Seventh Republican debate: Highlights from Iowa – USA TODAY
DES MOINES â Thursday markedÂ one of the most unusual debate nights in history â a showdown without a front-runner.
Donald Trump skippedÂ the debate, claiming Fox News and moderator Megyn Kelly were biased against him. That left seven rivals on stage, just four days before the Iowa caucuses:Â Ted Cruz,Â Marco Rubio,Â Ben Carson,Â Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Rand Paul.
TrumpÂ held his own eventÂ at the same time at Drake University, setting up a split-screen kind of evening.
Here are the highlights; all times are Eastern.
10:53Â p.m.:Â Final statements:
Paul â left off the main stage at the last debate on Jan. 14 â jokes, “thanks for having me;Â it’s great to be back.” Says he will reduce government debt.
Kasich says he offers “a positive attitude” to address the nation’s problems. “Work together,” he says.
Christie cites his experiences on 9/11Â and says he will be a commander in chief who knows and understands the threat of terrorism. “No one will keep this country safer than I will,” he says,
Bush stresses his conservative credentials as Florida governor; says he can beat Hillary Clinton in the fall.
Carson urges people to remember the ideals of the Founding Fathers.
Rubio asks Iowa to vote for him because he can unite the Republicans and defeat Clinton.
Cruz reminds the crowd we’re only 93 hours from the Iowa caucuses; vows to “kill terrorists” and defeat “amnesty.”
And we’re out.
10:49Â p.m.: Ted Cruz gets another tough question: The opposition to him by popular Iowa RepublicanÂ Gov. Terry Branstad, who protested Cruz’s opposition to ethanol assistance. Cruz says he supports ethanol, but not Washington “mandates” that enable it to pick “winners and losers” in the energy field; says all energy suppliers should be treated equally.
Carson also objects to subsidies â but says ethanol subsidies have been promised over the next several years, and the government should honor its commitments.
10:45 p.m.: A YouTube question about Muslims gives Bush a chance to bash the missing Trump over his plan to temporarily ban Muslim entry into the United States.
10:43 p.m.: Paul is asked whether Bill Clinton’s behavior is an issue in Hillary Clinton’s campaign â and he basically says yes. Says any other man would have been fired for what Bill Clinton did in the White House with an intern.
10:38 p.m.: Given a Libya question, Christie rips Hillary Clinton for her involvement in U.S. military action there.
10:37Â p.m.: Rubio again vows to scrap the Iranian nuclear deal on “day one.” Kasich urges a more cautious approach and careful examination of whether Iran violates the agreement and moves toward making nuclear weapons. In that case, he said, thenÂ the deal will be voided.
10:35Â p.m.: Carson is asked a theoretical question about a Russian attack on Estonia; Carson says he would act to protect NATO allies from aggression; he calls Russia’s Vladimir Putin a “bully” and “we have to face him down.”
10:32Â p.m.: Paul says states should decide abortion policy,Â though he personally opposes the practice. He suggest he wouldÂ support states that decide toÂ keep abortion legal.
10:29 p.m.: Rubio doesn’t take back any of the attacks on Christie over gun control and other issues â then quickly shifts to a discussion of religious faith in public life.
10:27 p.m.: Christie says county clerks should find a way to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, it’s the law; clerks with religious objections should assign assistants to issue the licenses.
10:25 p.m.: Kasich defends his Medicaid program, saying it helps the poor at relatively low cost. Prison recidivism is down and drug treatment has improved. He adds that “the time has come to stop ignoringÂ the mentally ill in this country.”
10:20 p.m.: Christie says the “Bridgegate” scandal isn’t a problem for him because he did nothing wrong and he fired those responsible.
“That’s what you expect from a leader,” Christie says.
10:17 p.m.: Rubio is asked: Why are you running third in Florida? He declined to answer, attacking Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders instead.
Rubio also disputes statements that he is the Republican Party’s savior:Â “There’s only one savior, and it’s not me â it’s Jesus Christ.”
10:16 p.m.: Bush is asked: Why are you and your super PACs attacking other Republicans, especially Rubio?Â Bush says he has no control over super PACs, and the attacks are “bean bags” compared to what Hillary Clinton will dish out in the fall.
For his part, Rubio says he can and will defeat Clinton.
10:15Â p.m.: Cruz is asked about the number of lawmakers who dislike him. Cruz admits he is “not the candidate of career politicians,” and he’s just fine with that. He touts the endorsement of conservative figures who don’t like a “broken” Washington.
10:12 p.m.: Carson says he backs immigrant entrepreneurs â but the government needs to watch out for terrorists.
Bush pans that answer: “WeÂ should be a welcoming nation.”
Rubio says the immigration system is outdated and needs to be fixed.
10:10Â p.m. Cruz insists of Rubio: “I like Marco â he’s very charming; he’s very smooth.” Doesn’t really sound like it though.
Christie goes after both Cruz and Rubio, calling them bureaucratic creatures of Washington. Saying governors make better presidents, Christie says:Â “Stop the Washington bull and let’s get things done”
10:07Â p.m.: Now Cruz is on the griddle for alleged different positionsÂ on immigration, including a path to legalization; he says critics are citing a one-line amendment that would not in any case have granted citizenship to migrants who are here illegally.
Paul says Cruz is trying to “have it both ways,” and has “an authenticity problem.”
Cruz responds by … attacking Rubio for working on a Democratic immigration bill. Rubio responds that Cruz’s claim that he is the only pure conservative on the stage is “the lie” that his campaign is built on.”
10:03Â p.m.: The immigration issue surfaces: Rubio denies he has changed his position, saying he supports a path to legal status â not citizenship; says we can’t suddenly deport millions of people, but we can’t out citizenship cards as well.
Bush says Rubio did work with Democrats on a bill that would have created a path to citizenship, but later “cut and run.”
The two Floridians then accuse each other of changing their positions.
9:55 p.m.: Rubio is asked whether he has changed his views on climate change. He says he also opposed “cap and trade” programs to limit carbon emissionsÂ and will continue to do so.
9:53 p.m.: Kasich is asked how he would handle the Flint water crisis.Â “You’ve got to be on top of it right away,” he says.
9:51 p.m.: Bush says Puerto Rico should decide whether it wants to become a state â though they need to deal with their economicÂ problems.
9:50 p.m.: Cruz tees off on Obamacare, says he will “repeal every word.” Instead offers more health saving accounts and an emphasis on state programs.
9:49Â p.m.: What should the federal government NOT be doing? Christie: End federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
9:45 p.m.: A question via YouTube: A veteran asks whether police should be required to wear body cameras. Paul says he supports the ideaÂ and makes a general call for criminal justice reform.
9:42Â p.m.: Bush pledges to fix problems with the veterans health care system.
9:40 p.m.: Kasich says the government needs help to crackÂ encryption of communications between terrorism suspects. Also says the U.S. needs to work with Middle East allies to fight terrorism.
9:38 p.m.: Carson decries “political correctness” with respect to stopping jihad. He says all people are welcome here “if they want to be Americans.”
9:35Â p.m.: Paul hits Rubio for proposals that could lead to the closing mosquesÂ and also knocks his immigration plan.
Rubio says the nation should be aggressive in seeking to intercept jihadist plans, including scrutiny of migrants. “When I am president, we are keeping ISIS out of America,” he says.
Christie says we can investigate terrorists without profiling Muslims. “What people should do is use their common sense,” he says.
9:30 p.m.: Cruz complains that all his rivals are being asked questions that amount to “please attack Ted.”
He adds a Trump reference: “If you guys ask one more mean question, I may have to leave the stage.” We think it was a joke.
Rubio, defending criticism of his national security record, adds his own Trump joke: “Don’t worry â I’m not leaving the stage no matter what you ask.”
9:29 p.m.: Bush declines to answer a question about his brother’s “mistakes” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
9:27 p.m.: Invited to critiqueÂ the qualifications ofÂ Republican rivals Cruz and Rubio, Christie instead attacks Hillary Clinton and says she is the one who is unqualified.
Cruz demands equal time â but is denied because Christie didn’t mention him.
9:20Â p.m.:Â Cruz and Rubio mix it up over the military and the threat of the Islamic State.
Cruz says he will “utterly destroy” the organization, and his talk of “carpet bombing” is not over the top.
Rubio says Cruz has only been interested in cutting defense spending, undermining the fight against ISIL.
9:17Â p.m.: Carson notes he is the only candidate on the stage “without a political title” â and that’s an advantage. Says his career gave him special managementÂ skills he can use in the presidency.
9:16 p.m.: Kasich, as is his wont, tours his experience as a governor; says you have to work with Democrats to get things done.
9:14Â p.m.: Paul seizes the chance to go after Cruz and Rubio. HeÂ hits Cruz over votes on intelligence gathering and auditing the Fed; Cruz says he will push both of those issues when he gets to the White House.
Rubio says he respects PaulÂ but says his opposition to intelligence gathering programs undermine national security; Paul says they violate privacy.
9:10 p.m.: Christie says you can stand for conservative principles and “get things done” in government. Stresses his experience as governor, in contrast to theÂ senators on the stage.
9:08Â p.m.:Â Â Rubio says “this campaign isn’t about Donald Trump;” he’s “an entertaining guy,” but the race is about reversing President Obama’s mistakes.
Bush also dismisses Trump and notes no one has voted yet: “Why don’t we let the process play out?”
9:05Â p.m.:Â The first question is about “the elephant NOT in the room:” Trump. Cruz seizes the chance to tee off on Trump, recounting a litany of insults he would have delivered had he participated. The Texas senator says he won’t insult Trump “personally” but will point out that he is better on issues and substance.
9:02Â p.m.:Â No reference to Trump’s absence during candidate introductions.
9 p.m.: The candidates are onÂ stage â and no, no late appearance by Trump. No empty podium either.