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Live updates: Republican presidential debate

January 27, 2016

The last Republican debate night of 2015 featured front-runner Donald Trump and eight other candidates in Las Vegas. Four contenders who didn’t meet the threshold for the main debate took part in an earlier undercard debate.

Who said what and what it meant: The fifth GOP debate transcript, annotated

  • Terri Rupar
  • ·

There’s no perfect way to distribute speaking time during a debate, especially with nine candidates on stage. They all think they deserve more.

But if polls determine who gets to be on the stage and polls also reflect which candidates the voters like best, then it makes sense for polls to at least help decide who gets a bigger share of the spotlight. Extra scrutiny comes with the territory, and other candidates will want to draw contrasts with the front-runners.

Read more.

  • Terri Rupar
  • ·

CNN aired two GOP presidential debates on Dec. 15: a prime-time event starring nine candidates and an earlier debate featuring four second-tier contenders, based on an average of recent polls.

Not every candidate uttered statements that are easily fact checked, but following is a list of 12 suspicious or interesting claims. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios when we do a roundup of facts in debates.

Read the fact checks here.

  • Terri Rupar
  • ·

Here’s our debate schedule; the Republicans debate on Thursday, Jan. 28.

  • Sarah Parnass
  • ·

Here’s a two-minute roundup of highlights from the debate.

  • Jenna Johnson
  • ·

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (C) speaks with Ted Cruz (R) and Ben Carson during a break. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK

THE CONTENDERS | Despite some questions that he considered to be of the “Let’s fight with Trump! Let’s fight with Trump!” variety, Donald Trump has declared tonight’s debate “one of my better ones.”

“I really enjoyed this one, in particular — I had a good time,” he said in an interview with CNN immediately following the debate. “I think that I’m getting a little more used to it — I mean, I’ve never debated before. I’ve been producing jobs all of my life, I’ve been building buildings and doing lots of other things.”

Trump added that he considered the group on stage “very elegant.”

“It’s an interesting word to use,” he said, “but this was elegant.”

  • Katie Zezima
  • ·

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK

THE CONTENDERS | Sen. Ted Cruz said he doesn’t “intend” to allow a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

“I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization,” Cruz said.

Cruz has long sidestepped the question of what he would do with undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, instead asserting that the U.S.-Mexico border must be secured before addressing the issue.

The Texas Republican’s answer came during an exchange with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), with whom Cruz has repeatedly tangled over the issue of immigration. Cruz has accused Rubio of being too soft on immigration because he co-sponsored a comprehensive Senate bill that would have created a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Cruz refers to the legislation, which died in the House, as “amnesty.” Rubio claims that he and Cruz have very similar views on immigration, noting that Cruz pushed an amendment that would have allowed undocumented people to receive work permits. The amendment prevented them from obtaining citizenship.

Cruz’s statement that he doesn’t intend to support legalizing undocumented immigrants is the farthest that he has gone on the issue. He released an immigration plan last month that did not specify what he would do with undocumented immigrants, instead focusing on ways to secure the border and cracking down on illegal immigration.

Cruz’s plan also proposed shifts in his stance: Cruz has long billed himself as a champion of legal immigration, once proposing doubling the caps on green cards and increasing the number of the visas for high tech workers – known as H1-B visas – fivefold. Cruz now wants to halt increases in the number of people coming into the United States and temporarily halt the H1-B program, which has been rife with reports of abuse.

  • Scott Clement
  • ·

BY THE NUMBERS | Several Republican candidates’ opposition to admitting Syrian refugees to the United States, and rationale for doing so, align well with American public opinion overall as well as the Republican electorate.

A November Washington Post-ABC News poll found 54 percent opposed taking in refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, even after screening them for security. Opposition rose to 71 percent among Republicans, including 55 percent who “strongly opposed” accepting refugees.

Americans also sympathize with Sen. Marco Rubio’s concern with screening out possible terrorists among refugees from war-torn countries. Less than half in the Post-ABC poll, 47 percent, said they were at least “somewhat” confident the U.S. could identify and keep out possible terrorists among refugees, including only 13 percent who were “very confident.”  Republicans again were most skeptical, with only 35 percent expressing confidence terrorists could be screened out among arriving refugees.

  • Jenna Johnson
  • ·

THE CONTENDERS | Donald Trump promised Tuesday night that he will support the Republican nominee, even if it’s not him.

“I really am, I’ll be honest, I really am,” Trump said when asked if he’s ready to support the eventual nominee, prompting cheers. “I gained great respect for the Republican leadership… I will tell you: I am totally committed to the Republican Party. I feel very honored to be the front-runner.”

  • Katie Zezima
  • ·

ON THE ISSUES | If Sen. Ted Cruz had his way, Middle Eastern dictators would remain in power.

Cruz has been attempting to thread the needle on foreign policy, trying to position himself somewhere between the more hawkish factions of the party (Marco Rubio) and the more dovish wings (Rand Paul). Cruz has vowed to “carpet bomb” the Islamic State, but has said that the United States should not get involved in the Syrian civil war.

The Texas Republican is trying to distinguish his foreign policy in a big way: by stating that he does not believe the United States should topple dictators.

Cruz argued that when Moammar Gaddafi was toppled in Libya, it created a vacuum and allowed terrorists to move in; in Egypt, when Hosni Mubarak was no longer in power, the Muslim Brotherhood took over. Cruz does not believe the United States should overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria, arguing that it has no place getting involved in the Syrian civil war.

“Assad is a bad man. Gaddafi was a bad man. Mubarak had a terrible human rights record. But they were assisting us — at least Gaddafi and Mubarak — in fighting radical Islamic terrorists,” Cruz said.

This stance draws a line between Cruz and Rubio, who have repeatedly clashed on foreign policy. It also allows Cruz to lump Rubio in with Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state when these regimes were ousted, and President Obama.

  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·

SOCIAL STUDIES | Via The Post’s Chris Cillizza:

  • Karen DeYoung
  • ·

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson. REUTERS/Mike Blake

THE CONTENDERS | He’s not getting much air time to prove it, but Carson has clearly taken criticism of him as uninformed on foreign policy and national security policy seriously, and studied up. (Ahead of the debate, he said he hoped the debate featured plenty of defense and foreign policy questions — he was ready.)

He gave a long and fairly coherent answer to a question about his recent visit to Syrian refugee camps, described the need to upgrade aging U.S. aircraft, naval resources and weaponry, and suggested that the United States hit Russian President Vladimir Putin where it hurts and “put him in his box” by taking away Russian energy markets in Europe. “Economic power works just as well as military power,” he said. Whatever you think of his prescriptions, it’s clear: he has done some homework.

  • Karen DeYoung
  • ·

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (SANA via AP)

ON THE ISSUES | A big difference among the candidates on whether the United States should give up, for the moment, on trying to help Syrian rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad and turn all its attention to destroying the Islamic State.

Cruz compared support for the rebels to when Obama “toppled Mubarak, a reliable U.S. ally” in Egypt and “as a result, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood” took over. That brief description pretty much ignores the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who went into the streets to demand Mubarak’s departure, and the fact that Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in 2012.

Trump took the argument further, adding Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi to the leaders the United States should not have “toppled.” “We’ve spent four trillion dollars trying to topple people,” he said of money that would have been much better spent in this country. “And for what? The Middle East is totally destabilized…it’s a mess.”

Christie and Kasich argued strongly that the Islamic State won’t be defeated in Syria unless Assad goes. Christie noted that Iran, along with Russia, is Assad’s biggest backer. Seguing to the Iran nuclear agreement, he said that Obama had “set up an awful situation with his deal with Iran” by empowering and enriching Tehran. Supporting Assad, he indicated, was tantamount to caving in to Iran, and “if you miss Iran, you’re not going to get ISIS,” he said.

  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·

SOCIAL STUDIES | From The Post’s Michael Cavna:

  • Sean Sullivan
  • ·

Ted Cruz, right, speaks during an exchange with Marco Rubio, left. (AP Photo/John Locher)

THE CONTENDERS | For weeks, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have been fighting over two issues: immigration and national security.

That fight is playing out on live national TV for the first time in this campaign.

Cruz (Tex.) has been running to Rubio’s right on immigration, branding his support for a comprehensive bill in 2013 “amnesty.” Rubio (Fla.) has been portraying Cruz as too soft on national security by virtue of his vote for a bill that scaled back some of the government’s surveillance efforts.

They eagerly engaged in extended back-and-forths on both fronts tonight.

Cruz’s wager: He has the upper hand on immigration. Rubio’s: He holds an advantage on national security.

But this fight might ultimately come down to how each candidate defends himself on the issue the other one is keen to attack them on.

  • Jennifer Amur
  • ·

The Netflix show “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, will return March 4, according to a trailer that aired during a commercial break about an hour into the Republican debate.

[What does ‘House of Cards’ say about our politics, really?]

  • Jennifer Amur
  • ·

THE CONTENDERS | Governors of more than half of U.S. states said they opposed taking in Syrian refugees after one of the Paris attackers was thought to have entered Europe with a stream of asylum seekers. Because the federal government is responsible for resettling refugees, it is not clear that states can legally keep them out. See the full graphic here.

download1

  • Amber Phillips
  • ·

Refugees stand behind a fence at the Hungarian border with Serbia near the town of Horgos in September. AFP PHOTO / ARMEND NIMANI

ON THE ISSUES | Closely tied into the debate over whether to let Muslim immigrants into the country is whether to go ahead with Obama’s plan to house 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016.

Or rather, how to stop it. Trump is once again leading the right’s conversation here; he frequently wonders how many of those refugees might be Islamic State terrorists in disguise and grossly exaggerates the amount of refugees coming into the country. In a Las Vegas rally before Tuesday’s debate, he vowed to deport Syrian refugees if he wins the White House.

Meanwhile, mostly Republican governors from almost half of U.S. statesexpressed concern about taking in Syrian refugees, and the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a mostly symbolic bill in the days after the Paris attack that would place more security restrictions on how the U.S. approves refugees from Syria and Iraq. (Senior Obama officials have told Congress it’s virtually impossible to fully verify the backgrounds of refugees from these war-torn regions, since there’s no reliable national criminal or terrorist database.)

  • Michelle Ye Hee Lee
  • ·

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“The metadata program … it’s a valuable program that we no longer have at our disposal.”

–Sen. Marco Rubio (Florida)

THE FACT CHECKER | Rubio made this argument during his debate over the provisions of the USA Freedom Act with Cruz. Cruz misstated that the bill expanded the government’s access to records, but Rubio’s retort also is misleading.

It depends what Rubio meant by “at its disposal.” The government does still have a metadata program, but it is now a targeted program rather than a bulk collection program, under the USA Freedom Act. The bill ended the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records, and scaled back the program.

The bill limited data collection to the “greatest extent reasonably practical.” But the bill also allows the government to pursue metadata records with a court order, and must prove that it has reasonable suspicion that the suspect whose phone records it is seeking to collect is linked to a terrorist organization.

As we noted earlier, the bill does not change how cell phone companies maintain or collect metadata.

  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·

His topic? The candidates’ pins:

  • Scott Clement
  • ·

BY THE NUMBERS | Both former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Rand Paul criticized businessman Donald Trump for lacking the seriousness needed to be president. While Trump holds a large lead in national polls, his rivals are tapping an even larger vein of anxiety about a Trump presidency.

Nearly half of Republican-leaning voters, 49 percent, say they feel “anxious” about Trump as president in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, while 50 percent say they feel “comfortable” with the idea. The share of Republicans anxious about Trump exceeds his level of support for the nomination, which stood at a record high 38 percent in the same poll.

2300-43

The poll did not ask about comfort with other Republican candidates, though it found Democrats are far less antsy about their front-runner Hillary Clinton — 25 percent of Democratic-leaning voters said they were comfortable with her candidacy, while 73 percent feel comfortable with her as president.

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