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August 06, 2015 6:55 pm MST

GOP Presidential Debate Diary: The Big Show

  • by: Colorado Pols
The "Top 10" GOP Presidential candidates, as determined by Fox News.
The “Top 10” GOP Presidential candidates, as determined by Fox News.

It has become something of a tradition here at Colorado Pols for us to give you, our loyal readers, a live blog, play-by-play of political debates relating to Colorado and the race for President…and we’re doing it twice in one day!

Earlier this evening we live-blogged the “Junior Varsity” debate featuring the second tier of Republican Presidential candidates, and we’re back again for the Big Show featuring the Top 10 GOP contenders.

It’s time to fire up the Colorado Pols Debate Diary once again. Let’s Live Blog, baby!

*NOTE: The most current update appears at the top of the page. As always, unless it is in direct quotes, consider all statements paraphrased in the interest of time. If you are following along in real-time, we’ll be a little slower than your TV as we pause and rewind to make sure we caught everything correctly.

Here we go…

There is an actual crowd at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland — a stark contrast to the empty arena that faced the “Junior Varsity” team in the earlier debate.

Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace are the moderators for the big debate. Let’s get started…


Instant Analysis: The biggest takeaway from the first Presidential debate is all about Donald Trump. We have our doubts, like everyone, about whether Trump can maintain his current momentum…but there’s a clear reason Trump is polling ahead of the others. Trump performed very well on stage, using humor and charisma to defuse attacks and making bold statements in support of controversial positions. Trump was impressive on a night when many expected him to falter.

On the other side of things, Rand Paul may be looking at the final stages of his campaign if this debate is any indication. Paul looked and sounded desperate in his attacks and answers; Paul and Ted Cruz are clearly on the decline, while John Kasich and Chris Christie both performed well.


9:05 pm
Time for closing statements.

Kasich: Talks about what he has done, not what he plans to do if elected. Good approach here.

Christie: Talks about his middle class background. Goes over his time limit without saying anything interesting.

Paul: “I’m a different kind of Republican.” Brags about his 10-hour speech on the Senate floor for surveillance reform.

Rubio: Says his parents were born into poor families in Cuba and that he is an example of the American dream.

Cruz: Talks about his first day in office. Will rescind Executive Orders of Obama. Will prosecute Planned Parenthood. Will cancel Iran deal and move U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. That’s oddly specific.

Carson: Talks about being the only neurosurgeon, offers predictable joke about politicians in Washington D.C. who have only half a brain.

Huckabee: Starts like he is attacking Donald Trump before saying that he is directing his comments at Hillary Clinton.

Walker: “I’m a guy with a wife, two kids, and a Harley.”

Jeb: I believe that we are on the verge of the greatest time to be alive in the world, but Washington D.C. is screwing everything up.

Trump: “Our country is in serious trouble. We don’t win anymore. We don’t beat China in trade. We don’t beat Japan in trade.” Very succinct and clean closing statement from Trump.


9:00 pm
Final question for the candidates before closing statements: Have any of the candidates received a word from God on what they should do and take care of first?

Cruz: I am blessed to receive word from God every day through scripture.

Kasich: Talks about his family background and how he is an example of the American dream.

Scott Walker: Says only through the blood of Jesus Christ has he been absolved from his sins…then talks about how he fought back against labor unions.

Rubio: “God has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. Democrats can’t even find one.” Rubio flashes a proud smile after his joke.

Carson: Talks about a race war, for some reason.


8:58 pm
Ted Cruz tries to answer a question about the military, but the moderators go to a commercial break instead.


8:56 pm
Rand Paul says we should stop sending foreign aid to countries that don’t help America. Says we shouldn’t borrow money to give it to other countries.


8:55 pm
Huckabee asked about transgender troops in the military. You can probably guess his response.

“The military is not a social experiment. The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.”


8:52 pm
Scott Walker quotes Lenin when asked about national security issues. “You probe with bayonets. When you find mush, you push. When you find steel, you stop.”

Walker says he would send weapons to Ukraine; would put forces on the border in Poland; and would reinstall a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.


8:50 pm
Ben Carson asked about whether he would send troops into Syria; he answers by talking about his concerns that we have a smaller Navy and Air Force than we did 50 years ago.

8:47 pm
Debate moderators are now asking questions about “breaking” news reports from Fox News reporters in recent days. These aren’t really questions — the purpose is clearly just for Fox News to promote itself.


8:45 pm
Trump asked about Iran and Russia. Says he would say that President Obama doesn’t know what he is doing, but he won’t because that wouldn’t be nice.


8:42 pm
Question for Rand Paul about whether Christian businesses will be prosecuted for discriminating in a manner that reflects their religious beliefs.

“I don’t want my marriage or my guns registered in Washington,” says Paul, who then goes on to say that businesses should be allowed to make decisions based on their religious beliefs.


8:40 pm
Question for Kasich about what he would say to a gay son or daughter about his opposition to same-sex marriage.

“Just because somebody doesn’t think the way I do doesn’t mean that I can’t care about them and love them.” Big applause from the crowd — great answer from Kasich.

“We need to give everybody a chance, treat everybody with respect, and let them share in this great American dream that we have.”


8:38 pm
Trump says that Bush is a true gentleman because he just denied saying inflammatory things about Trump that were attributed to Bush.


8:35 pm
Trump is asked when he “became a Republican.”

Trump uses an example about how he became pro-life to explain how his political positions have evolved over the years.


8:32 pm
Rubio is asked about his “record” of supporting abortion exceptions for rape and incest. Rubio says that the question is inaccurate regarding his record and that he has never supported exceptions for abortion. We don’t know about Rubio’s claims here, but this could be a significant moment if it turns out he has supported exceptions in the past.

8:30 pm
After another commercial break, it’s time for social issues!

Jeb Bush gets the first question on Planned Parenthood, focused on his history as a board member with Michael Bloomberg in an organization that helped fund Planned Parenthood.

Jeb says he cut funding for Planned Parenthood when he was Governor of Florida.


8:23 pm
Scott Walker asked about foreign policy deal with Iran. Says he would install yet more crippling economic sanctions on Iran.

Same question for Rand Paul, who finally has a good answer. Says he would insist on stronger evidence that Iran was responding to demands to open up nuclear inspections.

Huckabee gets to answer this question, too, and uses the opportunity to blame President Obama for…pretty much everything.


8:20 pm
Rubio asked about how he will help small businesses. Says something about fairness and repealing Dodd-Frank. Not a very memorable answer.

8:15 pm
Trump asked about his business background and why he should be trusted to fix the economy.

Trump says he has used the laws of this country to improve his business and help his family. Says he has never declared bankruptcy personally.

Trump does very well in this debate setting because he is so confident and aggressive in promoting his own success.


8:10 pm
Chris Christie is asked if Huckabee is lying when he says that Social Security and Medicare can be saved without significant overhauls.

Says Christie: “He’s not lying, he’s just wrong.” Great line.

Christie talks about his specific plan for entitlement reforms; he comes off well, as though he has truly thought through a reform program.

Huckabee is asked to offer his perspective, and talks about how people who paid into Social Security and Medicare deserve those benefits.

Christie responds with a concise explanation of why Huckabee’s proposals won’t work. Huckabee then talks about how pimps and prostitutes receive Social Security benefits despite not paying into the system (?)


8:08 pm
Question for Scott Walker: Why should Americans believe that you can fix the economy when things haven’t gone well in your own state?

Walker rattles off the same generic nonsense talking points that Bush just mentioned.


8:05 pm
Question for Jeb on how he can accomplish 4% economic growth annually. Jeb rattles off meaningless bullet points about “energy independence” and other gibberish.


8:02 pm
After a commercial break, the first question goes to Kasich: How would you campaign against Hillary Clinton?

Kasich says his father was a mailman, so he understands the needs of all Americans. No idea what that means.

Says economic growth is the key to everything, but that you also need to reach out to people “in the shadows” who need to feel like the American Dream still applies to them.

Ben Carson is asked the same question, and he says that he doesn’t believe that she will be the Democratic nominee. Says the “progressive movement” is destroying America and indicates that Clinton wants to see the U.S. fail.

7:58 pm
Jeb Bush is asked about his support for Common Core. Jeb says he supports state-based education control and standards, and talks about education improvements when he was Governor of Florida.

Marco Rubio then asked about his stance on Common Core. His answer is basically that Common Core is a way for the federal government to control people.

Rubio has unusually large ears, BTW.


7:55 pm
Question for Huckabee: Is the government too big for anyone to shrink? Republicans always talk about making cuts, but they never do it.

Huckabee says the problem is Wall Street and the donor class pushing Congress to increase spending, then starts talking about how he wants to eliminate the EPA, the IRS, etc., etc.

Ben Carson is asked if he agrees with Huckabee on making dramatic cuts to the tax code. Carson says his plan is based on tithing, because “God is a pretty fair guy.” Carson is a pretty weird guy.


7:50 pm
Trump is asked about giving political donations in exchange for business support — says he donates to Democrats and Republicans because he knows that they have to respond to him later. It’s a very candid response from Trump that demonstrates his appeal to many Republican voters.


7:47 pm
Question for Trump on Obamacare and single-payer healthcare.

Trump says he is the only candidate on stage to have publicly opposed the Iraq War, then talks about the problems with negotiating deals when there is no competition among health insurance companies. Pretty good answer.

An increasingly desperate-sounding Rand Paul jumps in and says, “News flash: the Republican Party has been fighting against single-payer health insurance for decades.” Paul says that he thinks Trump is on the wrong side of this if he is still arguing for single-payer healthcare.

Trump responds with a zinger. “That’s not what I said. I don’t think you heard me — you’re having a hard time tonight.” The crowd roars with laughter.

Paul smiles meekly — the expression of a man who got caught punching above his weight class.


7:46 pm
Ben Carson asked about whether he would “bring back waterboarding.”

“Thank you, Megyn,” jokes Carson. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to get to speak again.”

Then Carson answers the question. Horribly.

“What we do in order to get the information we need is our business, and I wouldn’t necessarily be broadcasting to people about what we are going to do…There is no such thing as a politically-correct war.”

Ben Carson then refers to himself in the third person — twice. Says we have been hampering our military leaders by “tying their hands behind their back.”

If Carson’s goal was to present himself as an incredibly arrogant and somewhat odd candidate, he’s knocking it out of the park.


7:44 pm
Question for Jeb Bush about whether he believes, in retrospect, that the Iraq invasion was a mistake. Very aggressive and antagonistic approach from Megyn Kelly here.

Jeb blames President Obama for creating ISIS.


7:42 pm
Ted Cruz just spoke for about 90 seconds, and none of it is memorable.


7:39 pm
Paul starts shouting about how he stands up for the Bill of Rights and is proud to do so. Christie says Paul just blows “hot air” in Senate Committee Hearings.

Paul brings up Christie giving a hug to President Obama. Christie responds by saying that Paul is just a grand-stander who makes speeches on the Senate floor that he immediately puts online for fundraising purposes.

Rand Paul seems more than a little frazzled at this point. His campaign has been cratering lately, and other Republicans on stage smell the blood in the water.

7:37 pm
Chris Christie asked if he can blame Rand Paul for a lack of safety in America because of Paul’s opposition to broad government surveillance policies.

Christie doesn’t blink, says he makes no apologies for protecting American people. Camera cuts to Rand Paul’s head exploding.


7:36 pm
Ted Cruz is asked about punishing so-called “sanctuary cities.” Cruz says he has tried to push legislation on this regard, then takes a swipe at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for not supporting his proposals. The crowd groans.


7:35 pm
Scott Walker is asked about his penchant for changing positions and about whether people can really trust any of his past statements.

Walker says he changes his mind because he listens to the American people. Otherwise gives standard Republican boilerplate answer on immigration reform.

7:33 pm
Question for Rubio on immigration, who redirects the discussion to be about people who are trying to gain entrance into the United States through a legal process. Good answer.


7:30 pm
Question for Kasich about Trump, who handles it well by not criticizing Trump and instead talking about his own policies.


7:23 pm
Question for Trump about his comments on illegal immigration and disapproval from Jeb Bush.

Trump: “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration, Chris.”

Trump then criticizes reporters for taking his comments out of context, or something like that. Says we need to build a wall, but he supports creating a nice big door to let people in who follow the law.

Trump is obviously not as politically-polished as others, but his presence and his showmanship really stand out in this kind of forum. All of the other GOP candidates seem…smaller by comparison. As we break for the first commercial time-out of the campaign, Trump is dominating the stage.


7:22 pm
Question for Jeb Bush about his new immigration policy and whether he is trying to show that he is not soft on illegal immigrants.

Bush says he stands by his support for “earned legal status.” Talks about a book he wrote on illegal immigration policies. Says the next President needs to fix immigration once and for all.

7:21 pm
Question for Garry Shandling John Kasich about his decision to accept federal Medicaid funding via Obamacare.

Good answer from Kasich about helping the working poor and creating jobs.


7:20 pm
Question for Rand Paul on his foreign policy positions and general isolationist beliefs.

Paul says we can stop ISIS by “not funding them and not arming them.” Weird answer.


7:19 pm
Question for Mike Huckabee about whether he can attract support from Independents and Moderate voters. Huckabee responds by saying that it is time to be militant about preventing all abortions and essentially ignoring the Supreme Court.


7:17 pm
Question for Scott Walker: Would you prevent an abortion even if the mother’s life is at risk?

Walker says he is pro-life, and Hillary Clinton is the devil (paraphrasing here).

7:15 pm
Question for Chris Christie: The New Jersey economy sucks, so why should Americans think that you would lead the country more effectively?

Christie responds by saying he is proud of how he has helped turn New Jersey around compared to when he was first elected.


7:13 pm
True to predictions, the Fox News moderators are doing everything they can to prod the candidates into a public fight. Chris Wallace asks Ted Cruz about criticisms that he is responsible for a great deal of Republican infighting. Cruz trots out his own “tell it like it is” line.


7:11 pm
Question for Donald Trump about his history of controversial statements. Trump responds well by saying that there is too much political correctness in America, and that he is going to speak freely.


7:09 pm
Question for Jeb Bush about the problem of running as a candidate from a political dynasty family.

Says Jeb: “In Florida they called me Jeb, and I earned it.”

Also, that’s his name.


7:07 pm
First question is for Ben Carson, and Megyn Kelly basically accuses him of being a fraud. Carson doesn’t have much to say in response. To anyone who questions Donald Trump’s validity on this stage, the answer is Ben Carson.


7:05 pm
The debate has just begun, and already Donald Trump is owning the stage. The first question is a pledge to support the Republican nominee for President — whoever it ends up being. Trump is the only candidate who refuses to make this pledge.


7:01 pm
Here come the candidates. Ohio Gov. John Kasich looks remarkably like comedian Garry Shandling. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appears to be the tallest of the 10 candidates as they stand in front of their respective podiums.

Megyn Kelly is really talking up Carly Fiorina and her performance in the earlier debate, though we can’t say we agree that anyone stood out from the “Junior Varsity” debate.


7:00 pm
The candidates are waiting to come to the stage. Chris Wallace says he has never seen a crowd this excited about a debate.




20 thoughts on “GOP Presidential Debate Diary: The Big Show

  1. Here's my thought on the debate (have not read any debate reviews from anyone yet):

    1. Trump did well. Not perfect well. He entered in 1st place and he leaves in 1st place. With many expecting hoping for him to crater, didn't happen.

    2. Kaisch will probably get the biggest bump. Came across as genuine, knowledgeable, grounded, and competent. Granted he's still down low, but it's a jump.

    3. Carson came across as the smartest person there. Don't know how much of a jump he'll get, but he will now be considered by more.

    4. The Christe/Paul fight will get a lot of play. Some people will like one, some the other, but it's lots of exposure.

    5. Cruz would have done better calling in sick.

    6. Bush was awful. How on earth did he ever get elected to anything? If he doesn't improve he's toast, no matter how much money he raises.

    And that's it. There were some good zingers in places, several by Huckabee. But none where it makes you remember the person who said it. With 10 people you lose the person/phrase connection.

    The real interesting takeaway is Trump could win. Maybe even the general. (And the fact that everyone here finds him abhorrent does not mean he can't win.)

  2. I watched the debate with a bunch of Democrats.  We all thought Kasich would be the biggest threat to the Democratic nominee, because he comes across as reasonable, caring, and genuine. Also, his policies are more moderate.

    We got a kick out of Huckabee's "pimp and prostitute tax". I want to see that policy on paper.

    Christie and Trump were belligerent and scary, Carson was in the twilight zone, and did no one notice that the only question about race went to the black guy? Walker was wooden, and Rand Paul seemed irritated and defensive. Jeb Bush was kind of a nonentity – and he's supposed to be moderate because he believes in immigration reform and public education. We agreed that, if this went to a swimsuit competition, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul would be the ones we'd want to see.

    1. I've thought that even before the debate. Kasich is the only one of these clowns who is credible and could pull in Democratic voters. Hell, there are circunstances under which I could imagine voting for him.

      He's held positions of responsibility (House Budget Chair, Governor of Ohio) and handled them competently (even if I didn't agree with many of his policy positions). He's towed the right wing ideological line until it was not longer politically feasible and then adopted to reality (something the rest of the them, with the exception of Bush and Walker, are incapable of doing). And Kasich is someone most middle class voters could identify with; sort of a conservative Republican version of Joe Biden but without the gaffs.

      But I'm counting on the GOP to be too stupid to actually nominate him. Trump/Jindal '16

  3. Does Donald Trump have Ronald Reagan-like qualities?

    Sells himself as a non-career politician. Check.

    Former professional entertainer. Check.

    Has unique-looking hair. Check.

  4. Chris Wallace asked Trump the question I would have posed about his bankruptcies.  Trump's answer was that he just stiffed those nasty bankers who are not very nice.  Well, the question was just the jab.  The roundhouse will come when some reporter digs up the small businesses that were also stiffed by Trump.  The printers and caterers and dozens of other small businesses who provided services to Trump's businesses and were left with unpaid invoices.  The knockout punch will be when those small business people ask him to pay them now that he's a billionaire.

    1. I saw jaws drop when Trump admitted that he took advantage of bankruptcy laws (4 times!) for his personal profit. I keep thinking that he's unelectable, because of stuff like this, and his poll numbers just keep going up.

      I want to sit with the mythical "average Republican voter", and ask him/her:

      "So you like Donald Trump… a reality TV star "boss" who cheated and exploited his way into prosperity, has anger issues, is accused of beating and raping his wife when his hair procedure didn't work out, and changes his position on important issues depending on who his audience is. 

      And this is who you want to lead the country."

      To which they would reply: "Away, damned liberal! "

      1. I knew he called women names (and more than just Rosie O'Donnell), but I had forgotten about tell that woman on "the Apprentice" about wanting to see her on her knees!

        I realize he will fire up the GOP's misogynistic base, but at some point don't the Republicans have to worry about aggravating the gender gap?


      2. I think the debate may have created a real opportunity for The Donald.  It was clear from the nature of the questions that this was a hit by Fox News on Trump.  If I were Trump, I would bet pounding away on the coddling of the other candidates, that they're weren't tough enough to take the heat like he was, and how clear it is that the establishment wants a milquetoast and not a "real man" like him.  It'll be interesting to see if he can capitalize on this and make even more headway with those on the right who are disaffected with their leaders' inability to 'git 'er done.'

        As for the Fox team, I offer the words of Emerson, "When you strike at a king, you must kill him."

  5. I see neither Moderanus nor A/C has weighed in on the Great Debate.  I'm guessing they're still downloading their instructions and talking points.

  6. Remember when "noun, verb, 9/11" was a Republican campaign line?

    Chris Christie tried it in his exchange with Rand Paul justifying the 4th amendment issues around the Patriot Act, stating "the hugs I remember are from the people who lost their family members on 9/11," and Paul rolled his eyes in disgust.

    Granted it's a cheap debating ploy, but still, don't these widows and orphans deserve a touch more respect?

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