The GOP debate on Fox News tonight proved to be Trump-centric as he and his nine rivals—Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and John Kasich—tried to emerge from the pack. (As Carly Fiorina did in the early debate.) In fact, Trump fielded the very first question, and it was a doozy. When all the candidates were asked if anyone was unwilling to pledge support to the eventual nominee and to rule out a run as an independent, only Trump raised his hand. “I will not make the pledge at this time,” he said. Other highlights, via CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post:
- Christie vs Paul: After Paul said, “I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans. ... I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights, and I will continue to," Christie responded, "That's a completely ridiculous answer. ... How are you supposed to know? ... When you’re sitting in a subcommittee blowing hot air, then you can say things like that.”
- Bush on political dynasties: "I'm going to have to earn this." And on the Iraq war: “Knowing what we know now with faulty intelligence … it was a mistake. I wouldn’t have gone in.” CNN's David Chalian: "Nothing about tonight's debate indicated that Jeb Bush is in the driver's seat of this campaign. He seemed much more like a passenger—and at times a nervous and unsure one at that."
- Paul vs Trump: "He buys and sells politicians of all stripes. He’s already hedging his bet on the Clintons," said Paul. Trump responded that he's given money to Paul, too.
- Kasich: “Donald Trump's hitting a nerve in this country, he really is. ... For people to want to just tune him out, they’re making a mistake." He also gave an impassioned answer about his support of gay marriage, here. Writes Nicholas Confessore at the New York Times: "I think Kasich has been extremely effective up there. Lots of confidence, talks like a real person, and so far has successfully defended his biggest vulnerability--the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare."
- Rubio: “How is Hillary going to lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised paycheck to paycheck." Rubio generally won praise tonight for his answers.
- Trump on political correctness: "I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time, either."
- Carson: He said Hillary Clinton "counts on the fact that people are uninformed." At another point, he thanked the moderator for a question and added, "I wasn't sure I was going to get to talk again."
- Cruz: “It’s not a question of stupidity. It’s that they don’t want to enforce the immigration laws,” he said of unnamed GOP colleagues. Mostly though, Cruz had a surprisingly quiet night.
- Walker: “Every section of the world that Hillary Clinton touched is more messed up today than it was." He also said Iran and ISIS were "tied together."
- Huckabee: "The military is not a social experiment," he said in discussing gender diversity and LGBT benefits. "The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things."
- Christie on New Jersey's financial trouble: "If you think it’s bad now, you should’ve seen it when I got there."
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