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Jake Tapper introduced the candidates and the debate began.
TAPPER: Governor Kasich, we will start with you.
KASICH: Well, thank you. You know, I look in the faces of people all across this country, and I know they want to be hopeful. And many are hopeful. Look, I can take conservative policies to the White House, to Washington, to restore the strength of our economy. But I also want to transfer power, money and influence to where you live, because I believe the strength in this country rests in the neighborhoods, the families, the communities and our states.
And I believe it's a new partnership -- a partnership that can allow us to restore the spirit of America and strengthen America for the best century we've ever had.
TAPPER: Senator Rubio?
RUBIO: Every election is important. I believe this is the most important election in a generation. Because what's at stake in this election is not simply what party is going to be in charge or which candidate wins. What's at stake is our identity as a nation and as a people.
RUBIO: For over two centuries, America has been an exceptional nation. And now the time has come for this generation to do what it must do to keep it that way. If we make the right choice in this election, our children are going to be the freest and most prosperous Americans that have ever lived. And the 21st century is going to be a new American century.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: Fifty-nine years ago, Florida welcomed my father to America as he stepped off the ferry boat from Cuba onto Key West. He was 18. He was filled with hopes and dreams, and yet he was in the freest land on the face of the earth.
This election, this debate is not about insults. It's not about attacks. It's not about any of the individuals on this stage. This election is about you and your children. It's about the freedom America has always had and making sure that that freedom is there for the next generation, that we stop Washington from standing in the way of the hard-working taxpayers of America.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump?
TRUMP: One of the biggest political events anywhere in the world is happening right now with the Republican Party. Millions and millions of people are going out to the polls and they're voting. They're voting out of enthusiasm. They're voting out of love. Some of these people, frankly, have never voted before -- 50 years old, 60 years old, 70 years old -- never voted before.
We're taking people from the Democrat Party. We're taking people as independents, and they're all coming out and the whole world is talking about it. It's very exciting. I think, frankly, the Republican establishment, or whatever you want to call it, should embrace what's happening.
We're having millions of extra people join. We are going to beat the Democrats. We are going to beat Hillary or whoever it may be. And we're going to beat them soundly.
TAPPER: Thank you. Thank you.
Let's begin with jobs and the economy, which Republican voters say is the most important issue to them in this election. There have been some real differences expressed in -- on this stage on whether trade deals have been good for the American workers. One of Mr. Trump's, the front runner's, signature issues is ending what he calls "disastrous trade deals" in order to bring jobs back to America.
Governor Kasich, I'd like to start with you. You've been a strong advocate for these trade deals over the years. Critics say these deals are great for corporate America's bottom line, but have cost the U.S. at least 1 million jobs. How do you respond to the criticism that you've been catering to board rooms at the expense of the American middle class?
KASICH: Well, Jake, I grew up in a blue collar family. And the simple fact of the matter is that of course we're sensitive about trade. One out of five Americans works in a job connected to trade; 38 million Americans are connected to it.
But my position has always been we want to have free trade, but fair trade. And I've been arguing all along that it is absolutely critical that when other countries break those agreements, we don't turn the process over to some international bureaucrat who comes back a couple years later and says, "Oh, America was right," and people are out of work.
The fact of the matter is we have to have an expedited process. When people cheat, when countries cheat and they take advantage of us, we need to blow the whistle. And as president of the United States, I absolutely will blow the whistle and begin to stand up for the American worker.
But we don't want to lock the doors and pull down the blinds and leave the world. Because frankly, if we do that, prices will go up. People will buy less. Other people will be out of work. And we don't want to see that happen.
Trade, though, has to be balanced and we have to make sure that when we see a violation, like some country dumping their products into this country, believe me as president, I will stand up and I will shut down those imports because they're a violation of the agreement we have and the American worker expects us to stand up.
And Jake, my family worked in the steel industry, not with a white collar. I understand their plight.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, your critics say your campaign platform is inconsistent with how you run your businesses, noting that you've brought in foreign workers instead of hiring Americans, and your companies manufacture clothing in China and Mexico.
Why should voters trust that you will run the country differently from how you run your businesses? TRUMP: Because nobody knows the system better than me. I know the H1B. I know the H2B. Nobody knows it better than me. I'm a businessman. These are laws. These are regulations. These are rules. We're allowed to do it. And frankly, because of the devaluations that other countries -- the monetary devaluations that other countries are constantly doing and brilliantly doing against us, it's very, very hard for our companies in this country, in our country, to compete.
So I will take advantage of it; they're the laws. But I'm the one that knows how to change it. Nobody else on this dais knows how to change it like I do, believe me.
TAPPER: Senator Rubio, last October, you said that you're, quote, "generally very much in favor of free trade." More recently, you backed a away from your support of some trade deals. If elected, will you support free trade deals even if it means the inevitable loss of U.S. jobs?
RUBIO: No, I support free trade deals that are good for America. We're 5 percent of the world's population. If all we do is sell things to each other, we can only sell to 5 percent of the people on earth. We have to have access to the hundreds of millions of people in the world today who can afford to buy things.
The problem is we're a low-tariff country. To import something into the United States is not very expensive, but many of these countries we can't export to because their tariffs are too high. And so I am in favor of deals that allow us to bring down those tariffs so that America can sell things to all these people around the world.
There are good trade deals and there are bad ones. So for example, here in Florida, we have benefited from the free trade deal with Colombia. It's allowed flower exporters to come into the United States but it's created jobs for hundreds of people who are now delivering those flowers and working in that industry. We have a surplus with Colombia.
On the other hand, you've seen trade deals like in Mexico that have been less than promising in some aspects, better in others. Bottom line is I believe that America, if given access to foreign markets, our workers are the most productive in the world, our people are the most innovative on this planet. If it is a free and fair trade deal, we can compete against anyone in the world, and we need to in the 21st century.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz, you were a supporter of the Pacific trade deal, but after taking some heat from conservatives, you changed your position. Why should these voters who don't like these trade deals trust that you will fight for them all the time and not just in election years?
CRUZ: Actually that's incorrect. There are two different agreements. There's TPA and TPP. I opposed TPP and have always opposed TPP, which is what you asked about. And when it comes to trade, look, free trade, when we open up foreign markets, helps Americans. But we're getting killed in international trade right now. And we're getting killed because we have an administration that's doesn't look out for American workers and jobs are going overseas. We're driving jobs overseas.
And the people who are losing out are in manufacturing jobs, or the steel industry or the auto industry. But I'll tell you who else is going to be losing out, which is the service industry. This Obama administration is negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement which is another treaty to allow services to come in and take jobs from Americans as well.
And you've got to understand. Trade and immigration are interwoven, and they are hurting the working men and women of this country. So the question is, what's the solution? It's easy to talk about the problems. But do you have a solution to fix it? And I think the solution is several things.
Number one, we need to negotiate trade deals protecting American workers first, not the corporate board room. Number two, we need to lift the regulations on American businesses here so we see jobs coming back. And number three, we need a tax plan like the tax plan I've introduced that will not tax exports and that will tax imports, and that will bring millions of high-paying jobs back to America.
TAPPER: Let's talk more about how American jobs are impacted by foreign workers. Let's go to Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times. Stephen.
DINAN: Senator Rubio in late 2014, Disney laid off 250 tech workers in Orlando, replacing many of them with foreign workers. Some of the Americans even had to train their own replacements. You support increasing the H-1B visa program that made it possible to bring in these foreign workers. Doesn't this program take jobs away from Americans?
RUBIO: If it's being abused the way Disney did. Understand that program, it is illegal now under that program to use it to replace American workers. Under that program, you have to prove not only that you're not replacing Americans, but that you've tried to hire Americans. And if a company is caught abusing that process, they should never be allowed to use it again.
The second problem with the current structure of the program that people perhaps don't understand is a lot of these companies are not directly hiring employees from abroad. They are hiring a consulting company like Tata, for example, out of India. That company then hoards up all of these visas. They hire workers. You hire -- Disney or some other company hires this company.
What they're basically doing is they are insourcing and outsourcing. They are bringing in workers from abroad that are not direct employees of a Disney or someone else, they're employees of this consulting business. And what I argue is that no consulting business such as that should be allowed to hoard up all of these visas, that the visas should only be available for companies to use to directly hire workers and that we should be stricter in how he enforce it.
It is illegal now, it is a violation of the law now to use that program to replace Americans. And if a company is caught doing that, whether it be Disney or anyone else, they should be barred from using the program in the future.
DINAN: Senator Rubio, real quick follow-up on this.
You've -- in the -- in the context of illegal immigration, you've called for basically putting off any legalization process until we get the border secured.
DINAN: Why not call for a pause on H1Bs until those abuses you've talked about are solved.
RUBIO: Well first, I think -- well, I'd be open to it if it takes a pause. But I don't think it takes a pause to enforce the law. What they are doing is they are in fact using that program to replace an American.
If there's an American working at Disney and they bring someone from another country using H1B to replace their direct job, that's in violation of the law. And what I'm explaining to you is, what they are doing now is they are not -- what they are doing is they are eliminating the job.
They are outsourcing the entire tech division to a consulting company. They are making the argument that we didn't replace you. We just replaced the whole unit by hiring a company to do it instead. And that company that they're hiring is bringing their workers from abroad. It's a loophole they've figured out that we need to close so they can no longer continue to do it that way.
DINAN: Governor Kasich, I want to come to you next. Mr. Trump says that legal immigration is producing quote, "lower wages and higher unemployment for U.S. workers". He's calling for a pause on green cards issued to foreign workers. Wouldn't that help workers in the U.S.?
KAISCH: Well look, I believe in immigration, but it has to be controlled. The simple fact of the matter is I wouldn't be standing here. I'd be maybe running for president of Croatia if we didn't have immigration.
Immigration is something that brings youth and vibrance and energy to our country. But we clearly have to control our borders. We can't have people just walking in. Look, we lock our doors at night in our homes. The country has to be able to lock its doors as well. So, we -- I have a comprehensive plan to deal with this problem of immigration.
I would say we have to absolutely finish the wall and guard the border. And if anybody were to come in after that, they are going to have to go back. No excuses because we can't continue this problem. I think we ought to have a guest worker program, where people come in, work and go home.
And I think at the same time, for the 11 and a half million who are here, then in my view if they have not committed a crime since they've been here, they get a path to legalization. Not to citizenship. I believe that program can pass the Congress in the first 100 days.
But let's not lose sight of the fact that the whole key to the future of America is strong economic growth with common sense regulation, lower taxes and a balanced budget.
We can have a rising tide that lifts all the workers in America, all the people who are citizens of America, if we'll just follow the formula that works, that I used in Washington. And guess what, I've used it in Ohio to grow over 400 private sector jobs since I've been governor
DINAN: Mr. Trump, I do want to come to you. Will you also in your answer, address how long you think that pause would be and what that pause would look like.
TRUMP: I will. First of all, I think and I know the H1B very well. And it's something that I frankly use and I shouldn't be allowed to use it. We shouldn't have it. Very, very bad for workers. And second of all, I think it's very important to say, well, I'm a businessman and I have to do what I have to do.
When it's sitting there waiting for you, but it's very bad. It's very bad for business in terms of -- and it's very bad for our workers and it's unfair for our workers. And we should end it. Very importantly, the Disney workers endorsed me, as you probably read.
And I got a full endorsement because they are the ones that said, and they had a news conference, and they said, he's the only one that's going to be able to fix it. Because it is a mess. I think for a period of a year to two years we have to look back and we have to see, just to answer the second part of your question, where we are, where we stand, what's going on.
We have to sort of take a strong, good, hard look and come up with plans that work. And we're rushing into things, and we're just -- we're leading with the chin.
We're leading with people that don't know what they are doing in terms of our leadership. I'd say a minimum of one year, maybe two years.
DINAN: Senator Cruz, I want to bring you in very quickly on this.
DINAN: The United States averages about a million new permanent legal immigrants a year and hundreds of thousands more guest workers. What should the right level be?
CRUZ: Well, we need to redefine our legal immigration system so that it meets the needs of the American economy. Right now, we're bringing in far too many low skilled workers. What that is doing is driving down the wages of hard-working Americans. Our system isn't working. And then on top of that, we've got a system that's allowing in millions of people to be here illegally.
And the answer to that, I've laid out a very, very detailed immigration plan on my website. We're going to build a wall, triple the border patrol. We're going to end sanctuary cities. And let me tell you how we're going to do that.
We're going to cut off federal taxpayer funds to any city that defies federal immigration laws.
CRUZ: We're going to end welfare benefits for anyone who is here illegally. And the thing to understand, Stephen, we can solve these problems. It's not that we don't know how to do it. It's that we're lacking the political will. Neither of the parties in Washington wants to do this.
The Democrats support illegal immigration because they view those illegal immigrants as potential voters and far too many of the Republicans are doing the bidding of Wall Street and the special interest and they view it as cheap labor.
CRUZ: We need instead leadership that works for the working men and women of this country. We need an immigration system that takes care of the jobs of the working men and women of this country.
TAPPER: Senator Rubio, did you want to weigh in?
RUBIO: Well, I would add when you talk about the millions of green cards that are coming in, those aren't actually workers at all. They are just coming in primarily based on family connection. And ;let me tell you, when my parents came in 1956, I acknowledge that my parents came to the U.S. on a family-based system.
The problem is nothing looks like it did 60 years ago. The 21st Century economy simply is not creating enough jobs for people that don't have skills. When my parents came, they had a very limited education. My father stopped going to school when he was 9 years old because his mother died and he had to work. And he would work the next 70 years of his life and never go back to school. And I'm grateful every day that America welcomed them.
But today in the 21st Century, 60 years later, finding jobs when you don't have skills is very difficult. We need to move to a merit- based system of immigration, not just on H-1B, particularly on green cards. The primary criteria for bringing someone from abroad in the 21st Century should be, what skills do you have? What business are you going to open? What investment are you going to make? What job are you going to be able to do when you arrive in the United States?
TAPPER: Education obviously plays a large role when it comes to jobs and the economy. The United States has long been falling behind others in the industrialized world. American students currently rank 27th out of 34 countries in math and 17th in reading.
Mr. Trump, you've called the education standards known as Common Core a disaster. What are your specific objections to Common Core?
TRUMP: Education through Washington, D.C. I don't want that. I want local education. I want the parents, and I want all of the teachers, and I want everybody to get together around a school and to make education great.
And it was very interesting, I was with Dr. Ben Carson today, who is endorsing me, by the way, tomorrow morning, and he is...
TRUMP: We were talking. We spoke for over an hour on education. And he has such a great handle on it. He wants competitive schools. He wants a lot of different things that are terrific, including charter schools, by the way, that the unions are fighting like crazy. But charter schools work and they work very well.
So there are a lot of things. But I'm going to have Ben very involved with education, something that's an expertise of his.
TAPPER: OK. But just to clarify, the Common Core standards were developed by the states, states and localities voluntarily adopt them, and they come up with their own curricula to meet those standards. So when you say "education by Washington, D.C.," what do you mean?
TRUMP: You're right, Jake. But it has been taken over by the federal government. It was originally supposed to be that way. And certainly sounds better that way. But it has all been taken over now by the bureaucrats in Washington, and they are not interested in what's happening in Miami or in Florida, in many cases.
Now in some cases they would be. But in many cases they are more interested in their paycheck and the big bureaucracy than they are taking care of the children.
TAPPER: Governor Kasich, you have called opposition to Common Core hysteria. What is your response to grassroots conservatives who do not agree with you?
KASICH: Well, look, all I'm in favor of in Ohio is high standards. First of all, let me tell you, I would take 125 federal education programs, put them in four buckets, and send them back to the states. OK, I've been working on this for many, many years.
Secondly, Jake, in our state, the state school board sets the standards. And we want high standards because we have not always had high standards, unfortunately. They set the standards and the local school boards develop the curriculum.
Not only did we have that in the law, we reasserted it in the law. And we also want parental advisers in the local school district so that, in fact, you know, frankly, education has to be run at the school board level with a little guidance from the state.
Now on top of that, you want to talk about the 21st Century and what we need to do with our kids? We need to start connecting them to the real world. We need to be training them for the jobs of the 21st Century, not the jobs of 20 years ago.
We need vocational education starting in the seventh grade where kids can get that kind of education that can take them to college, but all the way through their K through 12 they ought to be connected with real-world jobs.
Frankly, what ought to happen is we ought to get them to pursue their God-given talents and connect them with the things that give them passion. And that's exactly what we're doing in Ohio, combined with mentoring programs to talk to kids about what their future can be.
So let me be clear, local control, obviously, high state standards. That's what it is in the state of Ohio.
TAPPER: So, Senator Cruz, let me bring you in. You object to Common Core. Governor Kasich says it's local school boards developing local curriculum to meet higher standards. What's wrong with that?
CRUZ: Common Core is a disaster. And if I am elected president, in the first days as president, I will direct the Department of Education that Common Core ends that day.
CRUZ: Now, let me tell you why you can do that, because it's easy to talk about the problem, but you have to understand the solutions. The Obama administration has abused executive power in forcing common core on the states. It has used race-to-the-top funds to effectively blackmail and force the states to adopt common core.
Now, the one silver lining of Obama abusing executive power is that everything done with executive power can be undone with executive power, and I intend to do that.
Beyond that, though, Jake, I intend to work to abolish the federal Department of Education and send education back to the states and back to the local governments.
And let me say finally, the most important reform we can do in education after getting the federal government out of it, is expand school choice; expand charter schools and home schools and private schools and vouchers, and scholarships. And give every child -- African American, Hispanic -- every child in need an opportunity to access to a quality education.
TAPPER: Let's move on to another topic of particular interest here in Florida. Florida has the highest percentage of seniors in the country. There are 3.1 million senior citizens here who receive Social Security benefits, and they're very interested in hearing what you candidates intend to do to keep Social Security going for future generations.
Let me turn now to my colleague Dana Bash.
BASH: Senator Rubio, you argue Americans your age must have an honest conversation about making Social Security sustainable. For people under 55, you want to raise the retirement age and also reduce benefits for wealthier Americans. So, what should the new retirement age be? And how much will those benefits be cut?
RUBIO: Well, first of all, let me say that you're right, there are about 3 million seniors in Florida with Social Security and Medicare. One of them is my mother, who happens to be here today. I'm against any changes to Social Security that are bad for my mother. And we don't have to make any changes for them. But anyone who tells you that Social Security can stay the way it is is lying. Any politician that goes around saying, "We don't have to anything; all we have to do is raise a few taxes or just leave it the way it is," they're not being honest with you.
Social Security will go bankrupt and it will bankrupt the country with it. So what it will require is people younger, like myself, people that are 30 years away from retirement, to accept that our Social Security is going to work differently than it did for my parents.
For example, instead of retiring at 67 the way I'm supposed to retire, I'd have to retire at 68. If I were still in the Senate, I'd be one of the youngest people there.
If I've made a lot of money, my Social Security benefit will not grow as fast as someone who made less money. And by the way, Medicare could very well become the option of using my Medicare benefit to buy a private plan that I like better. Medicare Advantage does that now.
These are not unreasonable changes to ask of someone like myself who is 25 or 30 years away from retirement, in exchange for leaving the program undisturbed for the people that are on it now or about to retire, and ensuring that we do not bankrupt our country and that this program still exists when my children retire, when my grandchildren retire, when I retire.
BASH: Senator, the question was specific though. You made your plan very clear about generally what you want to do, but how high would the retirement age go and how much would you cut those benefits?
RUBIO: Well, I'm sorry I didn't answer that part. So the thing is that my -- my generation, someone my age would retire at 68. We would continue to allow it to increase the retirement age for future generations until it hit 70. And so my children would retire at 70. I would retire at 68. It would be a graduating scale over a period of time.
But again I'm talking about people like myself and Ted who are 45 years old. We're years away from retirement. For people that are on it now, we don't have to change it at all. If we don't do anything, we will have a debt crisis. It's not a question of if. It is a question of when. In less than five years, only 17 percent of our budget will remain discretionary; 83 percent of the federal budget in less than five years will all be spent on Medicare, Medicaid, the interest on the debt.
That's -- all of it will be eaten up by that. That's a debt crisis. And it will be debilitating to our economy and our children deserve better than to inherit a debt crisis.
BASH: Mr. Trump, you don't want to raise the retirement age, and you also don't want to cut benefits even for wealthier Americans. But according to the Social Security Administration, unless adjustments are made, Social Security is projected to run out of money within 20 years. So specifically, what would you do to stop that from happening?
TRUMP: Well, first of all, I want you to understand that the Democrats, and I've watched them very intensely, even though it's a very, very boring thing to watch, that the Democrats are doing nothing with Social Security. They're leaving it the way it is. In fact, they want to increase it. They want to actually give more.
And that's what we're up against. And whether we like it or not, that is what we're up against.
I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is; to make this country rich again; to bring back our jobs; to get rid of deficits; to get rid of waste, fraud and abuse, which is rampant in this country, rampant, totally rampant.
TRUMP: And it's my absolute intention to leave Social Security the way it is. Not increase the age and to leave it as is.
You have 22 years, you have a long time to go. It's not long in terms of what we're talking about, but it's still a long time to go, and I want to leave Social Security as is, I want to make our country rich again so we can afford it. I want to bring back our jobs, I want to do things that will make us, that will bring back GDP...
I mean, as an example, GDP was zero essentially for the last two quarters. If that ever happened in China. you would have had a depression like nobody's ever seen before. They go down to 7 percent, 8 percent, and it's a -- it's a national tragedy. We're at zero, we're not doing anything.
We've lost our jobs. We've lost everything. We're losing everything. Our jobs are gone, our businesses are being taken out of the country. I want to make America great again and I want to leave Social Security as is. We're going to get rid of waste, fraud, abuse and bring back business.
BASH: Senator Rubio, I know you want to get in. Hang on one second, I just want to follow up with Mr. Trump. You're talking about waste, fraud and abuse, but an independent bipartisan organization, the Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget, says improper payments like you're talking about, that would only save about $3 billion, but it would take $150 billion to make Social Security solvent. So how would you find that other $147 million?
TRUMP: Because they don't cover most of the subjects. We're the policemen of the world. We take care of the entire world. We're going to have a stronger military, much stronger. Our military is depleted. But we take care of Germany, we take care of Saudi Arabia, we take care of Japan, we take care of South Korea. We take -- every time this maniac from North Korea does anything, we immediately send our ships. We get virtually nothing.
We have 28,000 soldiers on the line, on the border between North and South Korea. We have so many places. Saudi Arabia was making a billion dollars a day, and we were getting virtually nothing to protect them. We are going to be in a different world. We're going to negotiate real deals now, and we're going to bring the wealth back to our country. We owe $19 trillion. We're going to bring wealth back to our country. (APPLAUSE)
BASH: Senator Rubio, will that be enough to save Social Security?
RUBIO: No. And I -- and I think you've outlined why. The numbers don't add up. You know, when I ran for the Senate in 2010, I came out and said we're going to have to make changes to Social Security, and everyone said that's the end of your campaign. In Florida, you can't talk about that, but people know that it's the truth here in Florida.
Fraud is not enough. Certainly, let's wipe out the fraud, but as you said, it won't add up. You already gave those numbers. The second point is on foreign aid. I hear that all the time as well. I'm against any sort of wasting of money on foreign aid, but it's less than 1 percent of our federal budget. The numbers don't add up.
The bottom line is we can't just continue to tip-toe around this and throw out things like I'm going to get at fraud and abuse. Let's get rid of fraud, let's get rid of abuse, let's be more careful about how we spend foreign aid. But you still have hundreds of billions of dollars of deficit that you're going to have to make up.
And here's the thing. If we do not do it, we will have a debt crisis. Not to mention a crisis in Social Security and Medicare. Both parties have taken far too long to deal with it. It is one of the major issues confronting America. It's barely been asked in any of these debates. And we'd better deal with or we're going to have to explain to our children why they inherited this disaster.
BASH: Mr. Trump, Senator Rubio says your numbers don't add up. What's your response? Senator Rubio says that your numbers don't add up. What's your response, Mr. Trump?
TRUMP: Well, I don't know if he's saying that. Look, I'm just saying very simply we have a country that I've never seen anything like it. I've been going over budgets and looking at budgets. We don't bid things out. We don't bid out, as an example, the drug industry, pharmaceutical industry. They don't go out to bid. They just pay almost as if you walk into a drug store. That's what they're paying.
And the reason is they have a fantastic lobby. They take care of all of the senators, the Congressmen. They have great power and they don't bid out. The military is never properly bid. When we go out to military bids, it's not properly bid. And the people that really sell us the product are oftentimes the product we don't want, only because that particular company has political juice, OK?
I'm self-funding my campaign. Nobody is going to be taking care of me. I don't want anybody's money. I will tell you something. We're going to go out to bid in virtually every different facet of our government. We're going to save a fortune. (APPLAUSE)
BASH: Thank you, Mr. Trump. Senator Cruz, you advocate allowing younger workers to put some of their Social Security taxes into personal accounts. What do you say to critics who say that market volatility means that this is a disastrous proposal?
CRUZ: Well, number one, we need to see responsibility. Social Security right now is careening towards insolvency, and it's irresponsible. And any politician that doesn't step forward and address it is not being a real leader. We need to see political courage to take this on and save and strengthen Social Security.
CRUZ: And as president, what I will do for seniors, for anyone at or near retirement, there will be no changes whatsoever. Every benefit will be protected to the letter. But for younger workers, we need to change the rate of growth of benefits so it matches inflation instead of exceeding inflation. And as you noted Dinan, we need to have for younger workers, that a portion of your tax payments are in personal accounts, like the 401(k), that you own, that you control, that you can pass on to your kids and grandkids.
CRUZ: And one of the things that is critically important. Listen, we've got lots of challenges in the world. But the answer can't just be wave a magic wand and say problem go away. You have to understand the problems. You have to have real solutions.
It's like government spending. It is very easy. Hillary Clinton says she'll cut waste, fraud and abuse. If only we had smarter people in Washington, that would fix the problem. You know what? That is the statement of a liberal who doesn't understand government is the problem.
CRUZ: Here's my philosophy. The less government, the more freedom. The fewer bureaucrats, the more prosperity. And there are bureaucrats in...
... Washington right now who are killing jobs and I'll tell you, I know who they are. I will find them and I will fire them.
BASH: Did you justice just compare Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton on this issue?
CRUZ: I will let Donald speak for himself. But I will say, there's a reason, in my campaign I've laid out a very, very specific spend and cut plan, $500 billion. I've specified five major agencies that I would eliminate, 25 programs. And Dana, you know why political candidates don't do that? Because when you do that, the lobbyists attack you. When you specify the programs you would eliminate, then you get attacked. Let's talk for example back in Iowa the first primary. When I went to Iowa and campaigned against ethanol mandates, everyone said that was political suicide. You can't take on ethanol in Iowa. And my opponents on this stage not only didn't do the same. They attacked me and even promised to expand corporate welfare.
If we're going to stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids, you've got to be willing to take on the lobbyists, which means not just some fanciful waste, fraud and abuse, but specifying these are the programs I'll eliminate so that we can take care of the hard working taxpayer.
BASH: Thank you Senator Cruz.
Mr. Trump, would you like to respond?
TRUMP: Yes. If you look back to Iowa, Ted did change his view and his stance on ethanol quite a bit. He did and -- at the end. Not full on, but he did change his view in the hopes of maybe doing well. And you know, I think everybody knows that. It was a front page story all over the place, and he did make a change.
BASH: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: Listen, if you are fed up with Washington, the question you ought to be asking is who is willing to take on Washington? It's easy to have language, I'm fed up with the corruption in Washington. But if you have a candidate who has been funding liberal Democrats and funding the Washington establishment, it's very hard to imagine how suddenly this candidate is going to take on Washington.
When I stood up and led the fight against Obamacare, Washington was furious and attacked me, but I did it because I was honoring my commitment to the hard-working men and women of this country who are losing their jobs because of Obamacare.
CRUZ: When I led the fight against amnesty, it's because I was standing with the people...
... against Washington. And if you want to tell people you're going to stand against Washington, the question we should ask is, when have you ever stood up to the lobbyists in Washington?
BASH: OK. Mr. Trump, I'll let you respond because he mentioned you but then I'm going to move to Governor Kasich. Go ahead.
TRUMP: Well, that's fine. First of all, Ted was in favor of amnesty. So there's no question about that. And Sheriff Joe Arpaio recently endorsed me and there's nobody tougher on the borders than Sheriff Joe. And Jeff Sessions, one of the most respected Senator in Washington, an incredible man, also endorsed me.
And there's nobody that knows more about the borders than Senator Jeff Sessions. I would say this. We're all in this together. We're going to come up with solutions. We're going to find the answers to things. And so far I cannot believe how civil it's been up here.
BASH: Governor Kasich, let's get back to Social Security. You told a voter in New Hampshire to quote, "Get over cuts to Social Security benefits" because you have a reform plan and that is just the reality you say that is out there. Why is cutting Social Security payments the solution?
KASICH: Well, first of all, we hear about taking on Washington. I took on Washington and I won. I actually got the budget balanced when I was a member of the Congress, the chairman of the budget committee. We paid down a half a trillion dollars of the national debt. We also balanced the budget four years in a row. And we were just growing jobs like crazy and the wage issue was not even an issue then.
I also had a plan in 1999 to save Social Security and take the $5 trillion projected surplus and not only have Social Security for our young people, but also to give them private accounts. Now there are more 18-year-olds who believe they have a better chance of seeing a UFO than a Social Security check and we have a lot of seniors who are very nervous.
KASICH: I have a plan to fix it that doesn't even require raising the retirement age.
If you've had wealth throughout your lifetime, when the time comes to be on Social Security, you'll still get it. It will just simply be less. And for those people who depend on that Social Security, they'll get their full benefit. That's the way it will work. And we don't have to monkey around with the retirement age. And how do I know that? I've done all this before.
This is not a theory. Do you have to take on entitlement programs to balance a budget? Yes. It doesn't mean you have to cut them. It means you need to innovate them, the way we do things in the 21st Century.
So not only did we have a balanced budget in Washington, but when I went to Ohio, we were $8 billion in the hole and now we're $2 billion in the black. Our credit is strong. We're up 400,000 jobs. And I want to go back with the same formula to beat the Washington insiders again.
And I will get it done, and this country will be much stronger economically as a result.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
Let's take a broader look at the Republican Party now. Mr. Trump, one of the concerns your opponents have expressed throughout the course of this campaign is the notion that in their estimation you hold views that are at direct odds with Republican Party tradition.
How are you looking to fundamentally change the Republican Party as its potential leader? What should the Republican Party stand for in 2016?
TRUMP: Well, first of all, I don't really think that. I think that I hold views that are very similar to many of the people. We are more inclusive. And if you look at the polls and if you look at the millions of people that have been pouring into the polls, it's, again, the biggest story.
You look at all of these people that are coming in, something is happening. I am different in one primary respect, and that's trade. I feel that we have had horrible negotiators, horrible trade deals. The jobs in this country are disappearing, and especially the good jobs.
You look at the recent jobs reports, which are really done so that presidents and politicians look good, because all of these people looking for jobs, when they give up, they go home, they give up, and they are considered statistically employed. So that's that.
But I will say, trade deals are absolutely killing our country. The devaluations of their currencies by China and Japan and many, many other countries, and we don't do it because we don't play the game. and the only way we're going to be able to do it is we're going to have to do taxes unless they behave.
If you don't tax certain products coming into this country from certain countries that are taking advantage of the United States and laughing at our stupidity, we're going to continue to lose businesses and we're going to continue to lose jobs.
And if you look at the average worker over the last 12 years, their salary and their pay have gone down, not up. It has gone down. And I think that's why there has been such an outpouring of love to what I'm saying.
TAPPER: Thank you, Mr. Trump. Senator Cruz...
TAPPER: ... Donald Trump has so far won 35 percent of the vote. Those people are signing up to his vision of the Republican Party. What do you think is wrong with that vision?
CRUZ: Well, Donald is right, for example, he was just talking about international trade. He's right about the problems. But his solutions don't work. So, for example, his solution on international trade, he proposed earlier a 45 percent tariff on foreign goods.
Now he backed away from that immediately and he may come back with a different number tonight. I don't know where he'll be tonight. But I'll tell you what happens. You know, we've seen prior presidential candidates who proposed massive tariffs, you know, Smoot- Hawley led to the Great Depression.
And the effect of a 45 percent tariff would be when you go to the store, when you go to Walmart, when you are shopping for your kids, the prices you pay go up 45 percent. But not only that, when you put those in place, because a tariff is a tax on you, the American people, but the response of that is that the countries we trade with put in their own tariffs.
A much better solution that works is the tax plan I've laid out which would enable our exports to be tax-free, would tax our imports, would not raise prices for Americans, and would not result in reciprocal tariffs. Fix the problem and that's what's missing from what Donald says.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, we'll give you a chance to respond.
TRUMP: The 45 percent tax is a threat. It was not a tax, it was a threat. It will be a tax if they don't behave. Take China as an example. I have many friends, great manufacturers, they want to go into China. They can't. China won't let them. We talk about free trade. It's not tree free trade, it's stupid trade.
China dumps everything that they have over here. No tax, no nothing, no problems, no curfews (ph), no anything. We can't get into China. I have the best people, manufacturers, they can't get in. When they get in, they have to pay a tremendous tax.
The 45 percent is a threat that if they don't behave, if they don't follow the rules and regulations so that we can have it equal on both sides, we will tax you. It doesn't have to be 45, it could be less. But it has to be something because our country and our trade and our deals and most importantly our jobs are going to hell.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: Jake, let me be clear what Donald just said. He said that that 45 percent tax is a threat. And mind you, you are paying the tax. It's not China that pays the tax. It's you, the working men and women.
So ask yourself at home: How is this helping you? If your wages have been stagnant for 20 years; if you can't pay the bills, how does it help you to have a president come and say, "I'm going to jack -- I'm going to put a 45 percent tax on diapers when you buy diapers, on automobiles when you buy automobiles, on clothing when you buy clothing." That hurts you.
It's why we've got to get beyond rhetoric of China bad, and actually get to how do you solve the problem. Because this solution would hurt jobs and hurt hard-working taxpayers in America.
TRUMP: Jake, I have to say -- honestly, it's just the opposite. What will happen if they don't behave, we will put on a tax of some amount, and it could be a large amount, and we will start building those factories and those plants. Instead of in China, we'll build them here. And people will buy products from here, rather than buying it through China where we're being ripped off. And we have a $505 billion trade deficit right now.
So we'll build our factories here and we'll make our own products. And that's the way it should be done. And the way we've been doing it for the last long period of time is our country -- our country is in serious, serious trouble. It's a bubble and it's going to explode, believe me.
TAPPER: All right. We're going to take a very quick break. When we come back, we'll have much more of this Republican presidential debate from the University of Miami right after this. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to the CNN Republican presidential debate in Miami, Florida.
Mr. Trump, let me start with you. Last night, you told CNN quote, "Islam hates us?" Did you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims.
TRUMP: I mean a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.
DINAN: Do you want to clarify the comment at all?
TRUMP: Well, you know, I've been watching the debate today. And they're talking about radical Islamic terrorism or radical Islam. But I will tell you this. There's something going on that maybe you don't know about, maybe a lot of other people don't know about, but there's tremendous hatred. And I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper.
DINAN: Senator Rubio, your supporter, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, said in response to Mr. Trump's comment last night, I'm sorry -- Senator Jeff Flake, I apologize. Your supporter, Republican Senator Jeff Flake said in response to that comment, Republicans are better than this. Do you agree?
RUBIO: Well, let me say, I know that a lot of people find appeal in the things Donald says cause he says what people wish they could say. The problem is, presidents can't just say anything they want. It has consequences, here and around the world.
RUBIO: And so let me give you one. Two days ago, I met this extraordinary couple who were on furlough because they are missionaries in Bangladesh. It's a very tough place to be a missionary. It's Muslim.
And their safety and security very much relies upon friendly Muslims that live along side them, that may not convert, but protect them and certainly look out for them. And their mission field really are Muslims that are looking to convert to Christianity as well. And they tell me that today they have a very hostile environment in which to operate in because the news is coming out that in America, leading political figures are saying that America doesn't like Muslims. So this is a real impact. There's no doubt that radical Islam is a danger in the world.
I can also tell you if you go to any national cemetery, especially Arlington, you're going to see crescent moons there. If you go anywhere in the world you're going see American men and women serving us in uniform that are Muslims.
RUBIO: And they love America. And as far as I know, no one on this stage has served in uniform in the United States military. Anyone out there that has the uniform of the United States on and is willing to die for this country is someone that loves America. No matter what their religious background may be.
DINAN: Mr. Trump?
TRUMP: Marco talks about consequences. Well, we've had a lot of consequences, including airplanes flying into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and could have been the White House. There have been a lot of problems.
Now you can say what you want, and you can be politically correct if you want. I don't want to be so politically correct. I like to solve problems. We have a serious, serious problem of hate.
TRUMP: There is tremendous hate. There is tremendous hate. Where large portions of a group of people, Islam, large portions want to use very, very harsh means. Let me go a step further. Women are treated horribly. You know that. You do know that. Women are treated horribly, and other things are happening that are very, very bad.
Now I will say this, there is tremendous hatred. The question was asked, what do you think? I said, there is hatred. Now it would be very easy for me to say something differently. And everybody would say, oh, isn't that wonderful.
DINAN: Mr. Trump, thank you.
TRUMP: We better solve the problem before it's too late.
DINAN: Senator Rubio?
(APPLAUSE) RUBIO: Well, here we go. See, I'm not interested in being politically correct. I'm not interested in being politically correct. I'm interested in being correct.
RUBIO: And in order to be correct on this issue, here's the bottom line. We do work. There is -- Islam has a major problem on its hands. It has a significant percentage of its adherents, particular in the Sunni faith but also in the Shia, who have been radicalized. And are willing to fly planes into a building and kill innocent people.
There is no doubt about that. It is also true if you look around the world at the challenges we face, we are going to have to work together with other -- with Muslims, who do not -- who are not radicals. We're going to have to work with the Jordanian kingdom.
We're going to have to work with the Saudis. We're going to have to work with the Gulf kingdoms. We're going to have to work with the Egyptians to defeat, for example, ISIS.
RUBIO: It will take a Sunni Arab movement to defeat them.
And so I think you can be correct without meaning to be politically correct. We are going to have to work with people of the Muslim faith even as Islam itself faces a serious crisis within it of radicalization.
TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.
Governor Kasich, do you think Islam hates us?
KASICH: No, I don't. I think there is a sect of, you know, this radical Islam that is really, really serious, and poses the greatest threat to us today. There isn't any question. And that's why the whole world has to work together to make sure that we don't have proliferation of these weapons of mass destruction.
But look, I was there when, and saw it, when the Egyptian ambassador to the United States was in the Rose Garden bringing the Arab Muslim world to work with us to repel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. The fact is that if we're going to defeat ISIS, we're going to have to have these countries. And they are Egypt. And they are Saudi Arabia. And they are Jordan. And they are the Gulf states.
And we're going to have in some way or another a rapprochement with Turkey. And I frankly think the Europeans went in the wrong direction when they rejected Turkey from joining in to the economic sphere of Europe. The simple fact of the matter is, a lot of these Muslim countries, they are just -- they can't believe the stuff they see out of people who have distorted their faith.
Look, the people who represent radical Islam, they want to destroy everything that we're about and other Muslims who don't share their view. But at the end of the day, we've got to bring the world together, the civilized world. And we all speak with one voice to make sure that people who sit on the fence understand what civilization is, and we represent it, and equality and hope for everybody.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor Kasich.
Mr. Trump, I want to ask you about something else you've said during the course of this campaign. You said that the U.S. has to, quote, "take out" the families of terrorists. When it was pointed out that targeting civilians is against the Geneva Conventions, you said, quote, "So they can kill us, but we can't kill them?"
It is against federal, military and international law to target civilians. So how will you order the military to target the families of suspected terrorists, while also abiding by the law?
TRUMP: Let me go back to the other just for a second. In large mosques, all over the Middle East, you have people chanting "death to the USA." Now, that does not sound like a friendly act to me.
As far as the families are concerned, and as far as the law is concerned, we have a law -- this all started with your question on water boarding. We have a law that doesn't allow right now water boarding. They have no laws. They have no rules. They have no regulations. They chop off heads. They drown 40, 50, 60 people at a time in big steel cages, pull them up an hour later, everyone dead. And we're working on a different set of parameters.
Now, we have to obey the laws. Have to obey the laws. But we have to expand those laws, because we have to be able to fight on at least somewhat of an equal footing or we will never ever knock out ISIS and all of the others that are so bad.
We better expand our laws or we're being a bunch of suckers, and they are laughing at us. They are laughing at us, believe me.
TAPPER: Senator Rubio, would you as president pursue a policy of targeting the families of suspected terrorists?
RUBIO: No, of course not. And we don't have to in order to defeat terrorists. The way you defeat terrorists is pretty straightforward. It's difficult to do, but it has to be done. When I'm president of the United States, the best intelligence agencies in the world that right now have been hamstrung. They're going to be expanded. And the best intelligence agencies in the world are going to find terrorists.
And then the best military in the world, which needs to be rebuilt because -- because Barack Obama is gutting our military. He's going to leave us with the smallest Army since the end of World War II, and the smallest Navy in a century, and the smallest Air Force we've ever had.
We are going to rebuild that military and that military is going to find the terrorists and destroy them. And if we capture any of these terrorists alive, they're not going to have the right to remain silent. And they're not going to go to a courtroom in Manhattan. They're going to go to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and we will find out everything they know and we'll do so legally.
(APPLAUSE) TAPPER: Senator Cruz, you've talked about changing the rules of engagement in battle against ISIS. Would that include targeting the families of suspected terrorists?
CRUZ: No, of course not. We've never targeted innocent civilians and we're not going to start now. But listen, Jake, I understand. People are scared and for seven years, we've faced terrorist attacks and President Obama lectures Americans on Islamophobia. That is maddening.
But the answer is not simply to yell, "China bad, Muslims bad." You've got to understand the nature of the threats we're facing and how you deal with them. And yes, it is true there are millions of radical Islamic terrorists who seek to kill us. We need a president, commander in chief focused on fighting them.
CRUZ: And I'll tell you, frankly one concern I have with Donald is that although his language is quite incendiary, when you look at his substantive policies on Iran, he has said he would not rip up this Iranian nuclear deal. I think that's a mistake.
The Ayatollah Khomeini wants nuclear weapons to murder us. I'll give you another example, dealing with Islamic radical terrorism. On Israel, Donald has said he wants to be neutral between Israel and the Palestinians.
As president, I will not be neutral. And let me say this week, a Texan, Taylor Force. He was an Eagle Scout, he was a West Point graduate, he was an Army veteran. He was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist this week in Israel, and I don't think we need a commander in chief...
... who is neutral between the Palestinian terrorists and one of our strongest allies in the world, the nation of Israel.
HEWITT: Thank you Senator Cruz.
Mr. Trump. we're going to come to you in a second, but wait. I want to go to Hugh Hewitt, who has questions on this exact line of subject.
HEWITT: Mr. Trump, I want to follow-up on the quote that Senator Cruz used. You said you would want to be, quote, "sort of a neutral guy". He did mention Taylor Force. He was a West Point graduate, he was a war hero. He was a Vanderbilt graduate student.
He was killed in a Palestinian terror attack near Tel Aviv, many others were killed. And the Israeli government says the Palestinian authority is inciting this. Do you still want to stay neutral when the Palestinian authority is inciting these attacks.
TRUMP: First of all, there's nobody on this stage that's more pro Israel than I am. OK. There's nobody.
TRUMP: I am pro-Israel.
TRUMP: I was the grand marshall, not so long ago, of the Israeli Day Parade down 5th avenue. I've made massive contributions to Israel. I have a lot of -- I have tremendous love for Israel. I happen to have a son-in-law and a daughter that are Jewish, OK? And two grandchildren that are Jewish.
TRUMP: But I will tell you, I think if we're going to ever negotiate a peace settlement, which every Israeli wants, and I've spoken to the toughest and the sharpest, they all want peace, I think it would be much more helpful is -- I'm a negotiator. If I go in, I'll say I'm pro-Israel and I've told that to everybody and anybody that would listen.
But I would like to at least have the other side think I'm somewhat neutral as to them, so that we can maybe get a deal done. Maybe we can get a deal. I think it's probably the toughest negotiation of all time. But maybe we can get a deal done.
HEWITT: Senator Trump...
TRUMP: And, by the way, just so you understand, as far as Iran, I would have never made that deal. I think it's maybe the world deal I've ever seen. I think it's the worst deal I've ever seen negotiated. I will be so tough on them and ultimately that deal will be broken unless they behave better than they've ever behaved in their lives, which is probably unlikely. That deal will be broken.
HEWITT: Thank you Mr. Trump. Senator Cruz and Senator Rubio.
CRUZ: You know, we need a president who understands the national security interests of this country. The reason we are friends and allies with Israel is they are a liberal Democratic country that share our values, they're our strongest ally in the region.
We get billions in intelligence resources, billions in military resources. And the Palestinian Authority that Donald, along with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama say they want to treat neutrally, the same as Israel. The Palestinian Authority is in a unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization.
They pay the families of these terrorists who murder people. And this is exactly the moral relativism Barack Obama has. And the answer is not scream, all Muslims bad.
Let me give you an example of a Muslim for example, we ought to be standing with, President el-Sisi of Egypt, a president of a Muslim country who is targeting radical...
... Islamic terrorist. HEWITT: Senator Rubio.
CRUZ: He's hunting them down and stomping them.
HEWITT: Thank you.
CRUZ: Our focus needs to be on keeping this country safe.
HEWITT: I want to go back to the Israeli government's assertion that the Palestinian Authority is inciting the convulsion of violence. Do you agree.
RUBIO: Well, that's undeniable. First of all, they've said, they've encouraged people to do so. And you've seen the speeches of the Palestinian Authority president how glorious this is that they're doing these sorts of things.
But let me go back for a moment. The policy Donald has outlined, I don't know if he realizes, is an anti-Israeli policy. Maybe that's not your intent but here's why it is an anti-Israeli policy. There is no peace deal possible with the Palestinians at this moment. There just isn't.
RUBIO: Because there's no one to negotiate with. The Palestinian Authority is not interested in a serious deal and they are now in union with Hamas, an organization whose specific purpose is the destruction of the Jewish state. Every time that Israel has turned over territory of any kind, be is Gaza, or now in Judea and Sumaira, it is used as a launching pad to attack Israel. And that's what will happen again.
These groups are not interested in a deal with Israel. What they are interested in is ultimately removing the Jewish state and occupying its entire territory.
So maybe in 30 years the conditions will exist, but they do not exist now.
HEWITT: Mr. Trump, and then I'll come to you Senator Kasich.
RUBIO: And To have a president forcing the Israelis to the table is harmful to the Israeli and emboldens Israel's enemies.
HEWITT: Thank you senator.
Mr. Trump a response and then we'll go to Governor Kasich.
TRUMP: If I become president of the United States, one of the things that will be an absolute priority is number one, protection of Israel, but also seeing if a deal can be made, the toughest deal, the toughest negotiation there probably is of any kind no matter where you look, no matter how hard you look.
But I would like to give it a shot. Very, very pro-Israel, nobody more pro-Israel. But I would love to give it a shot. And I have to tell you this, Hugh. I have friend, Israelis, non-Israelis, people from New York City that happen to be Jewish and love Israel, and some are very tough people, every single one of them, they know it's tough, but every single one of them wants to see if we could ever have peace in Israel.
And some believe it's possible. It may not be, in which case we'll find out. But it would be a priority if I become president to see what I could do.
HEWITT: Governor Kasich, do you agree the Israeli government that the Palestinian Authority is inciting this violence?
KASICH: Well, there's no question. They were saying that the Israelis intended to go to the Dome of the Rock. And I mean, when you think about this, thank goodness we work with Israelis to give them the Iron Dome where they can protect themselves against all the missiles that were flying in. Could you imagine living in like Miami here and having people shooting missiles in?
Secondly, there was just an article the other day, Hugh, that I know you're familiar with the Israelis are learning to train underground in combat because the Palestinians now, Hamas in particular, is digging these tunnels trying to get under Israel. They're coming at them from above, they're trying to come at them under the ground.
And I just have to tell you this, I don't believe there is any long-term permanent peace solution. And I think pursuing that is the wrong thing to do. I believe that every day that we can stability in that region by supporting the Israelis and making sure they have the weapons and the security that they need with our 100 percent backing is the way to proceed in the Middle East in regard to Israel.
HEWITT: Thank you, Governor. Senator Cruz, I want to stay in the region. Just this week the head of U.S. Central Command, General General Lloyd Austin, essentially said it's going to take a lot more troops on the ground to fix -- to end the ISIS threat in Syria and Iraq.
From the beginning of this campaign, you have said you will follow the judgment of military commanders in the Pentagon. So here's the commander saying we need a lot more troops on the ground. Will you follow that advice and inject Americans again into what is in essence is metastasizing Sunni-Shia civil war?
CRUZ: We need to do whatever is necessary to utterly defeat ISIS. And that's needs to be driven not by politicians but by military expertise and judgment. Right now we're not using a fraction of the tools that we have. We're not using our overwhelming air power. We're not arming the Kurds. Those need to be the first steps. And then we need to put whatever ground power is needed to carry it out.
But, you know, a question that actually Jake asked, and I'm glad to come back to it now, is rules of engagement. We have right now our troops engaged in combat but President Obama has rules of engagement that are so strict that their arms are tied behind their back.
They're not able to fight. They're not able to defend themselves. They're not able to kill the enemy. And I have got to tell you, Hugh, I think that is wrong. It is immoral. And I give my word to every soldier, sailor, and airman, and marine, and every wife and husband, every son and daughter, every mother and father, that will end in January 2017.
HEWITT: Governor Kasich, if it takes 20,000 or 30,000, if the Pentagon says that's what needs to be done, will you follow their advice?
KASICH: Hugh, I've said all along and laid out my foreign policy, I'm going to remind everybody that 55 percent of the foreign policy experts in this country said I was the best to be commander-in- chief. I spent 18 years on the Defense Committee, Armed Services, and then I was in the Pentagon with Donald Rumsfeld after 9/11, in and out for a couple of years.
We absolutely have to win this with a coalition. Arabs have to be with us. The Europeans have to understand that this threat is closer to them than even is closer -- is as close as it is to us. And in addition to that, you have to be in the air and you have to be on the ground.
And you bring all the force you need. It has got to be "shock and awe" in the military-speak. Then once it gets done, and we will wipe them out, once it gets done, it settles down, we come home and let the regional powers redraw the map if that's what it takes.
HEWITT: Mr. Trump, more troops? TRUMP: We really have no choice. We have to knock out ISIS. We have to knock the hell out of them. We have to get rid of it. And then come back and rebuild our country, which is falling apart. We have no choice.
HEWITT: How many...
TRUMP: I would listen to the generals, but I'm hearing numbers of 20,000 to 30,000. We have to knock them out fast. Look, we're not allowed to fight. We can't fight. We're not knocking out the oil because they don't want to create environmental pollution up in the air.
I mean, these are things that nobody even believes. They think we're kidding. They didn't want to knock out the oil because of what it's going to do to the carbon footprint. We don't fight like we used to fight. We used to fight to win. Now we fight for no reason whatsoever. We don't even know what we're doing.
TRUMP: So, the answer is we have to knock them out. We have to knock them out fast. And we have to get back home. And we have to rebuild our country which is falling apart.
TAPPER: Thank you, Mr. Trump.
Let's turn from current conflicts to those who have served in conflicts.
Senator Rubio, according to a V.A. study, of the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day, 17 of them have no connection to the V.A. The V.A. believes that this lack of connection is one of the reasons for this tragically high suicide rate.
What specifically would you do as president to make sure that veterans in crisis are able to get the help they need?
RUBIO: Well, first let me say that one out of four calls to our office is about a veteran here in Florida that's struggling with the V.A. my brother is a veteran. He's struggling with the V.A.
The other day, we heard this horrible story. It was a headline in USA Today, and it said, "Calls to the V.A. Suicide Hotline Went to Voicemail." Well, about a few days ago, we now found out that one of the gentlemen -- one of the veterans who left a voicemail committed suicide. And they happened to call him back the day after he died.
People need to be held accountable for this. One of the things I'm proudest of is that in my time in the U.S. Senate working with Jeff Miller here from Florida in a bipartisan way, and I'll give him credit -- Bernie Sanders was a part of this -- we passed a V.A. accountability bill. And what it did is it created now a law that gives the V.A. secretary, because of the law I passed, it gives the V.A. secretary the power to fire people that aren't doing a good job.
Senior executives should be held accountable if the V.A. outreach isn't working. The problem is no one's being held accountable. Even after we passed that law, no one's been fired for no outreach. No one's been fired for calls going to the voicemail. No one's been disciplined. No one's been demoted.
When I'm president of the United States, if you work at the V.A. and you are not doing a good job, you will be fired from your job at the V.A. (APPLAUSE)
TAPPER: Governor Kasich, the Veterans Affairs Department is one of the biggest line items in the domestic budget. As part of its attempt to cut costs, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives just voted to try to reduce spending in the post-9/11 GI Bill.
Should veterans' benefits be part of attempts to reduce the deficit?
KASICH: I don't -- I haven't seen the provisions of that bill, Jake. My initial instincts are no. And let me just say about the V.A. When a veteran comes home, they ought to have access to healthcare wherever they want to go at any time, number one.
Number two, the Veterans Administration needs to be restructured. It needs to be downsized and spread out. It needs to be so responsive to the needs of the veterans.
And secondly, the Pentagon needs to share the information of returning veterans with the veterans' service operations in the states and with the job people in the states so that when a veteran comes home, they can be linked with a job.
And when that happens, that means that every veteran will get work, because they're our golden employees. No veteran ought to be without healthcare; no veteran ought to be homeless; and no veteran ought to be unemployed in the United States of America.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor Kasich.
Let's turn to another issue of real importance here in Florida. Just over a week from now, President Obama will visit Cuba, the first time in 88 years that a sitting U.S. president will set foot in Cuba.
Two of you on this stage have parents who were born in Cuba and moved to the United States. Let's go back to my colleague Dana Bash.
BASH: Senator Rubio, Donald Trump agrees with President Obama in his decision to reengage diplomatically in Cuba. The majority of Americans seem to agree with that as well. So why are President Obama, Donald Trump and the majority of Americans wrong?
RUBIO: Well, I would love the relationship between Cuba and the United States to change. But it will require Cuba to change, at least its government. Today, it has not. The fact of the matter is that after these changes were made -- after these changes were made, there are now millions and hundreds of millions of dollars that will flow to the Castro regime.
It will now allow them to become set permanent and in stone. They will now be able to carry out a transition where the military continues to run the country there. They'll put a puppet figure forward as their new president. And nothing will change for the Cuban people.
There has not been a single democratic opening; not a single change on the island in human rights. In fact, things are worse than they were before this opening. The only thing that's changed as a result of this opening is that now the Cuban government has more sources of money from which to build out their repressive apparatus and maintain themselves there permanently.
And we asked nothing in return. Compare that to the changes that were required in Burma. And by no means is Burma a perfect country. But at least when there was a democratic opening to Burma, they were required to make some democratic openings. When there was a diplomatic opening, it required democratic opening. And today, the former minority party is now the majority party in their legislative body.
He asked nothing in return and we are getting nothing in return. And Cuba and its regime remains an anti-American communist dictatorship, helped North Korea evade U.N. sanctions. It's harboring fugitives of American justice, including people stealing our Medicare money and moving back to Cuba, all in exchange for nothing.
BASH: Mr. Trump, you said the concept of opening Cuba is fine. You said the concept of opening Cuba is fine. Why do you agree with President Obama and disagree with what Senator Rubio just said?
TRUMP: Well, I don't really agree with President Obama. I think I'm somewhere in the middle. What I want is I want a much better deal to be made because right now, Cuba is making -- as usual with our country, we don't make good deal. We don't have our right people negotiating, we have people that don't have a clue.
As an example, I heard recently where the threat was made that they want reparations for years of abuse by the United States, and nobody's talking about it and they'll end up signing a deal and then we'll get sued for $400 billion or $1 trillion.
All that stuff has to be agreed to now. We don't want to get sued after the deal is made. So I don't agree with President Obama, I do agree something should be -- should take place. After 50 years, it's enough time, folks. But we have to make a good deal and we have to get rid of all the litigation that's going to happen.
This was just a little story but it was a big story to me because I said oh, here we go, we make a deal, then get sued for a tremendous amount of money for reparations. So I want to do something, but it's got to be done intelligently. We have to make good deal.
BASH: Senator Rubio, I know you want to get in. But just to be clear, Mr. Trump, are you saying that if you were president, you would continue the diplomatic relations or would you reverse them?
TRUMP: I would want to make a good deal, I would want to make a strong, solid, good deal because right now, everything is in Cuba's favor. Right now, everything, every single aspect of this deal is in Cuba's favor. It the same way as the Iran deal.
We never walked -- we never -- all we do is keep giving. We give and give and give.
BASH: But Mr. Trump, just to be clear, there is an embassy that you would have to decide whether it would be open or whether you would close it. Which would it be? In Havana.
TRUMP: I would probably have the embassy closed until such time as a really good deal was made and struck by the United States. (APPLAUSE)
RUBIO: All right, first of all, the embassy is the former consulate. It's the same building. So it could just go back to being called a consulate. We don't have to close it that way. Second of all, I don't know where Cuba is going to use, but if they sue us in a court in Miami, they're going to lose.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
Third, on the issue of a good deal, I know what the good deal. I'll tell you what the good deal now, it's already codified. Here's a good deal -- Cuba has free elections, Cuba stops putting people in jail for speaking out, Cuba has freedom of the press, Cuba kicks out the Russians from Lourdes (ph) and kicks out the Chinese listening station in Berupal (ph) Cuba stops helping North Korea evade U.N. sanctions, Cuba takes all of those fugitives of America justice, including that cop killer from New Jersey, and send her back to the United States and to jail where she belongs. And you know what? Then we can have a relationship with Cuba. That's a good deal.
BASH: Thank you, Senator Rubio. Senator Cruz, if you become president, would you reverse course and once again break diplomatic relations with Cuba?
CRUZ: Yes, I would. And you know, I think this exchange actually highlights a real choice for Republican primary voters. When it comes to foreign policy, do you want to continue on the same basic trajectory as the last seven years of the Obama foreign policy? When it comes to these deals, Cuba and Iran, they were negotiated by Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.
There's a real difference between us. Donald supported Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. And what he said right now is that he agrees in principle with what they're doing. The only thing he thinks is that they should negotiate a little bit better deals, they should be more effective. I have a fundamental disagreement and I think most Republicans and most Americans do, that we shouldn't be allowing billions of dollars to go to nations that hate us to go to Cuba, to go to Iran and to let them use those billions of dollars to try to murder us.
CUBA: Thank you Senator Cruz. Mr. Trump.
TRUMP: Well, if Ted was listening, he would have heard me say something very similar. I said we would not do the deal unless it was going to be a very good deal for us. And I think I said it loud and I think I said it very clear. And I think after 50 years, and I have many friends, I own many properties in Miami, many, many, and I have many people that know and they feel exactly the way I do, make a deal, it would be great, but it's got to be a great deal for the United States, not a bad deal for the United States. As far as Iran is concerned, I would have never made that deal. That is one of the worst deals ever, ever made by this country. It is a disaster. So for Ted to say I agree with this deal, I mean, it's a staple in my speeches that that may he worst single deal I've ever seen negotiated. So don't try to put it on me like it's wonderful, like I love it.
BASH: Senator Cruz, your response?
CRUZ: Well, look. I'll point out first of all it is a matter of public record that Donald supported John Kerry in 2004 over George W. Bush, and he supported Hillary Clinton, gave her two checks in a presidential campaign in 2008. And indeed, once she was secretary of State, he described her as one of the greatest secretaries of State in industry.
CRUZ: And, you know, the point on the Iran deal, his answer to everything is if only if someone smarter were in government, things would be better. No. We don't just need smarter people in government. We need leaders that are protecting American interests.
CRUZ: And when it comes to Iran, Donald has said he would leave the agreement in place and try to renegotiate it, giving the Ayatollah Khomeini over $100 billion. That reflects you do not understand the radical Islam terrorist that is the Ayatollah that wants to murder us.
We need a commander in chief that understands our enemies...
... understands and doesn't give them billions of dollars to threaten our safety and security.
TRUMP: I was against the giving of the money at all cost. I said don't negotiate at all until you get the prisoners back. If the prisoners don't come back early -- three years ago. One of the longest negotiations I've ever seen, by the way. If they don't come back early, I was saying don't negotiate. They come back early.
What you do is you take it back and you say, either give us the prisoners or we double up the sanctions. What we should have done is doubled up the sanctions and made a much better deal. Cause that deal is a disaster.
Ted, the money is largely gone because of incompetent and very, very poor negotiators. But that money, the $150 billion, is largely gone and already spent everywhere but the United States.
BASH: Thank you Mr. Trump. Let's refocus this back on Cuba.
Governor Kasich, a pair of entrepreneurs from Alabama and North Carolina have just received approval to build the first U.S. factory in Cuba, making tractor for small farms. This is a direct result of President Obama's policy in Cuba that we've been talking about. If you were elected would you encourage more U.S. companies to do business like that in Cuba?
KASICH: No, I wouldn't. Listen, I think the problem with the administration, if you talk to our friends around the world, they say what is America doing? You know, you don't support us, we can't figure out where you are.
You won't arm the freedom fighters in Ukraine, we let the Russians trump up some excuse in the business of Russian-speaking people. You had a red line in Syria. You walked away from it. You refused to fund the Syrian rebels, you undercut Egypt and we ended up with the Muslim brotherhood for awhile.
And then we turn our back on Netanyahu when he comes to Congress to talk about his concerns of the Iranian deal. Look, I know in human nature sometimes there's a sense that you make better with your enemies than you do with your friends. And you know what happens when you do that? You make a terrible mistake.
You need to support your friends, you need to hold your enemies out here...
KASICH: ... and you need to negotiate tough deals. The fact is, they need to understand who we are. The Chinese understand. They don't own the South China Sea. They have to stop hacking everything we have in this country or we'll take out their systems. We will arm the Ukrainians so they have lethal defensive aid.
We will destroy ISIS and Mr. Putin, you better understand, you're either with us or you're against us. We're not rattling a sword. You're not our enemy but we're not going to put up with this nonsense any longer.
And a strong America is what the entire world is begging for. Where has America gone is what many of our allies say around the world.
When I'm president, they're going to know exactly where we are because we're coming back.
TAPPER: Thank you governor. Thank you governor. While we're discussing the issues of importance to Floridians, I reached out to the Republican mayor of Miami, Tomas Regalado, to find out what he wanted to hear from you this evening.
Mayor Regalado told me, quote, "Climate change means rising ocean levels, which in south Florida means flooding downtown and in our neighborhoods. It's an every day reality in our city. Will you, as president acknowledge the reality of the scientific consensus about climate change and as president, will you pledge to do something about it?" Unquote.
Senator Rubio, the Miami mayor has endorsed you. Will you honor his request for a pledge and acknowledge the reality of the scientific consensus of climate change and pledge to do something about it?
RUBIO: Well, sure if the climate is changing and one of the reasons is because the climate has always been changing.
RUBIO: There's never been a time when the climate has not changed. I think the fundamental question for a policy maker is, is the climate changing because of something we are doing and if so, is there a law you can pass to fix it?
So on the issue of flooding in Miami, it's caused by two things. Number one, south Florida is largely built on land that was once a swamp. And number two, because if there is higher sea levels or whatever it may be happening, we do need to deal with that through mitigation.
And I have long supported mitigation efforts. But as far as a law that we can pass in Washington to change the weather, there's no such thing.
RUBIO: On the contrary, there is laws they want us to pass. There are laws they want to us pass that would be devastating for our economy or these programs like what the president has put in with the Clean Power Act or all these sorts of things that he's forcing down our throats on the war on coal.
Let me tell you who is going to pay the price of that? Americans are going to pay the price of that. The cost of doing that is going to be rammed down the throats of the American consumer, the single parent, the working families who are going to see increases in the cost of living.
RUBIO: The businesses who are going to leave America because it's more expensive to do business here than anywhere else.
And you know what passing those laws would have -- what impact it would have on the environment? Zero, because China is still going to be polluting and India is still going to be polluting at historic levels. So, I am in favor of a clean environment. My children live in South Florida. My family is being raised here. I want this to be a safe and clean place, but these laws some people are asking us to pass will do nothing for the environment and they will hurt and devastate our economy.
TAPPER: So just to clarify, Senator Rubio, Mayor Regalado when he talks about the reality of the scientific consensus about climate change, the Republican mayor of Miami, he's saying the scientific consensus is that man does contribute to climate change.
When you talk to him, because he is the mayor of Miami and he has endorsed you, do you tell him that he's wrong?
RUBIO: I would say to him that there is no law that they want us to pass that would have any impact on that. If we pass -- if you took the gift list of all of these groups that are asking us to pass these laws and did every single one of them, there would be no change in our environment. Sea level would still rise. All these other things that are happening would continue to go on for a lot of different reasons.
One, because America is not a planet. It's a country. And number two, because these other countries like India and China are more than making up in carbon emissions for whatever we could possibly cut. Here's what he will immediately -- and Mayor Regalado is a great mayor and a good friend -- but here's what he's going to immediately going to start hearing from.
He will immediately start hearing from families in South Florida who are barely making it by, and now their electric bill went up $20 or $30 a month because we just made it more expensive to generate power. That cost will be passed on to working families. I am not going to destroy the U.S. economy for a law that will do nothing for our environent.
TAPPER: Governor Kasich, what would you say to the mayor of Miami? KASICH: Well, I -- I do believe we contribute to climate change, but I don't think it has to be a, you know, either you're for some environmental stringent rules or, you know, you're not going to have any jobs. The fact is, you can have both.
In our state, we've reduced emissions by 30 percent. But let me tell you also what we're trying to do. We want all the sources of energy. We want to dig coal, but we want to clean it when we burn it. We believe in natural gas. We believe in nuclear power.
And you know what else I believe in? I happen to believe in solar energy, wind energy, efficiency, renewables matter.
Now, it doesn't mean because you pursue a policy of being sensitive to the environment, because we don't know how much humans actually contribute. But it is important we develop renewables. Battery technology can unleash an entirely different world.
So the fact is that you can have a strong environmental policy at the same time that you have strong economic growth and they are not inconsistent with one another.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
Senator Cruz, I want to talk a little bit right now about how you gentlemen see the world. Senator Cruz, Colin Powell this week said that the nasty tone of this presidential election is hurting the image of the U.S. abroad. He said, quote, "foreigners of the world looking at this are distressed." Does it matter to you what the rest of the world thinks of the United States?
CRUZ: Of course it does. And we've seen for seven years a president that has made the presidency and has made, sadly, his administration a laughing stock in the world. This administration started with President Obama sending back the bust of Winston Churchill to the United Kingdom within the opening weeks.
Then he proceeded to go on a worldwide apology tour apologizing for the United States of America. Our friends and allies quickly learned America could not be counted on. I'll tell you, when I travel abroad, when I meet with heads of states and defense ministers and foreign ministers, they say over and over again, "it is hard to be friends with America; we can't count on America; America doesn't stand with us."
And that is a disgrace. But the good news is, Jake, we've seen this before. We have seen a weak Democratic president undermine the military, weaken our readiness, weaken our respect in the world with Jimmy Carter. And in January 1981, Ronald Reagan came into office and that can change overnight.
It's worth remembering Iran released our hostages the day Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.
(APPLAUSE) And America needs a president who stands with our friends and allies, as I will do, and who stands up and demonstrates strengths to our enemies. That's why on day one, I will rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal because the Ayatollah Khamenei must never be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.
TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, some of your Republican critics have expressed concern about comments you have made praising authoritarian dictators. You have said positive things about Putin as a leader and about China's massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square, you've said: "When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it, then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength."
How do you respond...
TRUMP: That doesn't mean I was endorsing that. I was not endorsing it. I said that is a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength. And then they kept down the riot. It was a horrible thing. It doesn't mean at all I was endorsing it.
As far as Putin is concerned, I think Putin has been a very strong leader for Russia. I think he has been a lot stronger than our leader, that I can tell you. I mean, for Russia, that doesn't mean I'm endorsing Putin.
TAPPER: But the word strong obviously is a compliment...
TAPPER: ... and many people would look at what the Chinese leaders have done and what Putin is doing as atrocities.
TRUMP: I used to think Merkel was a great leader until she did what she did to Germany. Germany is a disaster right now. So I used to think that.
TRUMP: And strong doesn't mean good. Putin is a strong leader, absolutely. I could name many strong leaders. I could name very many very weak leaders. But he is a strong leader. Now I don't say that in a good way or a bad way. I say it as a fact.
TAPPER: Governor Kasich, when you were a member of Congress, you were outspoken about the Tiananmen Square massacre. What do you think?
KASICH: I think that the Chinese government butchered those kids. And when that guy stood in front -- that young man stood in front of that tank, we ought to build a statue of him over here when he faced down the Chinese government.
KASICH: Now I will tell you, I don't believe that we need to make China an enemy. They are a competitor. But I want to go back to three things they should do. We should have the heat on them to work in North Korea to get rid of that guy and the things that he's doing, number one.
Number two, they need to realize they don't own the South China Sea. And I will compliment the administration for sending a carrier battle group into the South China Sea. And thirdly, when it comes to the issue of cyber attacks, we're going to have to beef up the cyber command.
And they need to understand that if you attack us we will defend ourselves, everything, including our grid. But if you do it, we have the capability to take out your systems. The president has not given the cyber command that authority. I will.
And when it comes to trade, I will tell you this, they can't manipulate their currency. That will not be anything that I would allow them to get away with. And if I saw them doing it, I would take immediate action and make sure that the American worker is protected.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor Kasich.
We're going to take another quick break. When we come back, we'll have more of the Republican presidential debate from Miami, Florida, right after this. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to the CNN Republican presidential debate in Miami, Florida.
Mr. Trump, I want to start with you in this block. Earlier today, a man was arrested and charged with assault after sucker- punching a protester in the face at your rally in Fayettville, North Carolina. This is hardly the first incident of violence breaking out at one of your rallies.
Today, Hillary Clinton, your potential general election opponent, clearly indicated she sees this as an issue for the campaign. She said, quote, "this kind of behavior is repugnant. We set the tone for our campaigns, we should encourage respect, not violence." Do you believe that you've done anything to create a tone where this kind of violence would be encouraged?
TRUMP: I hope not. I truly hope not. I will say this. We have 25 (thousand), 30,000 people -- you've seen it yourself. People come with tremendous passion and love for the country, and when they see protest -- in some cases -- you know, you're mentioning one case, which I haven't seen, I heard about it, which I don't like. But when they see what's going on in this country, they have anger that's unbelievable. They have anger.
They love this country. They don't like seeing bad trade deals, they don't like seeing higher taxes, they don't like seeing a loss of their jobs where our jobs have just been devastated. And I know -- I mean, I see it. There is some anger. There's also great love for the country. It's a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all, Jake.
TAPPER: Some of your critics point to quotes you've made at these debates -- at these rallies including February 23rd, "I'd like to punch him in the face," referring to a protesters. February 27th, "in the good ol' days, they'd have ripped him out of that seat so fast." February 1st, "knock the crap out of him, would, you? Seriously, OK, just knock the hell. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise, I promise."
TRUMP: We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they have done bad things. They are swinging, they are really dangerous and they get in there and they start hitting people. And we had a couple big, strong, powerful guys doing damage to people, not only the loudness, the loudness I don't mind. But doing serious damage. And if they've got to be taken out, to be honest, I mean, we have to run something.
And it's not me. It's usually the municipal government, the police because I don't have guards all over these stadiums. I mean, we fill up stadiums. It's usually the police -- and, by the way, speaking of the police, we should pay our respects to the police because they are taking tremendous abuse in this country and they do a phenomenal job.
So we should pay -- we should truly give our police. They're incredible people, we should give them a great deal more respect than they receive.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz, are you concerned at all that these kind of scenes potentially hurt the Republican party for the general election?
CRUZ: Listen, I think for every one of us, we need to show respect to the people. We need to remember who it is we're working for. You know, we've seen for seven years a president who believes he's above the law, who behaves like an emperor, who it is all about him and he forgot that he's working for the American people.
And let me -- let me ask, turn the camera our here. How many of y'all feel disrespected by Washington?
CRUZ: Washington isn't listening to the people. And that's the frustration that is boiling over. And we need to nominate and elects a president who remembers, he works for the people. You know, at Donald's rallies recently, he's taken to asking people in the crowd to raise their hand and pledge their support to him.
Now, I got to say to me, I think that's exactly backwards. This is a job interview. We are here pledging our support to you, not the other way around.
CRUZ: And the only hand raising I'm interested in doing is on January 20, 2017 raising my hand with my left hand on the...
... bible and pledging to the American people to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of United States.
TAPPER: Thank you senator.
Mr. Trump, if you'd like to respond.
TRUMP: It shows the total dishonesty of the press. We were having -- on a few occasions, again massive crowds. And we're talking and I'm saying who is going to vote on Tuesday? Who is going to vote? The place goes crazy. Then I say, hey, do me a favor. Raise your right hand. Do you swear you're going to vote for Donald Trump?
Everyone's laughing, we're all having a good time. That's why I have much bigger crowds than Ted, because we have a good time at mine.
TRUMP: But we're all having a good time and the next day, on the Today Show and a couple of other place, not too many. Because when you look at it, everyone's smiling, laughing. Their arms are raised like this. They had pictures, still pictures of people and they tried to equate it to Nazi Germany.
It is a disgrace. It was a total disgrace. And I've had reporters, people that you know, come up to me and said that -- what they did on the Today Show was a disgrace.
TAPPER: Governor Kasich, do you worry about the scenes of violence at some of these rallies affecting the Republican party's chances in November?
KASICH: Well, I worry about the violence at a rally period. I mean, it's -- you know, elections are important but the unity of this country really matters.
Jake, here's what I think is happening. There are people out there who are worried about their jobs. They're worried that somebody is going to come in and tell them they're out of work and they're 54 years old and they don't know where they're going to get another job, a man and a woman.
Maybe they're worried about a trade deal. They're worried about the fact that their wages haven't gone up. They're worried that their kids went to college and the promise was, you go to college, you get a job, things are going to be great.
They went to college, they rang up debt and they're still living in their parents' basement. People are uptight. Our seniors are worried they're going to lose their Social Security. There's two ways to treat it.
You can either prey on that and be negative about it, or you tell people that these things can be fixed. If we're Americans rather than Republicans and Democrats, we get together, we can solve all of these problems.
We can provide financial security, we can drive the wages up, we can get kids jobs with a more robust economy.
And you know what? They want to help solve these problems right where they live and I'll give them the power to do it.
TAPPER: Thank you governor.
Senator Rubio? I know you want to say something.
RUBIO: I do. A couple of points. The first is, I'm concerned about violence in general in this society. And by the way, the first people that are facing that violence are our law enforcement officers. And they deserve our respect and they deserve our thanks for everything they do for us.
On the issue of anger. Yes, people are angry. Of course they're angry. Every institution in America has been failing us for the better part of 20 years or 30 years. But leadership is not about using the anger, leadership is about using the anger to motivate us, not to define us. But to motivate us to take action. Being here in Miami is special. My grandfather lived with us most of his life while I was growing up. And he would sit on the porch of our home and tell me all kinds of stories and things I learned about history.
My grandfather was born in 1899 before there were airplanes in the sky. One night in the summer of 1969, he watched a man set foot on the moon.
You know what he said when he saw that? He said Americans can do anything. Americans can do anything. There is no problem before us we cannot solve and we can solve it if we come together in a serious way, in this generation.
TAPPER: Thank you senator.
RUBIO: And embrace all of the principles that made us great.
TAPPER: Thank you senator.
TAPPER: The math suggests that it possible that not one of you will reach the magic number of 1,237 delegates before the Republican convention, which would mean a contested convention. Let's go back to Salem Radio's Hugh Hewitt.
HEWITT: Thank you Jake.
Governor Kasich, the math and the maps say that you can only become the nominee if in fact there is a contested convention. If we arrive on the shores of Lake Erie, Donald Trump has the most delegates. Why shouldn't the person with the most delegates, even if it's not a majority of delegates, be the nominee?
KASICH: Well, first of all, let's not -- you know, math doesn't tell the whole story in politics. The great thing about politics, the reason why we watch it is because what's true today is not necessarily true tomorrow. So let's not get ahead of ourselves. Secondly, look, when you went to school up there in Salem, Ohio, OK.
KASICH: If you got an 86, you got a B. Because everybody else had an 84 didn't mean you got an A. So you just have to win enough delegates to be the nominee.
And frankly, I don't know if we're going to get a convention like that. But if we do, I was at one in 1976 as a wee lad and supported Ronald Reagan and actually worked directly with him. He tried valiantly. He lost. Gerald Ford won. The party was united. Gerald Ford served the country great by pardoning Richard Nixon. He lost the election probably because of that, but he put America first. And we were healed as a party.
So, look, you have to earn the delegates in order to be picked. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We don't know what's going to happen because we still have about half the delegates to be selected. And that's what's going to be a very interesting thing to see how it all turns out as we move forward over the next couple of weeks.
HEWITT: Thank you, Governor.
Mr. Trump, if you arrive in Cleveland with a plurality and the most, but not a majority, is it legitimate for someone else to emerge from that convention the nominee? And if so, would you support that person?
TRUMP: I think that what should happen, getting back maybe a little bit to your first question, I think that whoever -- first of all, I think I'm going to have the delegates. OK? I think. Let's see what happens.
But if somebody doesn't have the delegates, and I guess there's two of us up here that can and there are two of us that cannot at this moment. But if -- no, that's just -- by the way, that is not meant to be a criticism. That's just a mathematical fact. OK?
If two of us get up there, I would say this, if -- if Marco, if the governor, if Ted had more votes than me in the form of delegates, I think whoever gets to the top position as opposed to solving that artificial number that was by somebody, which is a very random number, I think that whoever gets the most delegates should win. That's what I think. HEWITT: Senator Cruz, if you -- if you overtake Donald Trump at the convention, what will you do to take his very passionate supporters and keep them from bolting the convention and sabotaging the fall election?
CRUZ: Well, look, there are some folks in Washington...
TRUMP: Make me president.
CRUZ: Donald, you are welcome to be president of the Smithsonian.
You know, there are some in Washington who are having fevered dreams of a brokered convention. They are unhappy with how the people are voting and they want to parachute in their favored Washington candidate to be the nominee. I think that would be an absolute disaster and we need to respect the will of the voters.
It's one of the reasons why in the course of this election -- listen, everyone up here has worked very hard. But Donald is right, there are only two of us that have a path to winning the nomination, Donald and myself. At this point, I have roughly 360 delegates. He has about 100 more than I have. We have at this point beaten Donald in eight separate states all over the country geographically, from Maine to Alaska, from Kansas to Texas, all over this country we have beaten him.
And so for the people at home, if you're one of the 65, 70 percent of Republicans who recognizes that if we nominate Donald Trump, Hillary wins. That's why the media wants him to be the nominee so much. If you recognize that, then I want to invite you if you've supported other candidates, come and join us.
We are seeing candidates coming together and uniting. It's why Carly Fiorina endorsed me yesterday. It's why Mike Lee endorsed me today. I ask everyone to come together. Let's stand together and let's beat Hillary Clinton in November.
HEWITT: All right. Thank you, Senator.
Mr. Trump, then to Senator Rubio.
TRUMP: You know, I listen and I watch Ted on television and when he speaks, and he's always saying, "I'm the only one that beat Donald in six contests; and I beat him." But I beat him in 13 contests. He never mentions that.
(APPLAUSE) And let me just tell you another little fact, little minor fact. I have about a 1.6 million votes during this primary season, more votes than Ted. The other thing is, I beat Hillary, and I will give you the list, I beat Hillary in many of the polls that have been taken. And each week, I get better and better. And believe me, I haven't even started on her yet.
HEWITT: Senator Rubio?
RUBIO: Let me tell you what this election is about for me. And I get all the delegate math and all that debate. Let me tell you what's about for me. On Tuesday night, I didn't do as well, obviously, as I wanted to. And I was a little bit disappointed when I got home.
And my wife told me a story that night, which is the reason why I can get up the next day and keep fighting. There's a gentleman here in South Florida who just got out of surgery. And his doctors told him he needs to be home resting. But every afternoon, he takes his little aluminum chair and he sits outside of an early polling center and holds a sign that says "Marco Rubio."
RUBIO: Because for him, I symbolize all the sacrifices that his generation made so their children could have a better life than themselves
That gentleman has not given up on me and I am not going to give up on him. I am going to work tirelessly every single day --
... because this election is too important. What's at stake is the future of this country. And I believe -- I believe that at the end of this process this nation will make the right choice because I've always believed that God has blessed America, that God's hand is upon this country and that its greatest days are yet to come.
TAPPER: Thank you, Senator. Let's send it back to Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times. Stephen?
DINAN: Mr. Trump, one of your biggest selling points is that you are largely self-funding your campaign, and you argue your opponents are controlled by their special interest donors. Will you maintain your pledge not to take outside contributions throughout the general election?
TRUMP: I have not made that decision yet. I will make a decision on that, but I have not made that decision. My decision was that I would go through the entire primary season and I have turned down probably $275 million worth. I have many, many friends that come up all day long, $5 million, $10 million, I'm turning down money. I feel sort of foolish to be honest with you. I don't know if I get any credit for it but I'm self-funding my campaign.
And other than -- and by the way, other than very small donations where people are sending in $200, $15, $20, and we have some of that, but it's not a large amount. No, I'm self-funding my campaign, and the reason is that I've been in this business a long time and I was on the other side -- until eight months ago I was on the or side. I made massive contributions, large contributions to politicians, both Democrats and Republicans. I was liked by everybody, which is an important thing.
I will say this -- people control special interests, lobbyists, donors, they make large contributions to politicians and they have total control over those politicians. I don't want anybody to control me but the people right out there. And I'm going to do the right thing.
DINAN: Senator Cruz, I want to come to you. The vast majority of Republicans, and voters overall, agree with Mr. Trump that candidates are beholden to people and groups who donate to their campaigns. Do you deny that those big donors do have influence?
CRUZ: Well look, absolutely. And one of the things we're so frustrated about is the corruption, what I've called the Washington cartel. It's career politicians in both parties that get in bed with the lobbyists and special interests.
And listen, Donald told you for 40 years he's been sitting at that table using his money to buy influence, supporting liberal Democrats like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, but also supporting the Republican establishment and funding their effort to crush the Tea Party. And now his argument is after four decades of being part of that influence buying, after Hillary Clinton spending decades being part of that influence selling, that suddenly he will change.
But the interesting point is tonight he hasn't pointed to a single special interest he's willing to take on. He didn't take on Wall Street when he supported the TARP bailout in Wall Street. He won't take on ethanol. And my campaign, by contrast, was funded by 1.1 million contributions all over this country.
DINAN: Thank you, Senator. I want to go to Mr. Trump...
CRUZ: $62 at tedcruz.org.
DINAN: ... for a response. Thank you, Senator.
CRUZ: That's who you've got to be accountable to, the people.
TRUMP: Ted was given to PACs. I mean, PACs -- you know, these super PACs are a disaster, by the way, folks. Very corrupt. It's going to lead to lots of disasters. But Ted has super PACs and you have to look at the people that are giving to those super PACs, number one. It's very important to do that.
There is total control of the candidates, I know it better than anybody that probably ever lived. And I will tell you this, I know the system far better than anybody else and I know the system is broken. And I'm the one, because I know it so well because I was on both sides of it, I was on the other side all my life and I've always made large contributions.
And frankly, I know the system better than anybody else and I'm the only one up here that's going to be able to fix that system because that system is wrong.
DINAN: Thank you, Mr. Trump. Senator Rubio, I want to come to you with a question. At the last debate, you mocked Mr. Trump for being flexible. With so much gridlock in Washington, how can you expect to lead the country and get things done if you aren't willing to show flexibility?
RUBIO: Well, I think you can be flexible about ideas, you shouldn't be flexible about your principles. About when it comes to ideas and working with people, I have a record of having done that.
Listen, on the issue of higher education, I'm the only one that continually talks about student loan debt because I owed over $100,000 of student loan debt. So I know this is a major issue. And all my ideas that deal with higher education are bipartisan.
The VA Accountability Act that I passed I did it on a -- on a bipartisan basis. The sanctions that I helped -- that I imposed on Hezbollah I did it on a bipartisan basis. The Girls Count Act that deals with human trafficking, we did that on a bipartisan basis.
RUBIO: But I also want to be frank. There are issues we're going to have to have an election over. When it comes to repealing and replaces Obamacare, that's not going to be bipartisan. When it comes to reducing the tax burdens on Americans, that's not going to be bipartisan. When it comes to shrinking the size of the federal bureaucracy,that's probably not going to be bipartisan.
There are issues we can work together on and we should, but there are fundamental issues about the proper role of government. And on those issues, I will fight anyone who wants to expand government, raise taxes, or weaken our military.
DINAN: All right. Mr. Trump, I want to give you a chance to respond, but specifically you talked about flexibility and one of the examples you gave was the height of the border fence. What are some of the other issues on which you're willing to show flexibility?
TRUMP: It depends on what comes up. You never know. It depends on what comes up. Look, look, we had a great president, Ronald Reagan. We had Tip O'Neill, speaker. And what do we do, we take these two men that are very, very different men, they got along, they had relationships, and they got things, and very beautifully.
Nobody is complaining about the deals that Ronald Reagan made. And he made it with Tip O'Neill. We need to have people get together and work good deals out, good deals out from our standpoint. And I'll tell you this, it can be done.
We don't want to continue to watch people signing executive orders because that was not what the Constitution and the brilliant designers of this incredible document had in mind. We need people that can make deals and can work, because right now in Washington there's total, absolute gridlock.
DINAN: Thank you.
I want to go to Governor Kasich on this issue of flexibility, sir.
KASICH: Well, look, my record speaks for itself. What I talk about tonight is not a theory. These are things that I've done. I was there when we reformed the Pentagon on a bipartisan basis to give control to the commanders in the field and force the services to work together. I was the chief architect, along with Senator Domenici, of the last time we balanced the budget and the first time since we walked on the moon. I was there when I worked on the welfare reform in Washington. And we got it done and we eliminated the entitlement on welfare,
I then went to Ohio and took Ohio from a basket case, working in a bipartisan basis to reform many things, including the Cleveland public schools, working with a Democratic mayor.
My problem isn't that people don't know this. They say, well, what does that mean? Does that mean you're too easy? Well, let me tell you, when we did the balanced budget, we cut the capital gains tax, we provided a family tax credit, we shrunk the government.
In my state, the state of Ohio, has the smallest government in the state of Ohio in 30 years. Conservative principles will work. But show respect to the other side.
One final thing, in regard to Social Security, we will not get that done alone. We will have to have some responsible Democrats who will come in to fix the problem of Social Security. I know how to do it because I've done it and I'll do it again.
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
We have time for one last break. We'll be right back after this.
TAPPER: And we're back with the Republican presidential debate, just five days before the next primary elections. It is time now for closing statements. Candidates, you will each have one minute. And we'll start with Governor Kasich.
KASICH: Well, I'd like to say to all of you, the American people, I have run an unwavering, positive campaign for president of the United States. I have tried to be positive in such a way as to show my record, my accomplishments, my vision.
And I wanted to raise the bar in presidential politics so our kids can take a look at the way you can run for president and you will someday maybe be president of the United States.
Sometimes being positive isn't all that interesting, but it's very interesting to my family, my children and so many supporters that I meet all across the country and I will continue to run a positive campaign.
I can fix the problems in Washington, I've done it before. And, in fact, I want to turn power, money and influence back to you, the American people, so that you can be in the schools and on the streets fighting drugs and dealing with the issues of poverty. We can do this together.
Allow me to take care of the federal issues when I send the power back and the money and the influence to you and you can strengthen our nation and our neighborhoods and our families. That's where the spirit and strength of America is.
But ask the people -- my friends in Illinois and of course, my beloved Buckeyes to consider me on Tuesday and, please, let me have your vote. God bless.
TAPPER: Senator Rubio.
RUBIO: It's great to be here, back at home in Miami. It's hard to believe that just two decades ago, my father was just a bartender working in the city. And now his son stands on this stage, here, as a candidate for the highest office in the land. My parents never wanted me to go into politics or in particular or anything else. They just wanted me to have the opportunity to live out all the dreams they once had for themselves. And that was possible because America is a special country.
But that was not an accident. America is great because each generation before us did what needed to be done. They solved their problems, they confronted their challenges. They embraced their opportunities. And for over two centuries, each generation has left the next better off.
And now the moment has arrived for our generation to do our part. And I'm telling you tonight, if you vote for me, here in Florida and everywhere across this country on Tuesday, when I'm elected president, this generation will do it's part.
We will do whatever it takes to ensure that our children inherit from us, what we inherited from our parents, the single greatest nation in the history of all of mankind.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz.
CRUZ: What an incredible nation we have, that the son of a bartender and the son of mailman and the son of a dishwasher and a successful businessman, can all stand on this stage, competing and asking for your support.
CRUZ: In just a few months, one of us is going to stand on the debate stage with Hillary Clinton. And the choice we are making today is who will best defend our values? Who will best defend your values and fight for you?
I have to tell you, I cannot wait to stand on that stage with Hillary Clinton and say, "Madam Secretary, you are asking for a third term of a failed administration. You are asking for millions more to remain in stagnant jobs; for millions more steelworkers to be out of work; for wages to remain low; for young people not to have a future."
We can do better. We can instead repeal Obamacare, abolish the IRS, unleash millions of jobs, defend the Bill of Rights, defend the Second Amendment and religious liberty, stand with our cops and our firefighters and our soldiers, and we can keep America safe.
That's the choice I will put to her this fall.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump?
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
The Republican Party has a great chance to embrace millions of people that it's never known before. They're coming by the millions. We should seize that opportunity. These are great people. These are fantastic people. These are people that love our country. These are people that want to see America be great again.
These are people that will win us the election and win it easily. These are people that once the election is won will be able to put Supreme Court justices up that will do a fabulous job. Because let me tell you, if we lose this election, you're going to have three, four or maybe even five justices and this country will never, ever recover. It will take centuries to recover.
So I just say embrace these millions of people that now for the first time ever love the Republican Party. And unify. Be smart and unify.
TAPPER: And that concludes this 12th Republican presidential debate. We want to thank the candidates, the Republican National Committee, the University of Miami and, of course, each of you for watching.
I'm Jake Tapper. Our coverage continues right now with Anderson Cooper.