GOP clash on economy gets nasty

GOP clash on economy gets nasty

BOULDER, Colo. — Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump orders US troops back to active duty for coronavirus response Trump asserts power to decide info inspector general for stimulus gives Congress Fighting a virus with the wrong tools MORE and Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonWhite House slams pastor leading Cabinet Bible studies for linking homosexuality, coronavirus Conservative group hits Trump for coronavirus response in new ad On The Money: Senate sends coronavirus aid package to Trump | Lawmakers race to draft next stimulus | Stocks close with steep loses | Treasury offers guidance on deferring tax payments MORE were put on the hot seat for their economic policies at a wonkish presidential debate Wednesday hosted by the business television network CNBC.

Trump and Carson, the two outsider candidates who have dominated the Republican race, were attacked out of the gate at the third prime-time bout by some of their competitors — and the CNBC hosts themselves.

CNBC moderator John Harwood asked Trump if he was running a “comic book” version of a White House candidacy while Ohio Gov. John Kasich argued Carson and Trump are not fit for the White House.

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“My great concern is that we’re on the verge of picking someone who cannot do this job,” said Kasich, the first candidate to speak at the debate. “I’ve watched as someone said we should dismantle Medicaid and leave our senior citizens out in the cold. I’ve heard them talking about deporting 10 or 11 [million] people.”

Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, and Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul, stood side by side at center stage, the clear leaders in recent polls.

The two are well ahead of the rest of the field, and Kasich, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) all signaled they intended to make a move with Wednesday’s debate.

After his blistering opening statement, Kasich returned to his theme that Trump is not ready to be president by criticizing his immigration proposal.

“Folks, we’ve got to wake up. We cannot elect somebody who does not know the job,” Kasich said. 

Trump shot back, focusing his barbs on energy in Ohio. 

“John got lucky with a thing called fracking,” Trump said.

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He then went after Kasich for being a managing partner at Lehman Brothers, the Wall Street investment bank that went bankrupt in 2008 and helped trigger the financial crisis.

“Lehman Brothers started it all, and he was a managing partner,” Trump said. “Then his poll numbers tanked. That is why he’s at the end [of the stage]. ... So you know what? You can have him.”

Kasich didn’t relent. 

“I wasn’t on the board of Lehman Brothers ... I was a banker ... and I traveled the country and learned how people created jobs,” Kasich said. 

“My state is doing great across the board.”

Cruz, who hopes to win over supporters now backing Trump and Carson, highlighted his new flat tax proposal, which would impose a 10 percent flat tax on personal income and a 16 percent tax on businesses.

He also won cheers with a vigorous attack on the media in general, and the CNBC moderators in particular.

Cruz, asked about the debt limit, instead diverted to assert that the questions posed in the first half-hour of the debate “illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match.”

“How about talking about the substantive issues?” Cruz asked as wild applause nearly drowned out his words.

Bush sought to pile on Kasich’s attacks on Carson and Trump, saying he was unsettled by some of the candidates’ tone.

“It troubles me that people are rewarded for tearing down our country, and it’s never been that way in American politics before,” Bush said. “I just can’t do it.”

Bush also got into a nasty exchange with Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioLessons from the front line — Florida's fight with sea level rise SNAP, airlines among final hurdles to coronavirus stimulus deal Senior State Department official headed to Peru to bring home stranded Americans, Rubio says MORE (R-Fla.), a former protégé who is now polling ahead of his state’s ex-governor.

Many political observers now see Rubio as a favorite to win the GOP nomination and to surpass both Bush and Kasich.

A home-state newspaper editorial went after Rubio on  Wednesday for missing a number of Senate votes as he seeks the presidency.

“Do you hate your job?” asked CNBC host Carl Quintanilla, citing the editorial.

Rubio pointed the votes Barack Obama missed when he, himself a freshman senator at the time, ran for president in 2008. 

“This is another example of the double standard that exists” between the mainstream media and conservatives, Rubio said. 

Bush interjected himself, swiping at Rubio. 

“I expected that he would do constituent service, which means show up for work,” Bush said, turning to Rubio. “Marco, when you signed up for this, it was a six-year term.”

“You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job,” Bush said. 

Rubio invoked Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) run for president. 

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“Someone’s convinced you that attacking me is going to help you,” Rubio said, dismissing the criticism and insisting he wasn’t running against Bush or anyone else on the stage. 

Soft-spoken Carson, whose rise in the polls has been a shock to the political establishment, sought to stay above the fray.

He signaled early on that he would not attack other candidates on the stage.

“I believe in Ronald Reagan’s commandment and will not be engaging in the awful things of my compatriots here,” he said.

Updated at 9:40 p.m.