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Republican debate live blog: Donald Trump returns to the stage in New Hampshire

February 6, 2016

Seven Republicans shared the stage for tonight’s debate: Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich. The event marks the final debate before of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.

Among many notable moments was the call from several candidates for a return to anti-terrorism tactics that were used — and criticized — under the George W. Bush administration, a moment of hawkish agreement in an otherwise largely contentious night.

Watch a breakdown of the awkward moment that kicked off the night: botched candidate introductions.

The top 7 issues in the Republicans’ New Hampshire debate

Stakes high for GOP contenders at debate before N.H. primary

  • David Weigel
  • ·

The heated exchange between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush over eminent domain set off the pleasure centers of the people trying to finally, finally bring Trump down. Make America Awesome, the cheekily monikered super PAC that has been running anti-Trump ads on the issue, saw new opportunities to exploit an issue that up to three-quarters of New Hampshire voters disagree with Trump about.

“A lot of his voters won’t be watching this‎,” said Mair, the PAC’s consultant. “But they will hear those soundbites replayed over and over and over again on local news, drive time radio and printed out in publications they read. Plus, a lot of those voters are seeing and hearing our ads, which hit him on this subject already — which will make what he said stick even harder in their minds.”

  • James Hohmann
  • ·

They’ll know the winner soon. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

For the debate’s final question, candidates competing in a fierce contest for the GOP nomination were asked to predict the winner…of Sunday’s Super Bowl. It was a moment that forced them to publicly decide between two battleground states.

Two of candidates picked Denver, four picked Carolina and one declined to wager a guess.

Jeb Bush picked Denver, noting that quarterback Peyton Manning supports him.

Chris Christie joined him.

John Kasich was reluctant, but he picked the Panthers.

Marco Rubio also picked Carolina, joking that he changed his mind because Bush — once his mentor — backed the Broncos.

Donald Trump picked Carolina without hesitation.

Ted Cruz said Carolina, joking that it was because he has an eye on North Carolina’s March primary.

Ben Carson was the only candidate to duck, saying he can predict with 100 percent confidence that one of the two teams will win.

  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·

SOCIAL STUDIES | Did you miss Marco Rubio repeating over and over that President Obama “knows exactly what he’s doing” in that exchange with Chris Christie? No? Meet tonight’s latest parody account, @RubioGlitch, tweeting in English and Spanish:

  • Michelle Ye Hee Lee
  • ·

“We shouldn’t be releasing killers who are going back onto the battlefield.”

–Marco Rubio

THE FACT CHECKER | Rubio sure likes this talking point about recidivist terrorists, but he overstates the facts.

Rubio refers to ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees released under President Obama. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases semi-annual reports of the rate of recidivism among released Guantanamo detainees.

There are two categories in the report: ex-detainees who are “confirmed of re-engaging” and those “suspected of re-engaging.” “Confirmed” is self-explanatory; “suspected” is defined as “plausible but unverified or single-source reporting indicating a specific former GTMO detainee is directly involved in terrorist or insurgent activities. For the purposes of this definition, engagement in anti-US statements or propaganda does not qualify as terrorist or insurgent activity.”

The latest report on detainees transferred as of July 15, 2015, shows 117 of 653 (17.9 percent) were confirmed as reengaging and 79 of 653 (12.1 percent) were suspected of reengaging.

The report also divides the numbers between the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. The breakdown shows most of the former detainees were released under the Bush administration. Further, virtually all (94 percent) of the ex-detainees confirmed or suspected of reengaging were released under the Bush administration.

  • Washington Post Staff
  • ·

We walk you through the series of mishaps that made for some particularly awkward introductions to the debate stage.

  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·

SOCIAL STUDIES | For reference, it’s currently 30 degrees right now in Manchester:

Bedford, N.H. #fitn #campaign2016 #campaigntravel #latergram

A photo posted by Ed O'Keefe (@edatpost) on

Four days to the New Hampshire primary—what’s a little snow? Join Team #GOTVforHRC! (link in bio) 📷: @kaitken216

A photo posted by Hillary Clinton (@hillaryclinton) on

Knocking on doors and talking to voters in snowy Manchester, New Hampshire.

A photo posted by Hillary Clinton (@hillaryclinton) on

Granite Staters vote in 4 days and this New Hampshire snowstorm won't stop our volunteers!

A photo posted by Jeb Bush (@jebbush) on

In Exeter, New Hampshire lending a hand at HRC headquarters. I'm so impressed with all the Americans (no matter which candidate they support) who are willing to leave their homes and often travel long distances to come help and campaign for – often doing unglamorous tasks – their candidate but even more, to come campaign for their country. They don't think democracy is a spectator sport but a full contact participatory endeavor. We have a great nation and I believe our true challenge is not those loudly supporting candidates I may disagree with but the too many who are indifferent or apathetic about our civic responsibilities, so much so that even voting is of no interest. As MLK said, "It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people."

A photo posted by Cory Booker (@corybooker) on

Bonus: John Kasich had a snowball fight with reporters:

  • Scott Clement
  • ·

BY THE NUMBERS | ABC News’ David Muir confronted Republican candidates with polling statistic: 68 percent of Americans in a recent poll supported raising taxes on people with income over $1 million, apparently citing a May 2015 CBS News/New York Times poll. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush Chris Christie each expressed opposition to such a measure, reasoning tax hikes would fail to help people get ahead or have adverse consequences, such as wealthy individuals moving their money outside the United States.

The wide popularity of raising taxes on the wealthy is nothing new, but the issue draws a surprising level of popularity among Republicans nationally. By 53 to 46 percent, slightly more Republicans favored than opposed raising taxes on millionaires. Support increased to 63 percent among independents and 87 percent of Democrats.

The CBS/NYT poll’s finding is similar to a Washington Post-ABC News poll in early 2012, which found 72 percent of the overall public and 57 percent of Republicans supporting a tax increase on people with incomes of at least $1 million.

  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·

SOCIAL STUDIES | Jeb Bush and Chris Christie are doing well with the crowd here tonight — and have all weekend:

@JebBush, addressing his largest crowd to date on the Saturday before primary day. #fitn #campaign2016

A photo posted by Ed O'Keefe (@edatpost) on

  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·

SOCIAL STUDIES | The Bush campaign is not giving up:

  • James Hohmann
  • ·

THE CONTENDERS | Repeatedly tonight, Marco Rubio has said that what Barack Obama has done as president was “intentional” and not because of a lack of experience.

It’s awkward for a Republican to defend Obama in a GOP debate, but it’s the only way for the first-term senator to rebut the attack that he’s “the Republican Obama.”

If conservatives buy that Obama is an evil genius, who knew what he was doing when he pushed through the Affordable Care Act and everything else they don’t like, then it’s a point for Rubio.

If they believe problems at, say, the Department of Veterans Affairs are because Obama needed on the job training and didn’t have previous executive experience, then it’s a point for Chris Christie.

  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·


  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·

SOCIAL STUDIES | The question might have played with New Hampshire GOP voters, but Google users weren’t getting it:

Here’s what else is happening on Google search:

  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·

SOCIAL STUDIES | Barbara Bush has been with Jeb on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, where she said she’s “sick” of Donald Trump. Here’s how he responded:

  • Glenn Kessler
  • ·

“The fact that we’re seeing the launch, and we’re seeing the launch from a nuclear North Korea is the direct result of the failures of the first Clinton administration. The Clinton administration led the world in relaxing sanctions against North Korea. Billions of dollars flowed into North Korea in exchange for promises not to build nuclear weapons. They took those billions and built nuclear weapons.”

–Ted Cruz

THE FACT CHECKER | Ted Cruz significantly overstates the monetary benefits of the Clinton deal to North Korea.

Clinton’s deal was called the Agreed Framework. Essentially, an international consortium was going to replace the North’s plutonium reactor with two light-water reactors; in the meantime, the United States would supply the North with 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil every year to make up for the theoretical loss of the reactor while the new ones were built. (North Korea’s program was clearly created to churn out nuclear weapons; the reactor at Yongbyon was not connected to the power grid and appeared only designed to produce plutonium.) There were also vague references to improving relations and commerce.

The consortium was called the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO). KEDO’s final annual report, issued in 2006, shows that 30 or so countries funding the project spent about $2.5 billion before it was shut down after the Bush administration accused North Korea of cheating on the Agreed Framework. (Most of the funds, about $2 billion, were contributed by South Korea and Japan alone.)

But this money did not go to North Korea. According to Joel S. Wit, who was in charge of implementing the Agreed Framework during the Clinton administration, it went to the companies that were building the reactors in South Korea, Japan and the European Union.

Between 1995 and 2003, the United States did spend about $500 million supplying the fuel oil that was required under the deal. (Another $100 million in fuel oil was supplied between 2007 and 2009, during Bush’s ill-fated deal.) But North Korea did not get those funds either; it just got the oil.

However, some experts note that North Korea did benefit broadly from South Korea pursuing joint projects with North Korea, such as the Kaesong Industrial Complex and tourism at Mt. Kumgang. The Congressional Research Service in 2011 estimated that Kaesong, which opened during the Bush administration, provided about $20 million in wage revenue a year to North Korea. Hyundai Asan also paid North Korea $12 million for a 50-year lease on the entire Kaesong site. CRS cited a 2004 estimate that North Korea could “receive $9.55 billion in economic gains over the course of nine years if the KIC were to be developed fully and operated successfully,” mainly from sales and corporate taxes. Kaesong, however, has been closed periodically because of tensions between the two countries.

  • David Weigel
  • ·

MANCHESTER, N.H. — At the start of tonight’s debate, Ted Cruz was asked to repeat the withering, substantive criticisms he’s made of Donald Trump since besting him in Iowa. Cruz declined to.

“The assessment the voters are making here in New Hampshire and across the country is they are evaluating each and every one of us,” he said. Asked again, Cruz just pivoted to his own Iran policy.

Later, Trump offered a repetitive, somewhat glib prescription for disarming North Korea, which amount to being “tough” on China and letting the growing superpower “deal with” its adjacent rogue state. Jeb Bush, when his turn came, made no reference to Trump — something that startled Ashley Killough, a CNN producer who has covered Bush as closely as anyone.

The reason for the soft-gloved approach was simple: Trump has enjoyed mammoth polling leads in New Hampshire for months, and since his Iowa loss, he has only ticked down to — at worst — a 10-point lead over Marco Rubio. The Florida senator’s campaign has said for weeks that a “3, 2, 1″ strategy (third place in Iowa, second place in New Hampshire, and so on) would catapult it to front-runner status. It’s in the interest of literally every candidate but Rubio for Trump to win, and for his margin over the Florida senator to be so large as to allow another candidate to claim a tie.

That’s why it took an hour for anyone to attack Trump. Bush ended up grappling with him over eminent domain, an issue that infuriates libertarian-minded voters, and which Republican strategist Liz Mair has found to be a pure negative for Trump. The story Bush told — of Trump using eminent domain to “take an old woman’s property and build a parking lot for limousines” — appeared in 11th hour Iowa TV ads, and has reappeared in New Hampshire.

It’s an issue that multiple campaigns expect to hurt Trump with. But not until they drive Rubio down.

  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·

SOCIAL STUDIES | Here’s your Vine, thanks to NBC’s Frank Thorp:

  • James Hohmann
  • ·
Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and Republican presidential candidate, waves as he arrives to the presidential debate. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and Republican presidential candidate, waves as he arrives to the ABC News presidential debate. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

MANCHESTER, N.H.–Donald Trump avoided taking direct attacks for nearly an hour in the debate — until Jeb Bush hit him hard on eminent domain.

The bottom line is that a majority of New Hampshire primary voters do not want to support Trump on Tuesday. Bush is trying to elevate his own hopes by contrasting himself with the Granite State front-runner.

The former Florida governor likes to say on the stump that he is the only candidate aggressively and consistently calling out The Donald. He’s also trying to reassure supporters that he’s tough and has backbone.

Chris Christie is going after Marco Rubio so hard because the Florida senator appears to be the biggest beneficiary of the desire to stop Trump and has momentum coming out of Iowa.

Other candidates are not hitting Trump because they don’t want him to finish behind Rubio.

  • Sean Sullivan
  • ·

Taking fire tonight. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

THE CONTENDERS | The sharpest exchanges of the night so far have come between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). And they have focused on two issues: experience and immigration.

Those also happen to be two issues where Rubio is seen by his rivals as most vulnerable.

“You have not been involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable. You just simply haven’t,” Christie told Rubio.

Moments later, Christie jabbed again at Rubio, accusing him of not answering a question about his role in the “Gang of Eight” that pushed a bipartisan immigration reform bill.

From the beginning of his campaign, Rubio’s youth and limited time in Congress have drawn comparisons to President Obama — comparisons he has vigorously rebutted. He has also had to defend his decision to work with Democrats in the “Gang of Eight” many times.

In other words, it was clear from the start of the race that Rubio would have to get past this stuff.

Christie won some positive reviews on social media for his broadsides against Rubio. The question for the governor, who is lagging in the polls and has not raised nearly as much money as his rivals: Is it too little, too late?

  • Glenn Kessler
  • ·
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.  (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

“In eight years, Bill Clinton deported 12 million people. In eight years, George W. Bush deported 10 million people.”

— Ted Cruz

THE FACT CHECKER | Cruz is using slippery phrasing to come up with really big numbers under the rubric of “deportation.” Under Department of Homeland Security definitions, there is a simple form of voluntary deportation known as “return” — a “confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States not based on an order of removal.”

There is also a more formal type of deportation, known as “removal” — “the compulsory and confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States based on an order of removal. An alien who is removed has administrative or criminal consequences placed on subsequent reentry.” That’s a more serious form of deportation — trying to reenter the United States again is deemed a felony — and that’s generally the number used in media reports.

If you look at this chart, you can see the formal type of deportation has soared under Obama, even as “total deportations” have declined. The shift stems from a combination of new laws, administration policies and changes in immigration patterns. Skeptics of immigration have accused the administration of cooking the numbers to make its deportation policies look better, but Cruz himself is mixing apples and oranges.

  • Elise Viebeck
  • ·

SOCIAL STUDIES | Jim Gilmore, of course, and Carly Fiorina. Here’s what she tweeted earlier:

Read more:

Is ABC really not going to let Carly Fiorina in the next debate?

Everyone who thinks Carly Fiorina should be allowed to debate

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