidates said the San Bernadino terror attack has clarified the need for better monitoring and data collection.
Huckabee called for better social media monitoring of immigrants while Pataki called for limited monitoring of mosques and social media. Santorum urged for broader collection of phone data and Graham agreed. “We’re at war folks,” he said. “They’re not trying to steal your car. They’re trying to kill us all.”
5. Graham: ‘I miss George W. Bush’
Graham the king of zingers, didn’t disappoint, slamming Russian President Vladimir Putin and saying he’s fed up with the bashing of former President George W. Bush.
“I blame Obama for ISIL, not Bush,” he said. “I miss George W. Bush. I wish he was president right now. We wouldn’t be in this mess.”
The rant got a thunderous applause from the audience.
6. Women in combat
After Santorum expressed doubt about women in combat roles, Graham scored huge points with the crowd with yet another one of his famous zingers.
“To women, if you want to kill terrorists, I’m your guy.”
7. Attacking Ted Cruz
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was the target of attacks during the undercard debate in yet another sign that he’s gaining momentum.
Graham hit the Texas senator for saying that he may be open to leaving Syrian President Bashar Assad in place as he poked fun at Cruz’s taste in movies.
“He says his favorite movie is ‘The Princess Bride,'” Graham said. “Getting in bed with Iran and Russia to save Assad is inconceivable!”
Watch the video of Santorum speaking about jihadists below.