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Republican debate: Candidates defend records, readiness for office

Last Updated Feb 6, 2016 10:48 PM EST

10:47 p.m. Excerpts from the candidates' closing statements:

Kasich: "I've done now over 100 town hall meetings and I've loved every second of it...you've changed me, because I've listened to your stories and I've had your hugs and I've seen your tears and I've seen you walk away and say I now have hope."

Christie: "I've spent the last 13 years of my life focused on one thing: Serving the people who have given me the opportunity to serve them. Not about politics, not about partisanship, but about putting the people of my state and our country first...New Hampshire I've spent 70 days with you. You've gotten to know my heart."

Bush: "I want to celebrate the birthday of a great president. Ronald Reagan would have been 105 today. President Reagan believed in the future of our country, believed in its future...we need someone who has a proven record to take our case to the American people because our message is by far the best one."

Carson: "For many months the political class, pundits, the media, have tried ot ignore or bury me, they say that politics is too complex, and too sleazy, you can't survive. Well guess what? I'm still here and I'm not going anyplace either and I believe there is still a place in our country for faith, integrity and common sense."

Rubio: "This week I had the great pleasure of having my kids join me on the campaign trail. I haven't seen them in a while...it once again reminded me of what's at stake here in New Hampshire in less than 72 hours. We are literally deciding what kind of country we will be like when they are my age...we will grow the conservative movement, we will defeat Hillary Clinton, and we will leave our children what our parents left us."

Cruz: "I campaigned in the state of Iowa four square against the ethanol mandate, something everyone said was political suicide. My two leading competitors both attacked me for it. The governor of the state said vote for anyone but Cruz and lobbyists spent millions of dollars in attack ads, but I stood and said we should have no mandates, a level playing field, and the people of Iowa put country and our children above the cronyism and corporate welfare."

Trump: "That's because he got Ben Carson's votes by the way, but we won't say anything. Our country that we love so much doesn't win anymore, we don't win with the military, we don't win on the border, you look at New Hampshire with the tremendous problem we have with heroin...we don't win with healthcare, we don't win with trade, you look at what other countries are doing to us, China, everyone, they are killing us on trade. If I am elected president we will win and we will win and we will win."

10:32 p.m. Here's what the candidates had to say when asked who would win the Super Bowl on Sunday:

  • Kasich: "Carolina's gonna win that one. I hate to say it, but they're gonna win that one."
  • Bush: "Peyton Manning's supporting me, and I'm for Denver."
  • Rubio: "I was going for Peyton Manning but now I'm rooting for Carolina."
  • Trump: "Carolina."
  • Cruz: "With an eye to February 20th, Carolina."
  • Carson: "With 100 percent certainty I will predict a winner, it will be either Denver or Carolina."
  • Christie: "Denver."

10:26 p.m. Rubio fields a question about how he will defend his positions opposing same-sex marriage and abortion even though he will be charged with intolerance. He said he respects people who disagree with him on marriage, but that he believes it should be between a man and a woman.

He criticizes the media for not asking Democrats why they support abortion rights in the debates.

"They are extremists on abortion and I can't wait to expose them in a general election," he said.

Later, in response to a question about Bush's campaign suggesting he is too pro-life to be elected, Rubio said, "I would rather lose an election than be wrong on the issue of life."

10:25 p.m. The candidates are asked about their policies toward paying ransoms for Americans held hostage abroad. The moderators note that the family of James Foley, an American journalist who was beheaded by ISIS, is from New Hampshire.

"I recognize it's an agonizing experience," Cruz said, "But at the same time, putting in place legal regimes that encourage the payment of ransom ahs the effect of putting a bounty on other Americans. There is a reason it has been longstanding policy that we don't negotiate with terrorists, we don't pay ransoms." He slammed President Obama for the deal to swap Taliban prisoners for Army Sgt. Bowe Berghdal.

Trump agreed. "You cannot negotiate this way with terrorists. If you do, you are going to have many more James Foleys," he said.

10:22 p.m. The conversation turns to ways to reform veterans' healthcare.

"I totally agree that we need to give veterans more choices. A veterans card to be able to go to a private provider will enhance the quality of care," Bush said. He also called for career civil service reform so more people could be fired for poor performance.

Kasich said, "When a veteran comes home, they should get healthcare anywhere they want to go." He also stresses an increased focus on getting veterans college educations and jobs.

10:13 p.m. Rubio and Bush both say that women should be required to register for Selective Service now that combat roles will be opened to all women. Both used the opportunity to call for strengthening the U.S. military.

10:12 p.m. Raddatz recalls Christie's decision to quarantine a nurse who had displayed symptoms of Ebola. Would he do that again to stop the Zika virus from spreading?

"You bet I would," he said.

Carson, asked whether he would quarantine, said it's not a simple issue.

"Do we quarantine people? If we have evidence they are infected and if we have evidence that infection can spread by something they are doing, yes," he said. But he would not "willy-nilly" quarantine people who were returning from Brazil, where the virus has spread the fastest.

10:08 p.m. Would Rubio visit a mosque as president, as President Obama did this week and former President George W. Bush did?

"I would," Rubio said. But he also criticized President Obama for perpetuating a "fiction" that there is discrimination against Muslims.

10:07 p.m. Kasich jumps in to say that Ohio was able to bring community and police together to "have a win-win."

"We love the police but we've got to be responsive the communities," he said.

10:06 p.m. Trump is asked how he would bridge the divide between police and communities, and he doubles down on his previous statements about police.

"The police are absolutely mistreated and misunderstood," he said. "The police in this country have done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order and they're afraid for their jobs, they're afraid."

He added, "minorities all over the country, they respect the police of this country" and said they deserve more respect.

9:57 p.m. Both Rubio and Carson attack Clinton over her role in the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi.

Carson on how he would run against Clinton: "I would simply make it a referendum on honesty and integrity versus deceit."

9:55 p.m. Trump talks about what will happen if he runs against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"We will win it by a lot and we will win it handily," he said.

9:50 p.m. WMUR's McElveen asks Cruz about anger from law enforcement that he missed a hearing in Washington about the heroin epidemic.

"What can you say to law enforcement right now to convince them that you understand the severity of this problem?" he said.

"This is a problem that for me I understand firsthand," Cruz said. "My older sister Miriam, who is my half sister, struggled her whole life with drug and alcohol addiction." He told a story about her life, which eventually resulted in her death from a presumed overdose.

"This is an absolute epidemic. We need leadership to solve it. Solving it has to happen at the state and local levels," Cruz said. He also said it was important to close the southern border to ensure no more drugs come across.

9:42 p.m. Trump is asked to respond to people who are concerned he might make deals and betray conservative principles in the process.

"A good dealmaker will make great deals but will do it the way our founders thought it should be done. People get together, they make deals," he said. "With Congress, you have to get everyone in the room and you have to get them to agree, and you have to get them to agree to what you want...you can't go to Hawaii and play golf for three weeks."

Among his tactics for working with Congress: "Grab 'em, hug 'em, kiss 'em and get the deal done."

9:38 p.m. Asked whether waterboarding qualifies as torture, Cruz said, "It is enhanced interrogation, it is vigorous interrogation, but it does not meet the generalized definition of torture."

"I would not bring it back in any sort of widespread use," Cruz said. He said that he joined with Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in offering a bill to stop line officers from using the technique.

He said that if it was necessary to "prevent a city from facing an imminent terrorist attack," he would use whatever enhanced interrogation methods he could."

Bush said he would not call on Congress to change the laws banning the use of waterboarding.

Rubio said that fighting terrorism is not like law enforcement where evidence must be collected in a legal way, but reiterated his stance not to tell the enemy what tactics the U.S. will use.

9:36 p.m. Carson calls for a "proactive" plan to deal with ISIS in Libya. He says the U.S. should consult with its military experts to develop that actual plan.

"I would support the possibility of renewed airstrikes if in conjunction with our joint chiefs and our military people, they felt that was an appropriate military strategy," he said when asked whether he would support renewed airstrikes. "None of us up here is a military expert. We sometimes act like we are, but we're not."

9:34 p.m. Bush said he would support new airstrikes in Libya to defeat the outgrowth of ISIS there.

"This is the lesson learned from history: if you bomb something and don't do anything as it related to the aftermath...you get an unstable government."

"Dealing with the caliphate is important because it has now spawned," Bush said. He predicted the United States would "play a significant role" in destroying ISIS there.

9:32 p.m. It's Trump's turn to provide specifics about defeating ISIS. He said the U.S. must be trying harder to "knock the hell out of the oil" and take the oil ISIS holds and not worry about environmental impacts, and to also cut off ISIS financing.

"Nobody knows banking better than I do," he said.

Asked what to do about the cities that ISIS controls, Trump said ISIS will be weakened when their wealth disappears.

9:29 p.m. Rubio is similarly asked to elaborate on his proposal to use "overwhelming U.S. force" to defeat ISIS. He talked about building a ground force of Sunnis backed by a U.S.-led coalition that also includes Jordanians and Egyptians, but also called for strikes against the group in every part of the world where they have affiliates.

Raddatz noted that Rubio has called ISIS the most dangerous terror group in the world -- more dangerous than al Qaeda, which the U.S. committed a huge ground force to defeat. Why not send in a large U.S. ground force now?

"They currently occupty Sunni cities and villages. Sunni cities and villages can only truly be liberated by Sunnis themselves," Rubio said. "Kurds cannot and do not want to liberate and hold Sunni cities and towns."

9:26 p.m. Cruz further discusses his proposal to "carpet-bomb" the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), saying it would be "not indiscriminate," but rather targeted at oil tankers, oil facilities, command and control locations and infrastructure. He also said the rules of engagement should be loosened.

9:23 p.m. Bush has a pithy line when asked about the statistic that 68 percent of Americans favor tax increases on people making more than a million.

"I'd like to see more millionaires," Bush said. "This notion that somehow we're undertaxed as a nation is just foolhardly."

9:19 p.m. Christie defends himself against attacks on New Jersey's economic record as compared to Kasich's record in Ohio.

"He deserves credit for his record on jobs, he's doing a very good job in Ohio." But, Christie also said there were 10,000 fewer employees than when he took office. "John has a bigger government now and more employees than he had when he walked in the door," he said.

Kasich said Ohio's government has grown with the rate of inflation and that there are the lowest number of state employees in 30 years.

9:15 p.m. Some definitions of conservatism from the candidates:

Kasich: "In America, conservatism should mean that nto only some rise with conservative principles, but that everybody has the ability to rise...so they can live their God-given purpose."

Trump: "I view conservatism as a derivative of the word conserve. We want to conserve our money. We want to conserve our wealth...we want to conserve our country, we want to save our country."

Rubio: "It's about three things. the first is conservatism is about limited government, especially at the federal level...it's about free enterprise, which is an economic model that allows everybody to rise without pulling anybody down...and it's about a strong national defense."

9:06 p.mA new debate question from WMUR political director Josh McElveen asks about the use of eminent domain in New Hampshire for the Northern Pass project.

"Eminent domain is an absolute necessity for a country, for our country," he said, arguing there would be no roads, hospitals, schools or bridges without it. "The Keystone pipeline without eminent domain, it wouldn't go 10 feet," he added.

When eminent domain is used on somebody's property that person gets a fortune. They get at least fair market value and if they're smart they'll get at least two or three times the value of their property."

Bush accuses Trump of using eminent domain to take over the property of a woman in Atlantic City.

"I didn't take the property," Trump said. "The woman ultimately didn't want to do that."

"To turn this into a limousine parking lot for his casinos is not a public use," Bush said.

As Trump mocks Bush for "trying to be a tough guy," Bush responds, "How tough is it to take away property from an elderly woman."

The crowd boos Trump for telling Bush, "quiet," and Trump says it's all of Bush's donors and special interests in the audience.

"The reason they're not loving me is I don't want their money," he said.

8:58 p.m. Trump is pressed over specific details of what he would do about health care as moderator Mary Katharine Ham noted he has said "everybody's got to be covered" and also "the government's got to pay for it."

"We are going to repeal Obamacare, we are going to replace Obamacare with something so much better and there are so many examples of it," Trump said. He argued the insurance companies are "getting rich" and he's going to end that by taking out the "artificial lines" between insurance companies to encourage free enterprise.

"There will be a certain number of people that will be on the street dying and as a Republican I don't want that to happen," he added.

When Cruz is asked what he would say to people who gained coverage under Obamacare and are worried about losing it, he warned about "socialized medicine."

"Socialized medicine is a disaster. It does not work. If you look at the countries that have imposed socialized medicine...what inevitably happens is rationing...the elderly are told 'we're going to ration a hip replacement, we're going to ration a knee replacement, we're going to ration end-of-life care,'" he said. "Socialized medicine whether proposed by a Democrat or proposed by a Republican would hurt the people of this country," he said.

8:53 p.m. Once again, Rubio is asked about his support for the 2013 comprehensive Senate legislation that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally. "Did you fight for the legislation at the time or did you run from it?" Muir asked.

"Here's the bottom line," Rubio said. "We cannot get that legislation passed." He argued the American people have no trust that the federal government will enforce the laws. He, too, promised to enforce the law first as president and said then he would see what the American people support.

Christie jumped in to point out that Rubio had skirted the issue.

"The question was did he fight for his legislation. It's abundantly clear that he didn't," Christie said. He touted his own record of fighting with teacher's unions and the legislature in New Jersey.

8:50 p.m. Kasich is asked how he defends his stance that the U.S. cannot possibly deport all people in the country illegally, given that the leading Republicans are promising to deport all 11-million plus.

"I cannot even begin to imagine" taking parents out of their house if they had not committed a crime and leaving their children behind, Kasich said.

Cruz is asked to give specifics on how he would deport so many people, and he launches into his plan to secure the border -- and says, looking at Trump, that he has "someone in mind" to build the wall on the border.

He said an employment verification system and biometric tracking for visas, as well as ending "sanctuary cities" and welfare benefits for those in the U.S. illegally, will end the presence of those in the U.S. illegally.

"What you do is you enforce the law," he said, when pressed about the point Kasich made about not breaking up families.

8:48 p.m. Another North Korea question: Bush is asked what he would do about an American college student who was recently detained there.

"It's interesting htat htat happened literally days when this hostage release took place in Iran, a day or two days afterwards," he said. "I think it's when we send a signall of weakness when we're negotiating to release people who committed crimes in our country for people who didn't commit crimes in Iran."

"The next president of the United States is going to have to get back in the game where the United States' word matters," he added.

Christie echoed that idea.

"You never pay ransom to the criminals, ever," he said. He added the U.S. must "engage in a much different way with these folks. They do not understand anything but toughness and strength."

8:44 p.m. Trump jumps in to say he disagrees with Rubio's assessment that Mr. Obama knows what he's doing. He doesn't know, Trump says, and the country is "going to hell" as a result.

On the North Korea question, he says he would get on the phone with China and demand they take the lead on dealing with their neighbor.

8:40 p.m.Cruz is asked how, as president, he would respond to news that broke just minutes before the debate began: North Korea test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile.

"The fact that we're seeing the launch and we're seeing the launch from a nuclear North Korea is a result of the failures of the first Clinton administration" for relaxing sanctions against the country, Cruz said. "What we are seeing with North Korea is foreshadowing of where we should be with Iran.'

"One of the first things we should do is expand our missile defense capacity" by putting receptors in South Korea, he added. He said there is a great risk that North Korea would put a nuclear weapon on a satellite and launch an electro-magnetic pulse over the U.S.

Raddatz follows up by asking whether Cruz would have ordered the U.S. military to preemptively strike the missile on the launch pad.

"At this point I'm not going to speculate on that without the intelligence briefing that any commander-in-chief would have," he said.

Kasich, fielding the same question, said the U.S. should intercept both North Korea's ships and their aircraft. He added that he would have signaled to the Japanese that they would have had U.S. support if they took action.

8:36 p.m. Bush gets a crack at the preparedness question and ticks off his numerous endorsements and experience running the state of Florida, including through several hurricanes.

"Marco Rubio is a gifted, gifted politician and he may have the skills to be a president of the United States but we've tried it the old way, with Barack Obama and soaring eloquence," he said.

8:33 p.m. As Rubio and Christie scuffle over who is better prepared to be president, Rubio repeatedly tries to shift the conversation back to President Obama to argue that Mr. Obama is trying to make the U.S. more like the rest of the world.

"There it is, everybody. He memorized a 25-second speech," Christie said. "He gets very unruly when he gets off his talking points."

8:30 p.m. Rubio gets a chance to defend his accomplishments in the Senate after former Sen. Rick Santorum, who endorsed him earlier this week, had a hard time listing his accomplishments.

Rubio ticked off a few items, including protecting the people of Florida from eminent domain abuse to reforming the Veterans Administration.

But he also suggested his Senate record shouldn't matter.

"If the presidency becomes about electing the people who are in Congress or the Senate the longest, we should all rally around Joe Biden," he said.

Christie jumped in and said that Rubio does not have the experience making decisions for which he will be held accountable, and said that regarding one of the accomplishments he listed -- a bill dealing with Hezbollah -- Rubio was not even present to vote on it.

"That's not leadership, that's truancy," he said.

8:26 p.m. Carson is asked to respond to the dust-up during the Iowa caucus in which his campaign circulated a news story that said Carson was taking a break from the campaign.

"I'm not going to use this opportunity to savage the reputation of Sen. Cruz," Carson said. "I will say I'm very disappointed members of his team thought so little of me that they thought that after having hundreds if not thousands of volunteers and college students who sacrificed their time and were dedicated to the cause, one even died, to think that I would just walk away 10 minutes before the caucus and say 'forget about you guys.' I mean who would do something like that?"

"To assume that someone would, what does that tell you?" he added. "It gives you a very good example of certain types of Washington ethics. Washington ethics says if it's legal you do what you need to do in order to win. My ethics are you do what's right."

"Ben, I'm sorry," Cruz said, before defending what had happened - that his team was just spreading a CNN story that turned out to be accurate. He reiterated that his team should have clarified Carson was not dropping out.

8:23 p.m.Trump is asked about Cruz's comments that he doesn't have the temperament to be commander-in-chief and might use a nuclear weapon against Denmark.

"I actually think I have the best temperament," Trump said. "I built a massive corporation, I employ thousands of thousands of people, I've gotten along for people with years and years."

On stage, Cruz backs away from the attack slightly when asked about those comments.

"I am convinced every individual standing on this stage would make a much better commander-in-chief than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders," he said.

Pressed whether he stands by those words, Cruz responded that's an assessment for the voters to make.

Trump jumped in and pointed out that Cruz didn't answer the question.

"We're going to win with Trump. People back down with Trump," he said.

7:45 p.m. Republicans are about to take the stage in Manchester, New Hampshire for the final Republican debate before the state's first-in-the-nation primary.

Those qualifying for the main stage include businessman Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

This is the only Republican debate to take place between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Cruz won the Iowa Republican caucuses, followed by Donald Trump, and then Marco Rubio. Trump and Rubio were separated by a single percentage point in the race.

Going into the Granite State primary, Donald Trump holds a double-digit lead in most polls, with Rubio in second. Several candidates on the debate stage, including the three former and current state governors, have invested a large amount of time and campaign resources on the New Hampshire primary contest.

This debate, hosted by ABC News and the Independent Journal Review, is the first to exclude an undercard debate stage for Republicans.

Despite attempts by Carly Fiorina to be included on the debate stage, ABC News declined. She is the only remaining Republican who has ever been included on the main debate stage in a primary debate who is being excluded.

Banking on other media exposure ahead of New Hampshire's primary on Tuesday, Fiorina's campaign is set to air an ad in the state during CBS' Super Bowl broadcast on Sunday. The ad buy, according to the campaign was a six-figure sum.

Candidates qualified for the debate stage if they met one of three requirements: finishing in the top three by popular vote in the Iowa caucuses, placing in the top six in an average of New Hampshire polls recognized by ABC News, or polling in the top six in an average of national GOP polls deemed valid by the network.

ABC News anchor David Muir and ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz will moderate the debate. Additional questions will be posed by WMUR political director Josh McElveen and conservative blogger Mary Katharine Ham.

 

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.