Republican presidential candidates spar in first GOP debate of 2016

July 4th history
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Here is the latest from the GOP presidential debates, sponsored by Fox Business Network, in North Charleston, S.C. All times local.

11:26 p.m.

The prime-time Republican presidential debate has concluded.

11:20 p.m.

John Kasich is touting his own biography in his closing statement of the debate. He’s citing his work to help hard-working Americans.

Jeb Bush says credibility counts. He says he’ll build a safer and stronger America.

Chris Christie is using his closing statement to blast President Barack Obama. He says Obama’s State of the Union speech was “fantasy-land.”

Ben Carson says so many Americans are discouraged and angry. He says traditional politics can’t solve the country’s problems.

Marco Rubio warns that the country is changing and people feel left behind. He says if Hillary Clinton is elected, the next four years will be worse than the last eight.

Ted Cruz is directing his closing statement at military members and their families. He says if he’s elected, “I will have your back.”

Donald Trump says if he’s elected, the U.S. will no longer make “stupid deals.” He says the U.S. will win in everything it does on his watch.


11:07 p.m.

Marco Rubio is pivoting from a question about immigration to talk about the Islamic State group.

Rubio has faced ongoing attacks over his work on a bipartisan bill that included a pathway to citizenship for people in the U.S. illegally. It’s one of Rubio’s biggest vulnerabilities in the Republican primary.

Asked about immigration and jobs, Rubio changed the subject to his concerns about killers entering the U.S. through the immigration system. He says the issue has changed dramatically since two years ago.

Rubio says there’s a “radical jihadist group manipulating our immigration system.” He says the country’s No. 1 priority must be ensuring dangerous people don’t enter.

Ted Cruz is pushing back on Rubio. He says the Florida senator’s take on immigration and national security is a new one. He says he’s been concerned about the flow of terrorist across the border for two years, and that’s why he voted against a bipartisan bill to overhaul the immigration system. Rubio backed the legislation.

Cruz says, “It was clear then, like it’s clear now, that border security is national security.”

11:04 p.m.

Rand Paul wasn’t on either debate stage Thursday night, but some of his supporters were in the building.

A brief outburst of people shouting, “We want Rand!” interrupted the prime-time Republican presidential debate in North Charleston.

The Kentucky senator opted not to participate in the 6 p.m. debate after polling requirements kept him out of the prime-time contest.

11:02 p.m.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to highlight his background as a prosecutor by blasting the way President Barack Obama has approached the issue of race and police brutality.

Christie says in the Republican primary debate that Obama “is a guy who just believes that law enforcement are the bad guys.” From Christie’s perspective, that means Obama does not enforce federal drug laws or immigration laws.

He suggested, without offering supporting evidence, that crime rates are higher in “sanctuary cities,” the term some conservatives use for local jurisdictions that do not alert federal authorities about residents in the U.S. illegally. The implication was that immigrants in the country illegally account for higher crime rates in certain cities.

“This president allows lawlessness throughout the country,” Christie said.

Christie described his hypothetical opening conversation with his attorney general should he be elected: “General, enforce the law against the law fairly, justly and aggressively. Make our streets safe again. Make our police officers proud of what they do.”

11 p.m.

Donald Trump says if he becomes president, he “couldn’t care less” about his company and personal wealth.

The billionaire investor was asked Thursday during the Republican presidential debate how he would disentangle himself from his money and prioritize America’s interests.

Trump says: “If I become president, I couldn’t care less about my company. It’s peanuts.”

Trump says he would turn over his company’s operation to his children and top executives. He says he “wouldn’t ever be involved” and all he would care about is the country.

Motioning toward his son and daughter in the crowd, Trump says: “Run the company, kids. Have a good time.”

10:45 p.m.

Chris Christie says he’d pay for rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure by overhauling the corporate tax system. He says there’s more than $2 trillion being kept offshore because companies don’t want to be overtaxed.

The New Jersey governor says the government should offer a one-time plan for companies to bring that money back into the U.S., where it would be taxed at 8.75 percent. He says he would dedicate the revenues to rebuild crumbling roads and bridges.

Christie say President Barack Obama has penalized corporations in the U.S. He says the U.S. can rebuild its infrastructure while also creating jobs.

10:39 p.m.

Jeb Bush is sticking to his plan of attacking Donald Trump and he’s getting hit back fast.

Trump embarked on a long and tangled explanation of his plan to get tough on China’s currency manipulation by threatening high tariffs.

Bush blasted that approach, saying “we need somebody with a steady hand.”

Trump hardly let Bush finish before delivering his retort: “We don’t need a weak person being president of the United States. And that’s what we’d get” with Bush.

10:25 p.m.

Several GOP presidential candidates are avoiding directly answering a question about whether they support Donald Trump’s proposal to bar non-citizen Muslims from entering the United States.

Instead, they’re turning the question into one about Syrian refugees — not the same thing.

John Kasich and Chris Christie are taking that approach. Both were among the two dozen Republican governors who said the Obama administration should stop accepting refugees from the war-torn country.

“You can’t just ban all Muslims,” Christie says. “You have to ban radical Islamic jihadists.”

Kasich says, “We don’t want to put everybody in the same category.”

Neither explicitly said Trump was wrong.

Marco Rubio says, “If we don’t know who you are and we don’t know why you are coming, when I am president of the United States, you are not getting into the United States of America.” Like his rivals, he didn’t actually say whether he agrees with Trump.

For Ben Carson, the issue calls for getting “a group of experts together.”

The exception was Jeb Bush, who has blasted the proposal since Trump floated it. He says the U.S. can destroy the Islamic State using a “Sunni-led force inside Syria.” Bush says Trump makes that impossible with his rhetoric and policy ideas.

10:19 p.m.

Donald Trump is refusing to change his position that Muslims should temporarily be barred from entering the United States.

He is dismissing concern about the “political correctness” he says led to “flying planes into the World Trade Center” in Manhattan in 2001.

Jeb Bush is proposing that Trump reconsider, asking: “All Muslims? Seriously?”

Bush says the call for a ban sends a signal to the Arab world that the United States isn’t serious about leading a global coalition to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Bush says: “There is a better way. We have to lead. You cannot make these rash statements.”

10:17 p.m.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says if Hillary Clinton is president “it will lead to greater war in this world.”

Christie made the comment during Thursday’s Republican presidential debate when asked how important it was to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.

Christie says President Barack Obama has done “worse than nothing” about Assad, and former Secretary of State Clinton will be worse.

Christie says there can’t be peace in Syria as long as Assad is in charge. He also spoke out against the U.S. taking in Syrian refugees, saying they should stay in Syria.

He says the key to approaching Syria is to bringing together other Arab countries that believe the Islamic State is a threat to combat the terrorists.

10:06 p.m.

Jeb Bush says the U.S. must rebuild its military so Russia and other countries will take the U.S. seriously.

Bush is lamenting cuts to the Navy and other parts of the military. He says U.S. military planes are older than the pilots.

The former Florida governor says the U.S. should re-impose sanctions on Iran. He says Iran has already violated its obligations following the recent nuclear deal by testing missiles.

He says the U.S. must “get back in the game” to restore order and security for itself.

Bush is also calling for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel considers Jerusalem to be its capital but that designation isn’t internationally recognized because the Palestinians also claim the city for their future capital. The U.S. and almost every other country have their embassies in Tel Aviv.

10:02 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says the problem with Donald Trump is his “New York values.” Like any New Yorker, Trump isn’t taking that dig lightly.

When asked to explain the phrase by moderator Maria Bartiromo, Cruz says most people know what New York values are. (To Bartiromo, he noted, “You’re from New York so you might not.”)

To his GOP audience the meaning was clear.

Cruz says “not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan. I’m just sayin‘.”

Trump said he was insulted. He invoked Sept. 11 and the way New Yorkers came together after the attacks to deal with “the smell, the air.”

Trump says, “that was a very insulting statement that Ted made.”

10 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz doesn’t want any of his rivals to one-up him on support for the Second Amendment — and he also made sure to turn a question on gun regulations toward Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Cruz says: “Everyone is going to say they support the Second Amendment. Unless you are clinically insane, that’s what you say in a primary.”

Cruz says his record as solicitor general in Texas and in the Senate sets him apart from his rivals. And he says that matters given that the next president could appoint several justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cruz notes that Clinton has said she agrees with the dissenters to the high court ruling that the Second Amendment includes the individual right to bear arms, thus overturning local and state bans on certain firearms.

9:58 p.m.

Chris Christie is defending regulations enacted in New Jersey by saying they were enacted through proper legislative action.

It’s a defense he is using to pivot from his role in New Jersey gun legislation to criticize Barack Obama’s recently enacted executive actions on guns.

Christie says: “That’s not a democracy. That’s a dictatorship.”

Of Obama, he says, “We’re going to kick your rear-end out of the White House.”

Obama is term-limited and cannot seek a third term.

9:55 p.m.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says the last line between Americans and terrorists may be a gun, and that’s why he wants to strengthen 2nd Amendment rights and not restrict access to firearms.

Rubio said he will work to protect gun ownership rights, saying he would be a stark contrast to President Barack Obama. Rubio says Obama would “confiscate every gun in America” if he could.

Rubio says it doesn’t make sense to make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to purchase firearms because “ISIS and terrorists do not get their guns from a gun show.”

9:54 p.m.

Donald Trump says there are no circumstances under which he thinks the U.S. should limit gun sales.

Trump is deriding President Barack Obama’s executive actions to tighten gun control. He says guns don’t pull the trigger, people pull the trigger.

Trump says if more people present for the San Bernardino, California, and Paris attacks had guns, fewer people would have died.

Instead of gun control, Trump is calling for more mental health care. He says there’s a huge problem, with hospitals and mental wards closing.

Trump says Obama doesn’t want to get lawmakers together to write gun legislation “the old-fashioned way.” He says Obama instead just “writes an order.”

Obama used executive action this month to try to expand background checks to cover more gun sales. The president’s efforts to secure broader gun control legislation collapsed in the Senate in 2013.

9:51 p.m.

Jeb Bush says new gun laws won’t prevent gun violence, but better enforcement of the current laws and more mental health support will.

Bush cited the shooting at a Charleston church a few miles from the debate site as an example. Bush says the shooter in that case, Dylann Roof, shouldn’t have been able to buy a gun.

Bush says the FBI made a “mistake.”

He says, “We don’t need to add new rules, we need to make sure the FBI does its job.”

Bush accused President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton of trying to “take guns away from law-abiding citizens.”

9:46 p.m.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is completely ignoring the substance of the question about his criticism of former President Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions.

Instead, he’s offering a vague, roundabout defense of standards of moral conduct that “come from our Judeo-Christian roots.”

Carson asks, “Is this America anymore?”

He adds, “There is such a thing as right and wrong.”

Carson says the nation’s ills are in part a product of division by race and a breakdown in civility. Still, he says the majority of people in the United States “actually have principles.”

9:44 p.m.

John Kasich says if Bernie Sanders is the Democratic nominee for president, “we’re going to win every state.”

He says the notion of Sanders as competition is “not even an issue.”

The Ohio governor says he knows Sanders. He says he can promise Sanders won’t be president.

Kasich is knocking Sanders’ approach to economics. He says the U.S. must “fight like crazy” to ensure people still think the American dream exists.

9:43 p.m.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is mixing it up with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, saying he talks so much it’s hard to keep track of whether he’s telling the truth.

Christie’s comments in Thursday’s Republican debate came after Rubio first went after Christie, accusing him of backing Planned Parenthood, Common Core academic standards and gun control. Rubio says, “We can’t have a president of the United States that supports gun control.”

Christie says that two years ago Rubio called him a “conservative reformer” but now he is attacking him and misrepresenting his record. Christie says he has not supported Planned Parenthood and he has taken action as governor to protect 2nd Amendment gun rights.

Christie says, “When you’re a senator what you get to do is talk and talk and talk and no one can keep up to see if what you’re saying is accurate or not.” He says governors are held accountable.

9:36 p.m.

Donald Trump says he’ll gladly accept the “mantle of anger” from Nikki Haley and others.

Trump says he wasn’t offended by the South Carolina governor’s response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. Haley gave the Republican response and urged people not to follow angry voices. She later specified she was referring to Trump.

But Trump says it’s true he’s angry. He says he’s “very angry” because the U.S. is being run horribly. He’s pointing to health care, veterans, the military and the border.

Trump says he won’t be angry once “we fix it.” But he says until then, “I’m very, very angry.”

9:35 p.m.

Marco Rubio isn’t going to let Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have all the fun — or the attention.

Just as the feisty fight between Trump and Cruz over Cruz’s citizenship and eligibility reached its peak, Rubio saw his way in: “I hate to interrupt this episode of Court TV.”

Rubio is casting himself as a serious candidate focused on the important issues. He successfully steered the conversation back to defeating a Democrat and stopping President Barack Obama’s agenda.

He says, “I think we have to get back to what this election is about.”

9:28 p.m.

Donald Trump didn’t dispute that he’s brought up the issue of Ted Cruz’ citizenship because Cruz “is doing a little better. It’s true.”

And he says he doesn’t necessarily believe Cruz isn’t eligible. He says only that Democrats will challenge Cruz in court should he become the Republican nominee.

Trump says: “There’s a big question mark on your head and you can’t do that to the party. You have to have certainty.” He is urging Cruz to ask courts for a declaratory judgment to settle the matter.

Cruz cites the widely accepted legal principle that anyone born to an American parent is a natural-born citizen, regardless of where the child is born. He says Trump is basically claiming that a natural-born citizen would have to be born in the United States to two parents who were also born in the United States.

That standard, Cruz says, would disqualify several candidates. Among them: Donald Trump, whose mother was born in Europe.

Cruz says to Trump: “You’re an American, as is everybody else on this stage. I would suggest we focus on who is best prepared to be commander-in-chief.”

9:26 p.m.

It’s taken little time in the GOP presidential debate for front-runners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to go head-to-head. The matter: Cruz’s citizenship and eligibility to be president.

Moderators asked Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother and Cuban father, to respond to Trump’s suggestion that he’s not eligible to be president because he was not born on American soil.

Cruz notes that Trump previously said he didn’t think Cruz has a problem.

Cruz says that in September, “my friend Donald had had his lawyers look at this from every which way … and there was nothing to this birther issue.”

He notes, “Since September, the Constitution hasn’t changed, but the poll numbers have.”

9:21 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is dismissing his failing to disclose a $1 million loan to his 2012 Senate campaign as a “paperwork error.”

Cruz was asked about the issue during Thursday’s presidential debate in South Carolina. The New York Times first reported Wednesday that Cruz failed to properly disclose the loan from Citibank and Goldman Sachs, where his wife works.

Cruz did not disclose the loans on one filing, but did disclose them in later financial reports.

Cruz says, “I made a paperwork error disclosing it on one piece of paper but not another.” Cruz says he had to take out the loan because “I don’t have masses of money in the bank, hundreds of millions of dollars.”

He casts aside the questions about the loan as part of a “hit piece.”

9:18 p.m.

Donald Trump is defending his opposition to allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S.

He says “it’s not fear and terror, it’s reality.”

Trump is rattling off a list of places recently struck by terror as evidence the U.S. needs to take a harder line against people who want to perpetrate “great destruction.” He’s citing attacks in Indonesia, California and Paris.

Trump says the U.S. must take a “good, strong look” at its policies. He says “the country’s a mess.”

9:16 p.m.

It took the moderators more than 15 minutes to get around to asking Ben Carson a question. He answered by thanking them for waking him up.

The neurosurgeon-turned-outsider candidate came prepared with the joke. He’s made it before.

He also seemed prepared with an answer about President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

Carson says Obama “doesn’t realize we now live in the 21st century.” He says the president needs to be on alert for stateless terrorists and the threat of dirty bombs.

He says “war is very different.”

9:12 p.m.

Republican Jeb Bush is attacking Democrat Hillary Clinton over the FBI investigation of her private email server.

The former Florida governor is seeking a breakout moment in an unsettled race in which he’s faded from the front of the presidential pack.

He says Clinton would be a “national security disaster.”

Bush is pointing out questions over the 2012 killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

But the larger point he’s making in his first opportunity during the debate is that she would be distracted by personal matters during her first 100 days in the White House if she’s elected.

He says she might be shuttling “between the White House and the courthouse.”

9:09 p.m.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is casting the president’s State of the Union address earlier this week as “story time with Barack Obama.”

Christie described Obama’s speech when asked when he would use military force if he were commander in chief. Christie says Obama gave a rosy picture of the current state of affairs, noting that earlier this week Iran captured 10 U.S. sailors.

Christie says Obama’s speech “sounded like everything in the world was going amazing.”

Christie adds that a Hillary Clinton presidency will be a “third term of Barack Obama’s leadership.” Christie says if he wins, Clinton “won’t get within 10 miles of the White House.”

Christie has said he will use military force as president only when absolutely necessary to protect American lives.

9: 07 p.m.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich says familiar Republican ideas are the key to spurring economic growth: cut taxes, reduce regulations and balance the federal budget.

“When you do that … the job creators begin to get very comfortable with the fact that they can invest,” Kasich says.

Kasich says it’s particualrly important to cut corporate income taxes. Regulations, he says, are “smothering people.” He did not cite specifics.

He also reminded voters that he was budget chairman in the 1990s, the last time the federal budget was balanced. “We’re nowhere near a balanced budget,” he said.

The annual deficit actually has been cut by more than half during the seven years of the Obama administration. The 2015 deficit was equivalent to about 3 percent of nation’s overall economic activity, about what it was in 2008, the last year of President George W. Bush’s administration.

9:06 p.m.

Ted Cruz says millionaires and billionaires have done great under President Barack Obama but everyone else is suffering.

He’s blaming what he calls the “Obama-Clinton economy.” He says it’s left behind working men and women.

Cruz says Obama tried to paint a rosy picture of jobs in his State of the Union address Tuesday. He says it’s just in Washington that “things are doing great.”

Unemployment under Obama recently fell to 5 percent.

9:05 p.m.

Sen. Ted Cruz got the first question at the Fox Business debate, but he didn’t immediately answer it.

Rather than talk about his view of the U.S. economy, Cruz opens with a charging attack on President Barack Obama and his relationship with Iran.

Cruz says he was “horrified” to see images of the 10 U.S. sailors briefly held by Iran Tuesday night after crossing into Iranian waters. He slammed Obama for not even mentioning the incident in his State of the Union speech.

Cruz says Obama is too cozy with Tehran. He says if he were president, any nation that held U.S. sailors would feel “the full force and fury” of the United States of America.

9:02 p.m.

The first question of the prime-time GOP presidential debate is about jobs: President Barack Obama says the economy is durable and new jobs are being created. What do the Republican candidates see that he doesn’t?

9 p.m.

The prime-time GOP presidential debate has begun, just over two weeks before the first votes are cast in the 2016 contest.

Billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are at the center of a shrinking field of top-tier candidates. Trump and Cruz are locked in battle for first place in the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.

Arrayed to the sides are five other rivals: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

7:10 p.m.

The undercard debate between Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum has concluded.

As for Rand Paul? He skipped the forum after being barred from the prime-time debate beginning at 9 p.m.

Instead, he’s inviting viewers to watch his national town hall online.

“The revolution will not be televised,” he tweeted. “Turn off your tv, watch the real discussion.”

6:04 p.m.

Carly Fiorina is blazing out of the gate in her opening statement, delivering backhanded compliments to her two male rivals and a not-subtle swipe at Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for her husband’s infidelities.

She first said she is “honored” to be onstage with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, “two former Iowa caucus winners.” The clear implication: Neither man’s presidential ambitions have survived the nomination process, leaving them on the 2016 undercard stage in the lower tier of candidates.

Then she took a shot at the only other woman in the race, Clinton, the former secretary of state and wife of former President Bill Clinton.

Fiorina sniped, “Unlike another woman in this race, I actually love spending time with my husband.”

6:00 p.m.

The debate between three of the lowest-polling GOP presidential candidates is underway at the North Charleston Coliseum. Onstage are former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Not appearing: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who was dropped from the prime-time lineup at 9 p.m. and refused to appear on the earlier forum.

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