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Debate 2

Republican presidential candidates businessman Donald Trump, left, and Scott Walker, right, both speak as Jeb Bush, listens during the CNN Republican presidential debate Wednesday.

Mark J. Terrill

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Along with the back-and-forth bickering over Donald Trump, the Republican presidential contest took a substantive and serious turn in Wednesday’s prime-time debate, with candidates wrangling over immigration, gay marriage and foreign affairs.

The policy shift quieted Trump, the brash billionaire who has roiled the GOP field, for long stretches during the three-hour debate and appeared to come as a relief to other candidates who have struggled to break through.

Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the GOP field, was one of the main benefactors, launching an emotional plea for defunding Planned Parenthood, touting her experience in business and taking aim at Trump for derogatory comments he made about her appearance. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who came into the debate facing questions about whether he had the grit to take on Trump, also engaged directly with the real estate mogul while still trying to fulfill his promise to run a joyful campaign.

“We’re going to take the hopeful, optimistic approach,” Bush said during an exchange with Trump on immigration. Trump, who has called for deporting all 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally before allowing some back in, called Bush “weak on immigration” and refused to apologize for comments he made about Bush’s Mexican-born wife.

The contrast between Trump, a political novice, and Bush, the son and brother of presidents, has come to typify the broader battle within the Republican Party. Trump’s unexpected rise and surprising durability is seen as a reflection of voters’ frustration with Washington and career politicians.

Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard executive, is also seeking to capitalize on her outsider status. She was making her first appearance on the main debate stage after a standout performance in an undercard event last months.

Fiorina emphasized how their business backgrounds would help them negotiate with difficult world leaders, including Russia’s president.

“Vladimir Putin would get the message,” she said.

A third outsider — soft-spoken retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson — entered the debate with high expectations after a recent rise in the polls that determine debate participation. But he largely faded to the background on the crowded debate stage.

Even in a lengthy debate, the 11-candidate field limited the amount of time each participant had to make his case to the American people.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio sought to take advantage of his moments, reminding voters about his compelling personal story, including his parents’ move to the U.S. from Cuba.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also tried to capitalize on his limited time, saying that while he was entertained by Trump and Fiorina trying to one-up each other’s business records, “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 gotta tell you the truth — they could care less about your careers.”

On Iran, the candidates were split on whether they would tear up President Barack Obama’s nuclear accord if elected. Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich took a measured approach, saying ripping up a deal agreed to not only by the U.S. but also several allies was not a strategy for stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

In an exchange on gay marriage and religious liberty, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee argued forcefully for the right of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis to defy the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage. “I thought that everyone here passed ninth grade civics. The courts can’t legislate,” he said. “I thought we had three branches of government.”

Still, Huckabee declined to criticize Bush for saying Davis did not have the right to deny gays marriage licenses. Bush said he supports defending the rights of religious people to refuse to endorse gay marriage, but he said someone else in Davis’ office should sign the certificates since the Supreme Court ruling is the law of the land.

“I think there needs to be accommodation for someone acting on their faith,” he said.

Even as Trump faded somewhat in the policy discussions, he was hardly invisible. He praised himself while deriding and scoring his rivals in the opening minutes of the debate at the Regan Presidential Library in southern California.

Standing at center stage, Trump said he had a “phenomenal temperament” and a record in business that would help him on the world stage. With his signature brashness, he immediately took on his rivals, saying Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a vigorous critic, didn’t deserve to be on the crowded debate stage.

Trump has become increasingly critical of Fiorina as her standing has risen and he was quoted in a recent interview making derogatory comments about her looks, though he later denied he was referring to her appearance.

Asked about Trump’s comments, Fiorina said, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”

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(27) comments

Buggs Raplin

It was a convocation of GOP warmongers, except mostly for Trump, who would speak to Putin, and negotiate...you know like Reagan did with Gorbachev. But these GOP creeps are all trying to remove themselves from Trump's shadow by belligerence, especially that 2nd tier candidate Lindsay Graham. I'm a Sanders supporter, but God bless Donald Trump for his reason, and for his beautiful exposition of the dangers of vaccines and autism- there's danger if the child is given those vaccines all at once, like MMR, as opposed to a spreading those vaccines out over time.

Over Taxed

Sanders = Socialist...We know where you stand, higher taxes 70+ year old.....same old same old politician

Condor Kid

Trump is an unwilling Trojan Horse that is making 2016 a great opportunity for the rise of Progressives.

nyu72

I'm sick and tired on how Walker says he took on 100,000 people in Madison. Did he ONCE come out and try to speak with the protesters. No because he was too INTIMIDATED!!

Teatotaler

No, I'm pretty sure it was because he didn't give 2 craps about what the overpaid leeches had to say. He was doing the will of the taxPAYERS.

Condor Kid

Scooter is doing the will of a very few taxpayers. just the ones that are major contributors to him and he's the one that is most overpaid of all!

oldhomey

Hmm. I wonder what Teatotaler's annual income is compared to the average school teacher. The last I noticed, they get pretty modest salaries.

Condor Kid

It's time for Scoot to give up and get back to his class war in Wisconsin. He can continue to create havoc in Wisconsin for a couple of more years but not Washington.

Over Taxed

I thought it was refreshing to see non-politicians getting their time to speak. Carly Fiorina I believe was a breath of fresh air. She was direct, confident and didnt back down. I think the 3 non-politicians will have a back bone that will give America a foot to stand on in the world again. Recently it seems like we get pushed around like a little school boy. I think anyone that reads these comments knows that all the democrats and liberals do not like Governor Walker which is fine, but please bring something else to the comment table.

Teatotaler

Fiorina's lip was quivering like she was going to cry after Donald exposed her failure at HP. We wouldn't be talking about her if it weren't for her lady-parts.

oldhomey

I am no fan of hers, but, wow, Teatotaler, you certainly live up to your movement's war on women. Keep it up, we Democrats enjoy your help.

oldhomey

Gosh, Over Taxed, when you say these folks who are "outsiders" will ?give America a foot to stand on in the world", don't you think whomever's foot were standing on is going to get a little peerved with us? Is that how the GOP is supposedly going to rebuild trust and friends in the rest of the world, when the rest of the world seems quite happy with the Obama approach to diplomacy and friendship, excepting possibly Netanyahu and Putin and Kahmeini?

lookout

When they have to lie and exaggerate the facts of what they plan to do their a worthless politician that doesn't deserve to be in any office in America. People are tired of lying surprise attack politicians that are only out for themselves and their rich campaign contributors..

Clarification

Just a circus with no real value. If Trump wasn't included, few would watch. People think it is just like reality TV.

hammer

Walker rails against "career politicians" despite the fact he has never had a real job. He's been in office most of his adult life. He is such a hypocrite it's disgusting.

awol2009

So, one of Wanker's sound-bites, (when he tried to take on Trump) "Just because you said it, doesn't make it true". Trump was referring to our state deficit and phony "balanced budget" Scooter constantly brags about - while, in essence - Trump was right. Our "balanced budget" is required by state law and only applies to current budget financials but not our overall debt. Scooter thought he stood up to Trump but in essence made a fool of himself again. Same old sound-bites are getting old and aren't anything of substance or resolution. "Minimum wage laws are lame?". Yep, he said it again. Without any real resolution. How does he propose people get those high level skills for those "higher paying jobs"? It costs money to obtain those skills even in a Tech College and average people sure as he11 won't get there working a "lame" minimum wage job to save money for Tech College. Wanker is so out of touch with real problems people face; especially the working poor.

GrandpaS

Why is Trump the only candidate who got any serious attention after the debate, and through the whole campaign so far? If somebody is the noisiest I guess that gets them the most attention. He has some new ideas, which is refreshing, but he also shoots from the hip much of the time and puts his foot in his mouth.

Buggs Raplin

Because, Gramps, he's leading in the GOP polls. Can you, in your gullible liberal mind digest that fact.

oldhomey

Oh gosh, Buggs who lives in a very transparent, glass house, please be careful about flinging the "gullible" accusation around so loosely, when I can very tightly enumerate actual times you have been incredibly gullible. Do you want to tell us some more about the way moronic liberals and scientists in the 1970s swooned over the approach of global cooling? You have cited that moment in history many times, but that never happened, it is a construct of the Koch brothers-funded global warming denial industry, launched on the internet to fool gullible people like you, complete with fake old Time Magazine covers to convince you. And you bought into it. Shall I go on? Should we go into your Anunnaki theory that you bought into from a crazed Russian pseudo scientist long-exposed by serious archeologists?

Polarbear

I wonder where old Cougar is these days? Apparently the not so intelligent types eventually figure it out.

Joe Hill

Walker needs more time.

The dumbest take the longest time.


May God bless Wisconsin.
We need you

Ezzee

I was saddened to not be able to see this debate last night. The last debate was such a train wreck that I was expecting no less from this debate. I wish it was on network TV instead of cable.

Joe Hill

Governor "in over his head"

Governor Lightweight

Governor Walker

sylvester

They should have also talked about Union busting and cutting social security also.

GrandpaS

I wonder what some conservatives reaction would be if they found out that a lot of Americans would like to see somebody besides the rich get their attention. The candidates like Walker who try only to appeal to the most conservative base may find that that's a relatively small percentage of total voters. I don't know what the exact percentage is, but even the most fervent support of 10% of the voters won't win you the election.

RealTruth

Walker was the lightweight in the room again last night. He, along with Ted Cruz, elected to talk to the camera instead of the moderator and the other candidates. It caused both to look phony- like typical career politicians.

Polarbear

Typical Repubs, constantly claiming how great they are and are going to be. Along with pointing out how the others aren't the answer.

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