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***Live Updates*** Throwdown Thursday: GOP Candidates Debate Sans Trump

Four days before Iowans caucus, Republican presidential candidates will debate tonight in Hawkeye State as Donald Trump, the party’s frontrunner, holds a town hall event to benefit veterans just three miles from the Des Moines debate site.

After Fox News taunted Trump this week in a press release, Trump decided to skip the event and beat Fox News boss Roger Ailes at his own game. On Thursday, Trump said the debate will “be a total disaster.”

The reality TV star, with a huge assist from Fox News, has turned the event into must-see television. Some think Trump may even make a surprise appearance. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said on Thursday evening that “in this cycle, anything is possible.”

But Trump has already won this round versus Fox News. He has shown he has the leverage, exposed Fox News’s many weaknesses and vulnerabilities, dominated the news cycle, and ensured that he will continue to do so during and after the event.

If Fox News gets decent ratings, Trump could still claim credit by arguing that viewers tuned in to see whether Trump would show up and how the candidates would respond without Trump there.

Trump’s absence may pose the biggest problem for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), though his establishment GOP fanboys/fangirls who have been predicting a Rubio surge that hasn’t materialized for the entire election cycle are doing their best to again spin that Rubio will benefit the most. Fox News has not disclosed to its viewers that its Washington Bureau Chief and the man who may be most responsible for crafting debate questions has a daughter who holds a top position in the Rubio campaign. Apparently, there is nothing to see here at all.

Because Trump will not be at the debate, Rubio may have to fend off many more attacks from his establishment GOP rivals who want to overtake him in New Hampshire. And even if Rubio has a breakout performance, he may not get the bump that he needs from it. After Iowa’s Democrats caucused in 2004, a surging John Edwards finished in second place behind John Kerry, who would eventually win the nomination. Howard Dean, who had been the frontrunner, finished in third but dominated the news cycle with his “Dean Scream.” Edwards would have surged even more had it not been for the Dean Scream, but the North Carolina Democrat lost a lot of his momentum because he could not elbow his way into the news cycle for days after the Dean Scream. Rubio will face the same dynamic. No matter how well he does, perhaps with Fox News putting a thumb on the scale for him, Rubio will have to compete with ALL THINGS TRUMP in the days ahead, and that diminishes the opportunities he will have to get a significant surge.

Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Jim Gilmore will be in the undercard debate (7PM EST), which Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer will moderate. Huckabee and Santorum—the last two winners of the Iowa Caucuses—will head to Trump’s event after the undercard debate.

Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Dr. Ben Carson and Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Rand Paul (R-KY) will be in the main event. Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace will moderate the primetime debate at 9 PM EST.

Those looking for even a semi-decent discussion on immigration will be disappointed. Fox News is prioritizing the concerns of a Muslim activist and an illegal immigrant activist—both of whom will be questioners. Those who have been impacted by illegal immigration—like Jamiel Shaw Sr., whose son was murdered by an illegal immigrant—will apparently not get a voice. Neither will Americans laid off after companies abused the H-1B visa system.

For some reason, Ailes seems hellbent on promoting the centrist Kelly as the face of the network. According to Politico, Ailes’s press statement that was the last straw for Trump “was meant to redirect Trump’s fire from Kelly to Ailes and the network.” And New York Magazine reported that Fox News “is split between Kelly’s allies like Brit Hume and conservative anchors that are furious that Kelly… has become the face of the network.”

Perhaps Ailes could have gotten Trump to reconsider by apologizing. Or he could have diffused the situation long before it flared up replacing Kelly with someone like Shannon Bream, who had a standout and widely-praised performance in the 2011 GOP debate in South Carolina. More personable than Kelly while also being more fluent on the issues, Bream may be a better–and more impartial– moderator than Kelly. But maybe Ailes doesn’t want Kelly to be his network’s Wally Pipp after promoting her so heavily.

Stay tuned to Breitbart News for live updates throughout the evening.

Donald Trump comes out of the debate completely unscathed and the winner, especially because the media cycle will now immediately center around Trump and his event. Virgil (the poet/philosopher–not the Million Dollar Man’s bodyguard) said “fortune sides with him who dares.” And Trump’s gamble paid huge dividends tonight.

Closing Statements:

Cruz: He says the media noise will soon be over in 93 hours and Iowans will vote. He says the central issue in the contest is trust. He asks, “who do you know will kill the terrorists, defend the Constitution, and repeal Obamacare? Who do you know will stop amnesty and secure the borders? Who do you know will defend life, marriage and religious liberty? Examine our records. Pray on it. And I would be honored if  you and your family would come caucus for us on Monday night.”

Rubio: He says the Bible commands us to let our light shine on the world and for over 200 years, America’s light has been shining on the world and the light is dimming a little after seven years of Obama. He asks Iowans to caucus for him because he will unite the party, defeated Hillary Clinton. He says when he is President, America’s light will shine again and the 21st century will be a new American century.

Carson: He asks Iowans to think of the Founding Fathers. He recites the Constitution’s preamble in his closing and then says, “Folks, it’s not too late. Enough said.”

Bush: He cites his proven record as a conservative leader as Florida’s governor. He says he will defeat Hillary Clinton and has detailed plans to fix the mess in D.C. and restore our military and alliances around the world.

Christie: He says his wife was two blocks from the Trade Center on 9/11 and he had to confront the possibility that he would be a single parent. He says America needs a Commander-in-Chief who can protect us and “feels in here what it means to face the possibility of loss.” He says nobody will keep the country safer than he will.

Kasich: He says one of our biggest national security issues is that we can’t solve problems. He says we can create jobs, create situations where wages rise and students pay down their debt. He says he is an optimist who has seen so many things get accomplished in his lifetime by people working together.

Paul: He says “thanks for having me, it’s great to be back.” He bills himself as an eye surgeon from Bowling Green and the thing that is most important to him is the debt. He says he is the one true fiscal conservative who will look at all spending and that is the only way we will balance our budget.

10:48: Wallace asks Cruz the ethanol question and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s non-endorsement of him. Cruz says Washington shouldn’t be picking winners and losers and there should be “no mandates and no subsidies whatsoever.” He says his flat tax eliminates subsidies for everyone, including oil and gas industries, and would spur the economy. He says it is not true, though, that he does not support Ethanol and says the EPA’s “blend law” is much more harmful to Iowans. Cruz  says that Steve King is arguably the fiercest defender of farmers and he has endorsed Cruz.

Carson is asked about ethanol and he says that he is very much against the government being involved in every aspect of our lives. He notes that there was an additional 81,000 pages of government regulations last year and “this is absolutely absurd.” Regarding the Renewable Fuel standard, he says that it is unfair to withdraw the rug because promises were made and people have invested energy/money. He says we need to be talking about new sources of energy like hydro-electric power and natural gas that can be liquefied and put Putin back in the box that he belongs.

10:45: A Muslim activist says that the hate crimes against Muslims have tripled (but Jews have been the victims of more hate crimes, according to FBI statistics) and asks what GOP candidates would do to promote “increased tolerance.” Jeb says “our words have consequences” and uses the opportunity to attack Trump’s temporary Muslim ban that creates an environment that is “toxic in our own country.” Bush says the questioner is not the threat and the threat is Islamic terrorism. Bush doesn’t destroy/dent the narrative that Muslims have been victims of so many hate crimes and that is why he would be a terrible, terrible general election candidate who will be eaten alive by the mainstream media/Clinton machine.

10:43: Paul says Hillary Clinton is not responsible for Bill’s behavior but points out that had Bill Clinton done what he did with an intern as a CEO, he would be fired, never hired again, and shunned in their community. Paul says that Hillary can’t be a champion of women’s rights while condoning her husband’s behavior and blasts the Clintons for taking money from Middle Eastern countries that treat women like cattle. Paul could have given a better answer here and brought up the numerous instances in which Hillary allegedly intimidated Bill’s accusers. He could have also mentioned that Clinton said that all accusers should be given the benefit of the doubt.

10:39: Christie slams Hillary Clinton for refusing to take responsibility for Libya/Benghazi.

10:35: Baier asks Rubio about the Iran Nuclear deal and why he would tear up the constraints on Day One in the White House. Rubio says Iran’s ultimate goal is to hold America hostage and will use the $100 billion to expand their conventional weaponry and buy/develop nuclear weapons. Rubio says nations will have to decide between doing business with Iran or the United States after he tears up the Iran deal on Day One.

Kasich says the president needs to be laying the groundwork right now to slap sanctions back on Iran and he is worried that if we don’t get this settled now, too many countries will have started doing business with Iran and may not want to hold Iran to account.

10:33: Baier asks Carson whether Putin has greater designs for the regions besides Russia’s actions inside Ukraine. If Russia crosses the Estonia border, and Estonia invokes Article V, what would Carson do? Carson says Putin is a “bully” and he would face him down in the whole Baltic region. Armor brigades are needed. And military exercises are needed in Estonia and Latvia, he says. Carson says Ukraine needs offensive weapons and America should fight Russia on an economic level in order to deploying a missile defense system for the region.

10:30: Wallace asks Paul about comments he made not getting into politics to fight abortion. He asks if he is okay with liberal states making abortion okay? Paul says he thinks abortion is always wrong but government is not always going to save us and “if we don’t know right from wrong we have lost our way” and come unmoored. Wallace asks Paul if abortion should be a state’s right issue and Paul says he favors both a federal/state approach.

10:29: Wallace asks Rubio about his attacks against Christie and whether he wants to take any of the attacks against him on Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor/gun control back. Rubio punts and then goes on to defend America’s Judeo-Christian values. He says his faith will influence not just how he governs but the way he lives his life.

10: 27: Wallace asks Christie about Kim Davis. Christie points out that what he meant was that the law needed to be followed and claims that he never meant the Davis should lose her job or issue the marriage licenses to gay couples. Christie says the radical Islamic Jihadists want to impose their faith on all of us and the war against them is important to preserve religious liberty.

10:21: Wallace asks Christie about Bridgegate and whether the GOP can take the chance of nominating him with the scandal still out there. Christie says three investigations have found that he knew nothing and he fired those who were involved. Christie says that’s what leaders do.

10:18: Kelly asks Bush about his super PAC’s ads against Rubio and whether they do more harm than good. Bush says his record is plenty good enough to beat Hillary Clinton, who has no record of accomplishment. Bush says this is “bean bag” compared to what the Clinton hit machine is going to do the nominee. This is actually a good performance from Bush in appealing to the establishment wing. Rubio claims Hillary doesn’t want to run against him but he can’t wait to run against Hillary.

Baier asks Rubio why he is in third in Florida and why the rest of the country should elect him if the people who know him best do not support him. Re: the Time cover that proclaimed Rubio as the GOP savior, Rubio says there is one savior and that is Jesus Christ. Rubio says that Bernie Sanders would be a good president for Sweden while Clinton is disqualified for president and says one of Clinton’s first acts as president may be to pardon herself. Rubio says anyone who lies to the families of those who have served this country can’t be president.

10:15: Cruz is asked if his style gets in the way of getting things done. Cruz says he is not the candidate of career politicians. He says the endorsements he is proud of are those of conservative leaders like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Dr. James Dobson. Cruz says that if elected he “will tell the truth and do what I say I would do.” Strong answer her from Cruz.

10:13: Illegal immigrant activist Dulce Candy, who also served in the military, asks whether American’s economy will suffer if it does not seem like a welcoming place for immigrant entrepreneurs. Carson says we have to be intelligent re: immigration policies. He says America must declare war on the Islamic State because we need to reorient the country’s immigration/visa policies because there are many people out there who want to destroy us. Carson points out that if you have ten people coming to  your house and one is a terrorist, you will want to keep all out.

Bush says the “beautiful young women” who served in the military deserves our respect. He says “Dulce Candy” is a pretty cool name and we should celebrate her. “You can deal with the threat of terror and recognize [that America] can be aspirational.”

10: 08: Paul says he saw the debate and claims Cruz can’t have it both ways. Paul says Cruz is the king of saying “everybody is for amnesty” and says Cruz has an “authenticity problem.” Paul says he was for legalization too (!) because you can have legalization after border security.

Cruz says that John Adams said that “facts are stubborn things” and the fact is Rubio stood with Reid/Schumer while Cruz stood with Sessions/Steve King. Cruz points out that Sessions/King/Mark Levin/Rush Limbaugh have all said that Cruz’s amendment helped exposed the Gang of Eight and led to the defeat of the bill.

Rubio says Cruz’s campaign is build on the lie that everybody is a RINO while he is a true conservative. Rubio claims that “you want to Trump Trump on immigration.” Cruz says he likes Marco because he is “charming” and “smooth” and calls Rubio out for vowing to lead the fight against amnesty just like Cruz did. But when they got to Washington, Rubio supported amnesty and Cruz honored his commitment and as president he will honor every commitment. Strong answer from Cruz. This makes them all sound like traditional politicians, and Christie says he feels like he needs a Washington-English language converter. But Christie’s good point here only makes people think Trump is that person to get things done.

10:05 PM: Kelly now asks Cruz about whether he supported a path to legalization with his amendment that was designed to kill the bill. This exchange really helps Trump as viewers may associate Messrs. Rubio, Bush, and Cruz with “amnesty.” Kelly asks Cruz whether “it was all an act.” Cruz is explaining process and, unfortunately, though Cruz is completely right on the merits, but unfortunately, when you are explaining, you are losing. Cruz points out that even Sessions supported his amendment to reveal the hypocrisy of the Gang of Eight supporters. He is correct–the amendment exposed the Gang of Eight as only being concerned about citizenship and helped to defeat the bill.

The debate now turns to immigration. Kelly wonders if Rubio cannot be trusted on the issue since he ran against amnesty to get elected to the Senate and then championed comprehensive amnesty legislation in the Senate. Rubio, sounding lawyer-like, saying he doesn’t support “blanket amnesty.” He repeats his talking point about enforcing immigration laws and people not being allowed if we don’t know who they are. He repeats “Gang of Eight” talking points about various metrics that need to be met before amnesty is granted. Rubio is all over the place.

Bush says he is confused because he was the sponsor of the “Gang of Eight” bill that allowed for citizenship over a period of time. Bush says he supported Rubio’s bill. He says Rubio then cut and ran because amnesty wasn’t popular with conservatives. Bush then touts his immigration book and advocates “earned legal status.” This exchange is why neither Bush nor Rubio has caught fire in this election cycle while Trump has.

Rubio now says Bush, in his book, changed his position from “path to citizenship” to “path to legalization” but to average voters this all sounds like amnesty.

Rubio vows to bring immigration “under control” as president. Bush tells Rubio again that he supported Rubio’s “Gang of Eight” bill “because you asked me to.” Bush says Rubio shouldn’t “cut and run” after he asked people to support his amnesty bill.

9:57 PM: Baier asks Rubio about whether he has flip-flopped on cap and trade. Rubio claims that he was the first person out of the box to oppose Charlie Crist on cap and trade. Rubio says he has never supported it and doesn’t think it is a good idea now. He says there will “never be any cap and trade” in the United States.

9:56: Baier mentions that Snyder is under fire for Flint’s water crisis. He asks Kasich who he would handle that. He says every single engine of government has to be involved. This could be a huge trap question for Kasich if his state does indeed face a similar water crisis. Kasich is answering the question in platitudes, probably aware of that and not to say anything that will trip him up in the future. He says elected officials should listen to the people because most of the time they are right re: complaints/problems.

9:55: Baier asks Bush why Puerto Rico should become a state when it is near bankrupt. He said if he was a Puerto Rican, he would vote for citizenship but says they should have the right of self-determination. Bush says Puerto Rico needs to deal with its structural problems and a lot of people are taking a one-way flight to Orlando (and turning Florida more blue) to avoid Puerto Rico’s problems.

9:54: Baier asks Cruz about how people will maintain their Obamacare plans if he repeals it. Cruz says so many have lost jobs, health insurance, doctors due to Obamacare. He says if he is elected president, “we will repeal every world of Obamacare.” He says healthcare reform should empower patients and keep the government from getting between patients and doctors. Cruz says people should be allowed to purchase  health insurance across state lines, government should expand health savings accounts, and we should work to delink health insurance from employment so “if you lose your job, your health insurance goes with you so it is personal, portable, and affordable.”

9:53: Christie is asked about entitlement reform. Baier asks to name one thing the federal government does not that it should not do. He answers “get rid of Planned Parenthood funding for the United State of America.” He says he can’t think of anything bigger than that if you see thousands and thousands of people being killed in the womb.

9:49: Mark Watson, a veteran, cites Ferguson and  asks why aren’t we using technology to better protect communities. Paul talks about how so much of Ferguson’s budget was composed of trivial fines that targeted people living on the edge of poverty. He says the “war on drugs” has “disproportionately affected our African-American community” and we need to make sure there is “equal protection under the law” re: war on drugs and America doesn’t incarcerate another generation of young African-American men. He says drug use is about equal between white/black but 3/4 of prison is black/brown and the GOP needs to play a big role in criminal justice reform.

9:47: Bush is asked whether he would police charity organizations that say they are helping vets. Bush says the first responsibility of the next president is to clean up the VA scandal. Bush points out that the federal government has given $140 million in bonuses to VA employees without giving veterans care. He says “people died” and only three people have been fired. Bush says veterans deserve more choices for care. He says we need to mobilize the whole country to deal with veterans’ issues.

9:45: Kelly asks Kasich about backdoors/encryption and the potential risks of creating more security problems since the “bad guys” will have access too. Kasich says the problem needs to be solved in the Situation Room of the White House and we should stop talking about backdoors/encryption, etc. to not give potential cyberterrorists any more advantages.

9:42: Kelly asks Carson if GOP’s rhetoric on Muslims has “stoked the flames of bias.” Carson says “we need to stop allowing political correctness to dictate our policies because it’s going to kill us if we don’t.” He cites the Holy Land Foundation Islamic terrorism trial and a memorandum in that trial in which Islamic radicals believed that America would be easy to overcome re: Jihad because Americans were going to try to “protect the rights of the very people who were trying to subvert them.” Carson says, like Teddy Roosevelt, he thinks anybody should be allowed to come to America so long as they want to be Americans. If not, they should stay in their own countries.

9:40: Kelly asks Christie about profiling terrorists. Christie says you can find terrorists with facts and don’t have to profile. Christie says what people should do is “use common sense” and make law enforcement make the decisions “if you see something that is suspicious.” Christie says the problem is that Obama/Clinton have made “law enforcement the enemy” and is making everybody nervous — law enforcement officers are afraid to get out of their cars while people are afraid to go to law enforcement.

9:35: Kelly points out that Google searches for terror issues have increased over 400% since 2008. She points out that Rubio has advocated closing down mosques to combat terrorism and wonders if his position runs “afoul of the First Amendment.”

Rubio says that “radical Muslims” and “radical Islam” is not just “hate talk” but “hate action. They blow people up.” Another “tough-sounding” question aimed directly at Rubio’s wheelhouse to make him look strong/good.

Paul says it is a huge mistake to close down mosques. He says he disagrees with Rubio on border security because “if you want to defend the country, it begins with border security.” It takes Paul to highlight Rubio’s support for massive amnesty and his dealmaking with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Paul says “Marco can’t have it both ways” and you can’t defend America from radical Islam if he is not for strong border security.

A better question from Fox News would have been to ask Rubio about border security/support for comprehensive amnesty legislation.

9:32: Cruz says the last four questions have given candidates chances to attack Cruz. He says “if you guys ask one more mean question, I may have to leave the stage.” Cruz seems like he is trying a bit too hard there. Cruz wants the moderators to stay focused on the issues rather than encouraging attacks.

Rubio says he’s not leaving the stage “no matter what you ask me” and says Obama’s authorization was against Assad and not ISIS.

Paul says the Syrian issue is an important one that the country needs to get right. He said it is a “really really bad” idea to bomb Assad and ISIS. He says we need to defeat ISIS and if we defeat ISIS, there will be a more powerful ISIS that may take over all of Syria.

9:29: Bush is asked what lessons he has learned from his brother’s two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let’s see if Bush has an answer for this. He says he was critical of Senators who did not give President Barack Obama authorization for the use of military force. He said his opinion wasn’t popular at the time and only became so after the Paris/San Bernardino attacks. He cites his Reagan Library foreign policy speech re: destroying ISIS. He wants to get the “lawyers off the damn backs of the military” and train a Sunni-led force to get rid of ISIS.

9:27: Christie blasts Clinton for putting the country’s intelligence and officers at risk for “convenience” and says she is not qualified to be president. He says Republicans need someone who can prosecute the case against Hillary Clinton and he is the person to do that.

9:23: When Rubio is asked if Cruz’s record matches his rhetoric, Rubio says the only budget that Cruz has voted for is one that Paul sponsored that cuts defense spending. Rubio says it is a bad idea because it makes America less able to confront and defeat ISIS with “overwhelming” force.

9:21: After Paul attacked Cruz for being a bit to hawkish on national security issue, Wallace wonders if Cruz’s record is tough enough to fight ISIS. Cruz says he will apologize to nobody for the vigorousness with which he will hunt down, fight, and utterly destroy ISIS. He says though Wallace claims it is “tough talk” to talk carpet bombing, it is a different fundamental military strategy that we see from Obama, who has degraded the military.

9:19: Wallace asks Carson about running for president with no experience in government at all. Carson is proud that he is the only one on stage without a political title but “you will hear the truth. I don’t think you have to be a politician to tell the truth.” Carson says he has had more 2 AM phone calls than everybody put together for life and death decisions. He says he has put together complex teams to accomplish things that have never been accomplished before. This should have been Carson’s go-to message from the beginning. His terrible campaign team lacked the discipline and the strategy to make this point stick in an anti-establishment election cycle.

9:16: Kasich says that a reporter has said there is an establishment lane, an anti-establishment lane, and a Kasich lane. Another question from Wallace that was meant to sound negative (about voters this election cycle not valuing “practical government experience) but tries to help establishment-leaning candidates. Kasich talks about having to “come together as a country” and stopping “all of the divisions” and bringing in people from the other party in the GOP. He touts his New Hampshire newspaper endorsements.

9:12: Baier asks Paul whether he made a mistake by not fully embracing his dad and his legacy from the beginning. He says his father was the most honest man in politics we’ve ever seen in a generation. Paul says the Liberty vote that his father brought to the GOP will not vote for Cruz because he didn’t go to the “Audit the Fed” vote. He also attacks Cruz on government surveillance. He says the Liberty vote will stay in the Paul household. Paul seems intent on taking out Cruz.

Cruz says he agrees with Rand that he very much respects Ron Paul. Cruz says anyone who wins the GOP nomination has to bring back the Reagan coalition. Cruz says he was an original sponsor of the “Audit the Fed” bill and he had a town hall in New Hampshire but looks forward to signing the bill.

Rubio says he respects Rand because he believes in everything he stands for. He plays up his national security credentials and talks about destroying ISIS.

Paul says you don’t have to give up liberty for a false sense of security and says the bulk collection of phone data did not stop one terrorist.

9:10: Christie says Republicans can stand for principles while getting things done in government. He says people are frustrated because they see a government that doesn’t work for them and they don’t want to hear process talk. He again says that is the difference between being a governor and being someone who hasn’t had such responsibilities.

9:08: Baier notes that Bush and three others are splitting the establishment vote and may hand the nomination to an anti-establishment candidates. Jeb says we should let the process work. Jeb says he misses Donald Trump because he was a “teddy bear to me” and “we always had a loving relationship.” He says everybody was in the witness protection program when he went after Trump. He says the election is not about pedigree and is about someone with a proven record who could take on Hillary Clinton. Some good lines from Bush. One of his stronger, more personable moments. He also says you need a subpoena to get any information from Hillary Clinton.

9:06: Wallace throws Rubio a big softball for him to hit by asking him how he could unite all of the GOP factions. Rubio, engaging in bad habits, doesn’t answer the question directly and sounds like a Senator from the outset. He says the campaign is not about Donald Trump but about Obama having destroyed what has made America special. He says Barack Obama wants America to be like the rest of the world. “We don’t want to be like the rest of the world,” Rubio says. He says Hillary Clinton cannot win the election, especially after she said that Obama will make a great Supreme Court Justice. Rubio says he would unify the GOP but never answers how. No follow-up from Wallace.

9:05: Kelly asks Cruz why he now thinks Trump is part of the “Washington Cartel.” Cruz says he hopes to earn the support of Trump supporters and highlights the issues and substances vs. ad hominem attacks. Cruz’s problem is he answers each question–no matter how trivial–as if he is making some grand proclamation.

The RNC was “confident” there would not be an empty podium to taunt Trump. As Joel points out, the RNC was right to be confident that Fox News would not display an empty podium:

9PM: The candidates are introduced. Kelly wants to “address the elephant not in the room.” He asks Cruz what Trump’s message sends to the voters of Iowa.

Cruz doesn’t answer the question and starts off with an infomercial-like answer. He says if he is elected president, keep an eye on the tarmac, because Iowa will be “fly-to” country instead of “flyover country.”

He says he is a “maniac” and everybody on the stage is “stupid, fat, and ugly” and Ben Carson is a terrible surgeon.

Cruz says now that he has gotten the Trump portion of the debate out of the way, he wants to thank everybody on stage for showing Iowans respect.

Trump reportedly spoke to Ailes earlier tonight and will not show up to the debate or the spin room after the debate. According to the Associated Press, Trump told reporters that his event has already raised $5 million for vets and he has already donated $1 to veterans causes.

Closing statements:

In an understatement at the conclusion of the undercard debate, Hemmer says “the night has just begun.”

Gilmore: He says he is the so of a meat-cutter and his mother was secretary. He said he didn’t have a father who could give him a $1 million loan to start a business and he won’t go across town to carry the coat for some billionaire.

Fiorina: She says that in over 150 events, she has come to know and love the people of Iowa. She says Iowans have figured out that “this ain’t working anymore.” She blasts government, the professional political class and says she is running because we “need to return to citizen government” because “it is time to take our country back.”

Huckabee: He says there was a “little dustup about a video we put together with the music of Adele.” He then says it would be appropriate to say “Hello, Iowa. It’s me. And you know me.” Huckabee says he got the largest number of votes in the history of the Iowa Caucuses eight years ago.

Santorum: He wants to thank the people of Iowa and mentions that he has done 700 meetings/speeches throughout Iowa. He pays tribute to Iowans he has met on the stump and asks them to pick the right person and the “leader you know is best for this country.”

7:55: Santorum says Obama has “been the most divisive president” in his lifetime and says Obama is “not trustworthy” and you “cannot sit down and negotiate with him” because he won’t keep a deal. He says Obama ascribes motives to people in Washington that aren’t true by personally attacking people and tearing people down. Santorum says he was a tough fighter with sharp elbows in Washington (when he was a true Washington reformer before he was associated with the infamous K-Street project) but he got things done not because he was mean but because he was respectful.

7:53: Huckabee says he doesn’t understand how anybody with an IQ level above “plant-level” would believe in Socialism.
“I’m not feeling the Bern,” he says.

Huckabee says if Americans are given free college in their twenties, they’ll be paying for it in their 30s and 40s. Huckabee says “you do not make people rich by tearing down those who are providing jobs.”

7:50: MacCallum asks Santorum “where were you” at the March for Life last week. She mentions that Fiorina was there. A cheap-shot question–Santorum’s pro-life credentials can’t be questioned. And he responds that he has been to the march for the last 25 years. Has Fiorina gone for the last 25 years? Terrible/Pointless/second-rate question by MacCallum/Fox News.

Santorum says a lot have talked a good game in life but he has also lived it. He says that twice in his life we were counseled to have an abortion and they did not even think about it because life begins at conception and they know the potential of each child no matter how long their life is.

Fiorina says it is “outrageous” that Fox News would question the pro-life credentials of Rick Santorum in a smart and politically-savvy response. Good on her for this answer.

7:46: Fiorina is asked whether she has any regrets about taking on the Planned Parenthood videos. She says the facts have not changed re: Planned Parenthood and “I will not be rendered silent on this issue.” She says it says a lot about our Justice Department that Hillary Clinton has not been indicted. Fiorina says Planned Parenthood engages in partial-birth abortion, late-term abortion, and alters abortion techniques to harvest and sell body parts. She says most Americans find this practice “horrific.”

She says “most Americans find horrific that Hillary Clinton’s position on this is ‘it’s not a life until it’s born.'” She says Americans also find it “horrific” that Clinton/Democrats believe that a young woman does not need her mother’s permission to get an abortion but a 13-year old can’t go to a tanning salon with your mother’s permission. She says there will not be one dime for Planned Parenthood under a President Fiorina. She says she will always stand for life and religious liberty because “this is about the character of our nation.”

7:42: Fiorina says that saying she likes to spend time with her husband, unlike Hillary Clinton, was not a personal attack. She says she was just pointing out that Hillary Clinton will do anything to gain and hang on to power” and says, “if my husband did what Bill Clinton did, I would have left him a long time ago.”

“Here’s the deal,” Fiorina says. “Hillary Clinton has been climbing the ladder to try to get power.. she’s trying for the White House but she’s probably more qualified for the Big House.”

She says since Clinton has escaped prosecution more times than El Chapo, “perhaps Sean Penn should interview her.”

“The woman should be prosecuted,” Fiorina says.

Fiorina says Clinton hasn’t accomplished much in her life and has gotten every foreign policy challenge wrong and just practices the “Clinton Way”–“say whatever you have to say, do whatever you have to say, lie as long as you have to do to get away with it… Hillary Clinton cannot be President of the United States.”

7:39: Santorum is asked how his 20% flat tax would bring back 2 million jobs. Santorum says his plan will bring back 3.5 million jobs according to studies. He says he has pledged to cut every single Obama administration regulation, including Obamacare, and remove regulations that cost the economy more than $100 million.

7:36: Huckabee is asked about what he could do for workers who make less than $30,000 a year. Hemmer mentions that the Club for Growth has had issues with Huckabee’s tax policies. He asks Huckabee if shrinking government is better than a “tax-and-spend” approach. Huckabee slams the Club for Growth as a “bunch of rich guys sitting around writing checks” to go after people they don’t like. He says they don’t like Huckabee because he was “fighting for the guys at the bottom and not just the people at the top.” Huckabee, after defending his record, again pivots to championing his Fair Tax.

7:35: Gilmore says if he becomes President, he’ll veto gun control as fast it takes Hillary Clinton to eliminate her emails.

7:32: Huckabee is asked about Nikki Haley’s call to resist the “siren call of the angriest voices.” Huckabee acknowledges that a lot of people are angry because they see people at the top who are doing fine while government poverty programs keep Americans poverty with artificial thresholds. Huckabee says he knows a little bit about poverty and says he resents it when people say they “want to be poor because they want to be.”(he says that’s a “stupid” and “foolish” and “mean” thing to say) He says “people are poor because they don’t know how to get out of the hole” and “government shouldn’t push them back in the hole” by punishing people who want to get to work with misguided policies.

7:30: Santorum is asked what he would say to the Iowa voter who cried while talking about her economic struggles to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). He says he would tell her that “we have to create jobs that will give them wages and benefits that will help them provide for their families.” He says America can again be the world’s top manufacturer and get those jobs back while China’s economy becomes more of a service-oriented one. He says 74% of Americans don’t have a college degree and most Republicans don’t talk about creating jobs for people who think neither political party cares about them.

7:28: Hemmer asks Fiorina about shrining the federal government by 30% and asks whether it will not work like her HP cuts. She compares HP’s successes to Gateway’s failures, but her lavish spending habits while her employees were getting the shaft just doesn’t sit well with voters, and that explains why she hasn’t surged no matter how much she talks about wanting to fire the senior executives at the VA.

7:26: Fiorina is given a softball question about whether she can combat lobbyists to pare the tax code down to three pages. Fiorina blasts the “permanent political class” and says the only way to control government spending is through “zero-based budgeting,” which she says is a “fancy word” for common sense. She says nobody wants to vote on a three-page tax code because “you are goring everybody’s ox” and “taking the political establishment apart” and getting things done in the Oval Office.

7:23: Huckabee is asked about the growth of government and he says we’re not going to shrink government and bring back manufacturing job by doing the same things over and over again. He speaks about Maytag jobs in Iowa that have gone to Mexico and laid-off workers who have not found comparable jobs.

“How many people do you think living around the Beltway know a guy like that, care about a guy like that?” Huckabee asks. “Not many.”

He points out that six of the 10 richest counties are around the Beltway and people who live in the bubble soft the high-finance world of New York, the government world of Washington, and the entertainment world of Hollywood don’t have a clue about how hard people in Iowa are working. He says one of the values of campaigning in Iowa is that you can’t win without talking to farmers, housewives, welders, etc.

 

7:18: Huckabee says he doesn’t trust Putin but “if somebody is willing to take a shot at people we’re taking shots at, I’m more than willing to let them use their own bullets to do it.” He says you take out ISIS by taking away their land and implement a comprehensive strategy to revoke their access to social media platforms, go after them financially so nobody can do commerce with ISIS, and go after them militarily. He says, like any type of cancer, you don’t “contain” ISIS but “eradicate” them.

7:13: Santorum is asked what an American president can do to stop Paris-style terror attacks. He blasts Obama for saying that ISIS “has nothing to do with Islam,” which prevents Obama from successfully fighting Islamic terrorism. Santorum says that ISIS has established a Caliphate and is using that to attract people to follow them. Santorum says “we must take their land” and make them “illegitimate in the eyes of the Muslim world.”

Fiorina is asked about Obama’s assertion that many are exaggerating ISIS’s threat. “News Flash, President Obama. News flash, Mrs. Clinton,” Fiorina says. “Climate change is not our most pressing national security threat.”

She adds that America must “understand that we must stand up to adversaries” and blasts Clinton for asking “what difference does it make” after four Americans died in Benghazi. By not vowing retribution, Clinton, according to Fiorina, signaled to every adversary that it was “open season” on Americans.

7:11: Huckabee says he doesn’t want to get into an argument with New Yorkers when asked whether New York values are different from Iowa values. He says he is not a New York-funded campaign funded by corporatists such as Goldman Sachs. He says he is sponsored by people like Thomas, a part-time Uber driver in Pennsylvania who sent him $25 this week. Wonder if Huckabee’s answer would have been different had he not hosted a weekly television show based out of New York City. He says “if you follow the money,” the same people who finance Democrats also finance Republicans, and that’s why nothing changes in Washington while Americans get more frustrated.

7:10: Gilmore says he is the only veteran in the race and is not going to Trump’s “faux-event” for veterans.

7:07: The crowd boos when MacCallum points out that some in the GOP hate Cruz/Trump so much they would rather want Hillary Clinton in the White House.

When Fiorina is asked about whether the GOP is in crisis, she speaks about the chasm between what the people care about on the ground and what the media/pundits care about. She says that has been the biggest surprise of the campaign and asks Iowans to vote for her to “take the government back.”

7:03: Santorum is asked whether Monday night will be his last stand. He blasts Fox News and the media for not promoting the undercard and accuses them of “segregating” and trying to take Iowa out of the process. Santorum says if the same rules were in place four years ago, he would have been in the undercard debate. Santorum blasts a certain “entertainer” (but Santorum will go to Trump’s event after the debate) and the networks for not spending enough time on issues he says are important to voters. Hemmer asks why he is going to Trump’s event and Santorum says he is “not going to though mud at anybody on the stage tonight” or “attack Donald Trump.” He says he and Huckabee were asked to come to an event where money is going to be raised for veterans and he is going because he doesn’t have anything to do at 9PM and wants to help raise money for vets.

7:02 PM EST: Hemmer asks Huckabee about his diminishing support in Iowa. Huckabee says it’s not that his message isn’t working but it is “not getting out.” He says his message is the same as eight years ago when he won Iowa’s caucuses. He says American worker are getting “gut-punched” and not getting a “fair shake” in the economy. He says he is talking about preserving life and getting rid of abortion by applying the 5th/14th amendments to every person since conception. He advocates for the Fair Tax to “revive our economy” so people are “rewarded for their work rather than punished for it.”

7:00 PM EST: The candidates for the undercard debate take the stage. Why in the world is Jim Gilmore even here?

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