Presidential races

GOP field piles on Trump in fiery debate

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SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — The Republican presidential field piled on front-runner Donald Trump during Wednesday’s  second GOP debate, seeking to raise questions about his temperament, business record and overall fitness for office.

Trump’s rivals went after him from the outset, when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and businesswoman Carly Fiorina refused to say they were comfortable with having Trump’s fingers on America’s nuclear codes in response to a question from CNN moderator Jake Tapper.

{mosads}Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker followed with comments that went a step further.

“We don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We have one right now,” quipped Walker of Trump, the former host of NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Trump responded, as he often does, with humor and defiance.

He insisted his temperament was “very good,” then questioned why Paul was on the stage.
“Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage. He’s No. 11, he’s at 1 percent in polls,” Trump said

And Trump, who has mocked Paul for being short, disputed the notion that he had earlier attacked the Kentucky senator’s looks.
“I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there,” he said.

Those exchanges set the tone for a long night onstage for the candidates, who endured a three-hour prime-time debate.

It was a night filled with attacks — most of them targeted at Trump.

While Fiorina and Bush treated Trump carefully on the first question, they later turned up their own attacks.

Bush said being president “will require a steadiness” and “understanding of how the world works” that Trump doesn’t have. 

He also sought to highlight Trump’s past as a Democrat and claimed the billionaire once pressed him to make casino gambling legal in Florida when he was governor.

“When he asked Florida to have casino gambling, we said no,” Bush said.

Trump denied the claims as the two repeatedly spoke over one another.

“Don’t make things up, Jeb,” Trump said. 

“Don’t cut me off,” Bush shot back.

There were light moments between the two as well.

Trump, who has mocked Bush for having low energy, praised him for bringing energy at the second debate.

Toward the end of the evening, Bush joked that the Secret Service’s code name for him would be “eveready” after the battery brand. That prompted a hand-slap with Trump, who said his code name would be “humble.”

Both elicited big laughs from the crowd.

“Good one,” Bush told Trump.

Fiorina, who wasn’t on the main stage at the first GOP debate in Cleveland but earned a spot in Simi Valley with her strong polling since, was a focal point of Tuesday’s contest.

She and Trump repeatedly battled over their business records, as well as over Trump’s comments in a Rolling Stone interview in which he appeared to criticize her looks. “Look at that face,” he said.

Fiorina took an understated dig at the remark that elicited huge applause from the crowd.

“I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Fiorina said.

Trump’s response to Fiorina was met coolly by the crowd.

“I think she’s got a beautiful face and I think she’s a beautiful women,” he said.

Many commentators on Twitter and television praised Fiorina’s performance. She remained assured, whether talking about her life or about foreign policy.

Fiorina shined in an impassioned attack against Planned Parenthood, which has been under fire over a series of videos that show officials from the group discussing its fetal tissue program.

“I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes,” she said. “Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

Fiorina also connected with a personal story about how she and her husband “buried a child because of drug addiction.”

Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who has quietly risen to second place in the polls, had a strong moment recounting his trip to the southern U.S. border, where he recalled the cameramen accompanying him crawling through a hole in the fence to photograph him from Mexico.

“They were not physically fit people, and they took their cameras and things with them, and shot us from the other side,” Carson said to laughter from the crowd.

He also humorously explained to Trump that there is no connection between vaccines and autism.

And a heavy focus on national security was a boon to Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.). He has sought to frame himself as the party’s preeminent national security hawk. He confidently answered questions about the Syrian refugee crisis and the Iran nuclear deal while blasting Trump for not being up to speed on foreign policy.

“Well, you should ask him questions in detail about the foreign policy issues our president will confront, because you had better be able to lead our country on the first day,” Rubio said.

The debate took several extremely personal turns.

Trump had to answer for remarks he made about Bush’s wife, Columba, who is a Mexican immigrant. Trump has said Bush’s stance on immigration reform has been influenced by his wife.

Bush told Trump on Wednesday that the attack went “too far.”

“You’re proud of your family, just as I am,” Bush said. “To subject my wife into the middle of raucous political conversation was completely inappropriate, and I hope you apologize for that, Donald.”

Bush directed Trump to where his wife was sitting in the crowd and told him to apologize directly to her.

“I won’t do that because I said nothing wrong,” Trump said. “But I do hear she’s a lovely woman.”
Later, Trump and Fiorina locked horns over his critique of her time as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. The tussle set up New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for his strongest moment of the night, in which he demanded the candidates “stop the childish back and forth.”

“I’m as entertained as anyone by this personal back and forth about the history of Donald and Carly’s career,” Christie said, shutting down Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who tried to interject.

“But for the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight who doesn’t have a job, who can’t fund his child’s education, I got to tell you the truth. They could care less about your careers, they care about theirs.”

The field of candidates at the event — which also included Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — stood clumped in extreme proximity in the cozy confines of the small debate room CNN built to overlook former President Reagan’s Air Force One jet.

The candidates were at times frustrated by the way they were pitted against one another, a tactic CNN debate moderator Tapper said was his plan going into the debate.

“If I were sitting at home and watch thing back and forth, I would be inclined to turn it off,” said Kasich.

This story was updated at 11:31 p.m. 


Tags 2016 GOP presidential primary Ben Carson Carly Fiorina Chris Christie Donald Trump GOP debate Jeb Bush John Kasich Marco Rubio Mike Huckabee Rand Paul Scott Walker Ted Cruz
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