We just finished up with our debate diary of “The Less-Than-One Percenters” debate from earlier this afternoon. Now it’s time for the big event!
We’re gonna keep on keeping on with the Colorado Pols Debate Diary once again.
*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.
This was a good night for Donald Trump and Chris Christie. Trump maintained his stage presence but also managed to appear like more of a serious candidate; he’s been leading the GOP field for 100 days, and tonight Trump looked the part. Christie got off some memorable lines and may have staved off the campaign reaper for awhile. John Kasich also had a pretty good night, but it could have been a great night had he been more consistent.
The big takeaway for us was the damage to Marco Rubio. The Florida Republican took a few shots from moderators and candidates, but he reacted like somebody shot his dog. The question about Rubio has always been about what he’ll do when push comes to shove; if tonight is any indication, Rubio will fall down. A lot.
This was also not a good showing by Ben Carson, who came across as being very weak on the issues. Ted Cruz made some mistakes, Mike Huckabee was forgettable, and Carly Fiorina sounds like a broken record now. As for Rand Paul, he should just end his Presidential campaign now. Seriously, like, right now. He’s done.
And lest we forget poor Jeb!. He couldn’t possibly be any less interesting or memorable. You could replace Jeb! with a robot and nobody would know the difference.
Closing statements. Christie says he is “deadly serious” about 15 times.
Paul and Cruz say little worth repeating.
Fiorina back to her line about how nothing has changed in the last 30 years. “I may not be your dream candidate just yet,” she says. Why would she say this?
Carson thanks the audience for being attentive.
Trump back to his “our country doesn’t win anymore” line.
“Nobody wants to watch 3 or 3-and-a-half hours of a debate,” says Trump, who then takes credit for negotiating the terms of the debate down to 2 hours.
Rubio: Seems flustered and determined to end on a better note. Doesn’t work.
Bush: Proven record, D.C. politicians, blah, blah, blah.
Huckabee complains about the media being mean to candidates. Give it a rest.
Kasich: Talks about rebuilding families and communities, and meeting our neighbors again. Interesting — this is new, and a memorable approach about working together.
Nope, another question, this time for Huckabee.
Jeb! tries to jump in, meekly, and accomplishes little.
Another question about a government program answered with something about government being the problem. This record is stuck.
Commercial break — cross your fingers that we’ll have closing statements when we return.
Question for Christie on how to fix Climate Change. He says investing in all types of energy. Harwood keeps interrupting, Christie responds with zinger: “Even in New Jersey, what you are doing would be considered rude.”
Christie really talking up wind and solar energy possibilities.
Question about student loans. Kasich talks about changes in Ohio where they are trying to force Universities to be more responsible.
Things have gone completely off the rails now. Too many questions, too few candidates willing to pay attention any longer as they rush to spurt out their own talking points.
Good line from Christie: “Are we really talking about whether the government should get involved in fantasy football? We have other problems…”
Christie talks about police officers not being supporter by the President.
Fiorina asked about employer-sponsored retirement plans. Should government help? Fiorina says no, starts bashing government in predictable manner.
Question for Huckabee about whether Trump has moral authority to lead country. Crowd boos. Huckabee says he isn’t going to respond because Trump doesn’t need any more time. Huckabee says Trump would be much better President than Hillary Clinton.
Trump talking about his concealed-carry permit — says he doesn’t always carry, because he likes to be unpredictable.
The end is near.
Back to Trump and H1-A visas — Becky Quick is determined to ask this question no matter how long it takes. Trump talks job creation instead.
Rubio forces his way into the discussion because somebody said his name. Issues a bunch of platitudes about immigration reform.
We’ve been listening to answers for nearly two hours before we finally get the first marijuana question.
For Kasich: Is legal marijuana a good revenue stream? Kasich hates drugs and the problem of overdoses; he may not actually know what marijuana is, so he starts talking about income inequality. No idea what he is talking about, though he did say the phrase, “nub of opportunity.”
A petulant Rand Paul asks for clarification on the rules for responding to questions, because he is sad that he hasn’t had more of a chance to speak.
Ted Cruz starts naming off different aspects of his tax plan. One of the moderators says, “What are you doing?”
Jeb! says that his tax plan gives the greatest benefits to the middle class. It’s quite possible that Jeb! has answered every question tonight with the same two dozen words.
Moderator asks Rubio about his tax plan, and Rubio says moderator John Harwood is wrong. Rubio’s answer to every question basically boils down to this: I’m right, and the media is out to get me.
This debate has slowed to a a crawl. Everybody is saying the same thing over and over and over.
Huckabee started to talk about diverting funds to cure the four biggest diseases in the country.
Question about Carson taking dueling positions on subsidies. Carson says he was wrong to say that we should have an oil subsidy, and that we should get rid of all of them. First decent answer of the night for Dr. Strange.
Question for Cruz about the Federal Reserve and a bunch of other acronyms. That’s a minute of our life that we’ll never get back.
Same question for Rand Paul, because it was such a compelling topic. Paul says the Federal Reserve is the reason we have income inequality.
Question for Trump on immigration. Trump says he is not critical of proposals to allow immigrants to get college degrees. Becky Quick asks where she heard Trump say something different, and Trump replies [to laughter], “I don’t know, you people write this stuff.”
Trump says he is the only person who is self-funding his campaign. Says SuperPACs are a scam and lead to bad decisions. Says he has spent the least amount of money on his campaign and had the best results to date. That was a great 45 seconds for Trump.
Quick then asks another question about something Trump may have said about someone in Florida, and Trump quickly replies that this is not true. Quick apologizes. Great prep work, debate team!
Rubio: The Democrats have the ultimate SuperPAC. It’s called the mainstream media. This is clearly Rubio’s go-to strategy whenever he’s in trouble. This won’t work for long.
Back to Rubio, and his proposal for reforms on tech firms and hiring. This is a bit too complicated, with too little explanation, to really understand from the audience’s perspective.
Interesting question for Carson about serving on the board of Costco, which is a very friendly company toward homosexuals. Carson thinks people make the choice to be gay or straight, BTW.
“Obviously you don’t understand my views on homosexuality,” says Carson, before making it extremely difficult to understand his views on homosexuality. Says he is strong supporter of the idea of equality in America, then says that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Says he’s not a homophobe, and blames Liberals for saying otherwise.
Again, this is the man who is currently leading the Republican field for President.
Follow up about Carson’s involvement with a company that dealt with marketing lawsuits. Says it is absurd to say he has relationship with the company. Moderator points out that Carson’s image was on the homepage of the website for the company, with the brand logo over his shoulder. Carson says that was done without his permission.
“Does that not speak to your vetting process or judgment either way,” asks moderator?
Carson starts to equivocate and is drowned out by boos from the crowd. Keep in mind that this is quite a feat to be drowned out by boos from an audience of just 1,000 people. Carson seems flustered.
Time for some Cruz: How do you really feel about income inequality? Cruz says that his family is full of single moms. Says 3.7 million women have entered poverty while Barack Obama has been President.
Should we go overboard? Let’s go overboard: Fiorina says every policy from Obama has been terrible for women.
Question for Kasich about subsidies and corporate welfare. “If we are going to reform welfare for poor people, we ought to reform it for rich people as well.” Huh? Kasich had a great moment earlier — this was the opposite of that moment.
Rubio gets question about his admitted problems with accounting in his own finances, and how Americans should trust him to handle the U.S. economy.
Rubio looks like a bully backed into a corner. His response is that these are discredited attacks from Democrats that he refuses to discuss…which makes no sense, because the question was about something Rubio said himself.
Moderator Becky Quick doesn’t let Rubio off the hook, saying that he had a million-dollar windfall from a book deal that could have paid off his debts.
“Again, we’re raising a family in the 21st Century, and it’s one of the reasons why my tax plan is a pro-family tax plan.” This has not been a good evening for Rubio, who is coming off as defensive and immature.
Question for Carly Fiorina, who ignores it and starts talking about “crony capitalism.”
“You see folks, this is how socialism starts. Government creates a problem, and then government steps in to fix the problem.” Pretty heavy on the rhetoric here — maybe its time for Florina to talk about another scary video that doesn’t exist.
Question for Jeb! about economic deals in Congress. Jeb! rambles on about bond ratings and tax cuts when he was Florida Governor.
“You find a Democrat who is for cutting taxes and spending, and I’ll give them a warm kiss,” says Jeb. Crowd seems unsure about whether to laugh or cringe.
Question for Christie: Should we be harder on the car manufacturers whose product defects have killed people? Christie agrees, then pivots to talk about going after pharmaceutical companies as U.S. Attorney. Pretty good answer for a guy badly in need of a decent response.
Question for Ben Carson about price gouging in pharmaceutical industry. Carson just seems happy that he isn’t asked to explain the difference between the budget and the debt ceiling. He doesn’t answer this question, either.
We said it during previous debates, and we’ll say it again: How can you watch Ben Carson speak and get excited about his campaign for President? He sounds like Ben Stein as Ferris Bueller’s teacher.
Welcome back to cavernous Coors Event Center in Boulder. Question for Trump about bankruptcies.
Repeats his line that he used the policies and loopholes available to him to save his companies from bankruptcy. Pivots to how he has built successful businesses that employ lots of people.
Question for Chris Christie about his budget proposals. Is he breaking a social contract on social security, etc.?
Christie looks into the camera and says, “The government has lied to you, and the government has stolen from you.” Does not appear to realize the irony in this statement, given his many scandals in New Jersey.
Christie says his plan will save a trillion dollars in entitlement savings.
Huckabee gets a shot to speak after a long absence: Can’t do much more than pull out the old, “this is your money” line. Huckabee did not exactly make the case for more airtime with that boring answer.
Christie says that people are lying to senior citizens.
Ted Cruz claims a right to respond to…something. He jumps on the “I love old people” train along with everyone else.
How long do we need to sit here and listen to the candidates talking about how people who paid into social security deserve those benefits? Nobody disagrees — nobody has a good answer, either.
Question for Ted Cruz: Does your opposition to a debt deal in Congress mean that you can’t compromise? First thing Cruz says is that Americans don’t trust the media because some of the questions were mean. Gets applause for saying, “How about talking about substantive issues?” You mean, like the one you just refused to answer?
Moderator gives Cruz another chance to answer question. He won’t — says instead that Democratic Debate was a joke compared to GOP debate. Says moderator: “I just want the record to reflect that I asked you repeatedly about the debt limit and you refused to answer.”
Cruz seems to realize his mistake and tries to browbeat moderator John Harwood into giving him more time. Harwood responds by saying that Cruz used his time for something else, and moves to a question for Rand Paul. Well done, John Harwood. Well done.
Question for Paul on his opposition to budget deal. Paul says he opposes taking entitlement money from other areas in order to fund new things. Doesn’t come up with any actual idea of his own.
Question for Bush about why his campaign is flailing. Jeb! responds by rattling off numerous employment statistics. That did not go well.
Now for Fiorina: Why did HP fire you and why did you do so poorly as CEO — and why should we hire you as President?
Fiorina claims that she cut bureaucracy and “saved 80,000 jobs,” which sounds like horseshit. Then she says that the man who fired her now supports her and says they were wrong to fire her. Moderator points out that this is the same guy (Tom Perkins) who has said that rich people should be allowed to cast more votes.
“I will run on my record all day long,” says Florina. Well, somebody’s record, anyway.
Question for Marco Rubio about being a deadbeat Senator (today, his home-state newspaper, the Sun Sentinel, published an editorial asking Rubio to either start showing up for work in the Senate or resign his position).
Rubio gets an out at the end of the question, which is phrased like, “Why don’t you wait your turn.” Rubio jumps on this point and turns it toward the “old guard” Republicans as an escape…
Follow-up question for Rubio on the Sun Sentinel editorial. Rubio clearly thought he was out of the woods and looks nervous now. Moderator asks if it is true, as reported by the Sentinel, that Rubio “hates his job.”
Rubio points out that prior Senate candidates have missed votes while running for President. Rubio makes a really, really lame reach by blaming “media bias.”
Here comes Jeb! Says that he supported Rubio, and that he should be showing up to work and doing constituent services. “There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck in Florida, and they need a Senator who is going to work for them every single day.” Ouch.
Rubio responds by saying Jeb! is comparing his campaign to John McCain’s 2008 Presidential bid, and McCain also missed votes. Rubio gets through these questions fairly well, but this hit is going to linger. Rubio looked petulant and silly by saying, “Everybody does it!”
Now Ben Carson elbows his way back in, saying, “Since I was attacked too…”
Carson is essentially trying to explain his tax plan by using a story problem. If this worker is traveling West at 30 MPH…
Ted Cruz says his tax plan will create 4.9 million jobs, raise wages 12%, cure cancer, defeat the Nazis, and make all foods gluten-free.
Fiorina says that we have talked about tax changes for decades, but nobody ever does anything. Says the only way to level the playing field is to cut the tax code from 73,000 pages to 3 pages. That seems…not at all possible.
Similar question for Ben Carson, about whether or not his tax plan is feasible. Says his tax plan would drop rate to 15%, with strategic cutting, stimulating the economy, and conjuring a magic tax wizard.
Kasich jumps in, sounding very irritated. “I’m the only person on this stage who was actually involved in setting a federal budget.” Says the plans of his opponents are wild promises that are impossible to enact. This is a good moment for Kasich, who pulled off the difficult feat of (momentarily) separating himself from the rest of the field.
Question for Trump: Is your campaign a comic-book version of a candidate?
Trump says that this is not a nice way to ask a question, then starts naming off policy ideas. It sounds like Trump’s strategy tonight is to start showing he can really do the job of President.
Follow-up question on Trump’s tax plan: Economic advisors say it would be impossible to cut taxes as much as Trump proposes.
Trump answers for a moment, then Jeb! makes a weird interruption to launch a half-assed attack at Trump.
Trump retorts that Kasich got lucky with fracking taking off in Ohio. Mentions that Kasich was a top partner at Lehman Brothers when it was leading the way in the financial meltdown. Then a great line from Trump: “Now he’s gotten nasty because he’s down in the polls, which is why he’s on the end [of the stage].” Big laughs.
Kasich responds about Ohio having a diverse energy economy. Says he was not on the board of Lehman Brothers, but was a “banker.” Uh, okay.
Candidate introductions. Maybe the applause would be louder if people had actually been allowed inside the building.
First question, what’s your biggest weakness?
John Kasich: Says we are on the verge of picking someone who cannot do this job. So, Kasich gets us off to a good start by refusing to answer the very first question.
Mike Huckabee: Jokes that he has no weaknesses, but you should ask his wife. Says he plays by the rules, but America doesn’t.
Jeb! Bush: “You’ve got to…stick with it…and all that.” Says he can’t be negative.
Marco Rubio: “I’m not sure it’s a weakness, but I do believe that there is a sense of optimism and that America can be greater.” Tool.
Donald Trump: Weakness is that he does not forgive people who have wronged him.
Ben Carson: Says he won’t attack other Republicans.
Carly Fiorina: Says she was told that she needs to smile more. So she smiles. Gets a good laugh.
Ted Cruz: “I’m too agreeable and easy-going.” Good joke, gets laughs. Cruz then says his weakness is the opposite — that he will get the job done.
Chris Christie: Says he sees little weakness on this stage, but a lot of weakness in Democratic field. Tries to tee up a complicated joke that was obviously pre-planned, but he rushes things and it falls flat.
Rand Paul: Says we borrow a million dollars a minute. Rad. Now how about that question?
Here we go…
How long will it take before we get the first question about marijuana? Will Ben Carson stab Donald Trump? Did Scott Walker really drop out? Let’s find out.
The candidates are finally lining up on stage. CNBC is showing this on a split-screen format; do we really need to hear the CNBC pre-debate team scream over each other?