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Live updates: Republican presidential debate

August 7, 2015


The top 10 candidates appeared on the same stage at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland in a two-hour debate that aired on Fox News Channel. It was moderated by three Fox News anchors: Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly.

Fox News Channel also broadcast a debate earlier in the evening featuring the candidates who failed to make the cut for the main debate.


  • James Hohmann
  • ·

Here’s a chart of how many mentions each of the 10 candidates got over the course of the debate, broken up into 15-minute intervals, from our partners at Zignal Labs:


Notice how little buzz Mike Huckabee got, despite a few provocative comments.

Jeb Bush, despite having the biggest war chest, was sixth most mentioned. That was still more than Scott Walker, Chris Christie or Marco Rubio.

  • James Hohmann
  • ·

Bernie Sanders watching the debate (@berniesanders)

Bernie Sanders watched the two-hour debate and, not surprisingly, did not like what he saw.

The Democratic candidate for president tweeted up a storm, criticizing several of the GOP contenders by name over the course of the two-hour event on Fox News.

Sanders’ tweets circulated widely on the left. The hashtag #DebateWithBernie was used 56,748 times and @BernieSanders was mentioned 59,935 times during the debate.

Here were his 10 most pointed attacks–

  • Chris Cillizza
  • ·
Fellow Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidates Dr. Ben Carson (L), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (2nd L) and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) laugh as fellow candidate and businessman Donald Trump (2nd R) reacts near the end of the debate after realizing that a slew of criticisms spoken by fellow candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (not pictured) were not aimed at him but at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Fellow Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidates Dr. Ben Carson (L), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (2nd L) and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) laugh as fellow candidate Donald Trump (2nd R) reacts near the end of the debate. Reuters/Brian Snyder

THE FIX | From Chris Cillizza:

The top 10 Republicans running for their party’s presidential nomination debated for the first time Thursday night in Cleveland. It was amazing in every sense of the word and I loved every minute of it. I jotted down some notes during the two-hour event — I could have watched for at least another hour! — and picked some of the winners and losers from the night.  Enjoy!

Read the full list of winners and losers on The Fix.

  • Jose A. DelReal
  • ·

Republican presidential candidates arrive on stage for the start of the first Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.  AFP PHOTOy Images

THE CONTENDERS | Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee made a playful jab at business mogul Donald Trump’s surge in national polls during his closing remarks – but punctuated those comments with a wink and pivoted to Hillary Clinton

“It seems like this election has been a whole lot about a person who’s very high in the polls but doesn’t have a clue about how to govern, a person who has been filled with scandals, and who could not lead,” he said, with quite a buildup. “And of course, I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.”

The crowd, after a night of tense moments involving The Donald, responded with a hearty laugh.

The quip came at the end of a night which Huckabee struggled to distinguish himself on the crowded stage of GOP hopefuls. Though he fielded just two questions during the first hour, Huckabee delivered a healthy dose of populism as he decried lobbyists’ influence in Washington.

In the debate runup, Huckabee garnered enormous media attention by escalating his criticism of President Obama’s Iran policy, saying it would “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”

But it remains to be seen if his performance was strong enough to hold him steady in national polls, where he currently averages in fourth place behind Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. His fieriest response came when he was asked if transgender service members should be allowed in the military

“The military is not a social experiment. The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things,” he said.

  • Mary Jordan
  • ·

THE CONTENDERS | Chris Christie needed to give people a reason to stop thinking his best chance at the presidency was in 2012.  But on the crowded stage, two hours ticked by without a single breakout moment.  He feuded with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), without a clear, convincing victory for either.

He got a chance to touch on what, for him, has been a key issue: how to address entitlement spending, an area where he’s staked out territory a bit more aggressively than most of the other candidates. But his answer fell flat.

Some had expected fireworks between the New Jersey governor and New York billionaire Donald Trump. They didn’t get them. Now the question is whether this relatively low-key Christie will be able to attract the donors, support, and attention he needs as the campaign continues.

  • James Hohmann
  • ·

SOCIAL STUDIES | Per a Facebook spokesperson, the five most discussed issues across Facebook during the debate were:

  1. Immigration
  2. Racial issues
  3. The economy
  4. Education
  5. Abortion

The top candidates discussed during the debate on Facebook were:

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Ben Carson
  3. Rand Paul
  4. Mike Huckabee
  5. Chris Christie
  • Jennifer Amur
  • ·
  • Jenna Johnson
  • ·
Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the debate. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

THE CONTENDERS | Scott Walker came into the debate with this strategy: Ignore the other candidates on the stage, and focus on connecting with voters.

He succeeded on both counts — that is, when he had the chance to do it. Walker received much less talking time than nearly all of the other candidates on the stage. At times it was easy to forget that he was on the stage.

Although Walker seemed to fade into the background at times, he didn’t make any major gaffes or standout for unsavory reasons. He largely stuck with the same crowd-tested talking points he has been using on the campaign trail — and often received warm applause from the debate audience. While he didn’t go after his fellow Republicans, he did repeatedly attack Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

He may not be able to distinguish himself from the rest of the field on policy positions they mostly agree on. But he’s long pitched himself as both the most ‘everyman’ candidate in the race — and he used his closing statement to repeat that message:

“I’m a guy with a wife and two kids and a Harley,” he said. “One article called me ‘aggressively normal.'”

  • Sean Sullivan
  • ·

THE CONTENDERS | Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sought to draw a contrast with the two front-runners in the polls — Jeb Bush and Donald Trump — without getting in extended back-and-forths with them.

The moderators tried repeatedly to force Rubio to directly engage with Bush, his longtime mentor. Rubio was able to engage without — well, without really engaging.

“It’s important to be qualified, but if this election is a resume competition, then Hillary Clinton’s gonna be the next president, because she’s been in office and in government longer than anybody else running here tonight,” Rubio said, contrasting his relative newcomer status and youth to Bush without actually mentioning him.

Later, Rubio said the “evidence is now clear that the majority of people coming across the border are not from Mexico. They’re coming from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras.” That appeared to be a rebuttal of Trump’s singling out of illegal immigrants from Mexico as a problem on the campaign trail.

Rubio’s most direct engagement with Trump was when he noted he had not received any campaign contributions from him over the years.

Rubio’s strategy has been to stick to his own message, even as he has lagged behind in the polls. He showed Thursday that he can do that and still attract attention, which is not easy.

  • Niraj Chokshi
  • ·

THE CONTENDERS | It’s early, we know. But based on instant reactions online, there seemed to be a general consensus that Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush) fared best in Thursday’s debate. Here’s a look at what a handful of political reporters and analysts had to say in the minutes after the debate ended:

  • Ed O'Keefe
  • ·

Jeb Bush speaks during the Republican presidential debate Thursday night in Cleveland. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty)

THE CONTENDERS | The last time Jeb Bush stood on a television debate stage was Oct. 22, 2002, when he faced the late Democrat, Bill McBride, on his way to being reelected governor of Florida.

That helps explain Bush’s stilted start tonight. He seemed uncomfortable at first, more concerned about abiding to time limits, and seemed to rush through early answers about his family’s political dynasty and Iraq. He succinctly defended his immigration reform and education reform plans and didn’t waver when moderators pressed him. He didn’t seize at least two opportunities to pipe up and refute Donald Trump’s comments about immigration and his brother’s presidency.

But he had late opportunities to defend his record on “life” issues and to explain his concerns about Trump’s tone and combative style — an opportunity to clearly convey how he’s different from the GOP frontrunner. Even though Bush critiqued  Trump, the business magnate didn’t hit back hard.

Everything Bush said tonight sounded familiar to this reporter, who’s traveled the country watching him at dozens of campaign events in the last six months. He was stilted, but consistent. Started cautiously, but appeared more comfortable by the end. He made no big mistake, but had no breakout moment.

Bush sits near the top of the pack and his campaign is well-equipped for a long, arduous slog to the White House. This was a strong start.

  • Katie Zezima
  • ·
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, is seen on a television screen in the media filing center as he speaks during the first Republican presidential debate at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015. The first Republican presidential debate featured front-runner Donald Trump at the literal and figurative center of the action, with the other nine candidates trading blows with him and each other as a packed arena in Cleveland cheered them on. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz is seen on a television screen in the media filing center as he speaks during the first Republican presidential debate. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

THE CONTENDERS | Twitter wondered where Ted Cruz was this debate.

But when the Texas senator did talk, he stuck hard to talking points and stump speech lines he repeatedly uses.

Cruz finally got to a subject where he’s tried to differentiate himself on the campaign trail: as a defender of religious liberty. This is an area where you should expect to hear more from Cruz — he will hold a rally for religious liberty in Iowa Aug. 21.

Cruz has said he’ll do a number of things as president, but he laid out a pretty busy first day. He claimed that he would “rescind every illegal action” undertaken by President Obama, open an investigation into Planned Parenthood videos and prosecute the organization, end the Iran deal and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He did, however, appear to misspeak, saying he would “persecute” religious liberty.

One line Cruz employed was powerful, and was getting much attention Thursday: “What we need is a commander-in-chief who makes clear that if you join ISIS, if you wage jihad on America, your’e signing your death warrant.”

While he stuck to the script on issues, Cruz continued to hit other Republicans. He took a veiled swipe at Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) involvement in trying to craft comprehensive immigration reform as a member of the Senate’s Gang of Eight.

He continued to slam Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying that McConnell “blocked a vote on” a piece of legislation Cruz introduced to crack down on undocumented immigrants who are deported and come back to the U.S. Last week, Cruz accused McConnell of lying to Senate colleagues.

  • James Hohmann
  • ·

Zignal Labs tracked total mentions of each candidate during the debate. From 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET, it’s no surprise that Donald Trump was first, racking up 344,079. An interesting second place show for Ben Carson, who got much less buzz in the runup to the debate; he drew 118,922 mentions. John Kasich, the home state governor, was third with 96,786. Jeb Bush was fourth with 83,653. Rand Paul was fifth with 78,822. Ted Cruz was sixth with 77,239. The other candidates got fewer mentions than Bernie Sanders — a presidential candidate, but one definitely nowhere near the GOP debate stage — during that 90-minute period.

  • Vanessa Williams
  • ·
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson speaks during the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson speaks during the debate. AFP photo / Mandel Ngan

THE CONTENDERS | Ben Carson struggled to sound like a convincing commander-in-chief with an answer to how he would deal with the war on terrorism.  After using most of his time to talk about how the U.S. military has been decimated by cuts, particularly in recent years because of sequestration, he said simply: “I would shore up our military first because if you don’t get the military right nothing else is going to work.”

He didn’t sound like a politician used to responding to tough questions with time-limited responses.

Twitter took notice:

Carson seemed on firmer footing when he was able to do freestyle criticism of Hillary Clinton. He called her “the epitome of the secular progressive movement, and she counts on the fact that the people are not informed.” That’s a line that hits all the right notes with the base.

He also was comfortable responding when asked how he would improve race relations. (He was the only African American on the stage, and was the only candidate asked that question.) Instead of laying out a path to racial harmony, he tossed out feel-good slogans such as, “We are the United States of America, not the divided states.”

He used his closing statement to talk about what makes him unique among a stage full of politicians.

“I’m the only one to separate Siamese twins. I’m the only one to operate on babies while they were still in their mother’s womb. The only one to take out half a brain, although you would think if you got to Washington that some else had beaten me to it,” he said, joining the audience and the stage in laughter.

Those qualities have nothing to do with being president, but at least one Carson fan was impressed:

  • Jennifer Amur
  • ·

From businessman Donald Trump’s slam on Rosie O’Donnell to Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) getting into it over hugs, here are some of the most memorable moments from the first Republican presidential debate.

  • Scott Clement
  • ·

BY THE NUMBERS | When asked what he would do to improve race relations, Dr. Ben Carson said he would use the bully pulpit to help bridge racial divisions. As Barack Obama has found, a big part of the challenge is speaking across the wide partisan and racial gaps in views of whether America actually needs more changes to ensure racial equality.

A new Washington Post poll finds 60 percent saying the nation needs to continue making changes to give blacks and whites equal rights, while 37 percent say those changes have already been made. The findings mark a shift from a 2014 Pew Research Center poll asking the same question. Back then, prior to Ferguson, 46 percent said more changes were needed to guarantee equal treatment.

Republicans also saw an upward shift on this question, though a 63 percent majority continues to say the nation has made needed changes to ensure equal rights for blacks.race relations

Republicans have been working to improve their level of support among African Americans in 2016 following two elections where President Obama won over 90 percent of the black vote. Jeb Bush touted his removal of the Confederate flag from the Florida state capitol grounds when he was governor of the state. While Republicans are ambivalent about that stance, it could resonate with African American voters — 76 percent said South Carolina made the “right decision” to remove the flag from statehouse grounds in the same Pew poll.

[Republicans see chance to win over black voters in 2016]

  • Robert Gebelhoff
  • ·
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump responds to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's closing remarks during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump responds to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s closing remarks. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

STOPWATCH |Surprised? Donald Trump got the most airtime in the top-tier debate, racking up more than 10 1/2 minutes in total. Jeb Bush was in second, with less than nine minutes.

Those two dominated time in the debate, with no one else passing more than seven minutes in air time.

Rand Paul, perhaps the feistiest candidate on the stage — picking fights with Trump and Chris Christie — ended up with the least airtime, at around five minutes. He and Scott Walker were the only candidates who didn’t get more than six minutes throughout the night.

image (1)

Trump maintained the greatest amount of attention throughout most of the two-hour event, boosted at the beginning by a tense discussion when he wouldn’t rule out a run as an independent if he wasn’t chosen as the Republican nominee. Bush edged him out for just a short moment, but Trump, who came into the event with the highest poll numbers, quickly regained his lead.

The candidates mostly competed for time through questions from the moderators. At one point, Ben Carson, who was trailing in air time for a long time in the beginning of the night, thanked moderator Megyn Kelly for asking him a question.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to get to talk again,” Carson said.

  • Michelle Ye Hee Lee
  • ·
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) fields a question during the first Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena on August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent political polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) fields a question. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

THE FACT CHECKER | Megyn Kelly: “You don’t favor a rape and incest exemption?”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): “I have never said that and I have never advocated that.”

 –Exchange during GOP debate

Rubio has a mixed record on abortion exemptions. He has supported bills that have exceptions for victims of rape and incest, but also supported bills without such provisions. 

Rubio in 2013 co-sponsored a Senate 20-week abortion ban bill that allowed exemptions for abortions in cases of rape and incest. Yet in 2011, he sponsored an anti-abortion bill that not include the same protections.

It’s fair for him to say that he had never “advocated” for the exemption. In fact, it’s not entirely clear where he stands on exemptions, or under what conditions he supports them.

  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) fields a question during the first Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena on August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent political polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) fields a question. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

SOCIAL STUDIES | Ted Cruz might have been the most-searched person during the first 30 minutes of the debate, but his questions eventually seemed to peter out. Journalists noted it — and Cruz’s fans on Twitter were not pleased:

  • Scott Clement
  • ·
A man walks past a Planned Parenthood location on August 5, 2015 in New York City. The women's health organization has come under fire from Republicans recently after an under cover video allegedly showed a Planned Parenthood executive discussing selling cells from aborted fetuses. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

A man walks past a Planned Parenthood location in New York City. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

BY THE NUMBERS | Jeb Bush touted de-funding of Planned Parenthood in Florida, an issue which has energized the pro-life movement nationally with the release of secretly recorded videos involving the procurement of fetal organs.

Taking on Planned Parenthood is a popular issue with Republicans at-large base — 55 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable views of Planned Parenthood, and 66 percent support cutting off federal funding to the organization (53 percent “strongly”), according to a new Monmouth University poll. Another 52 percent of Republicans disagree with the idea that scientists should be able to use fetal tissue from abortion to find cures for deadly diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The general public is more evenly divided on each of these questions about Planned Parenthood and research connected to abortions.

The challenge for Republicans in a widely pro-life field is distinguishing themselves among socially conservative evangelical Christians, who make up a majority of caucus-goers in Iowa and in primaries across the south. The bigger dividing line for Republicans is whether they oppose allowing abortion in cases of rape or when a mother’s health is at risk, circumstances where at least 7 in 10 Americans say abortion should be permitted. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker defended his opposition to abortion in all cases Thursday and claimed his pro-life position is consistent that’s “in line with everyday America.” The data suggest that is a relatively small minority, but a group which could offer passionate support for him in the primaries.

[Republicans compete to register strongest Planned Parenthood attack]

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