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Candidates Face Off In Second Republican Presidential Debate

Eleven candidates slugged it out during Wednesday's debate at the Reagan Library in California.

Last updated on September 16, 2015, at 11:30 p.m. ET

Posted on September 16, 2015, at 5:53 p.m. ET

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

The top 11 candidates on the podium before Wednesday's presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

What we know so far:

  • This debate features the 11 top-tier Republican candidates.
  • CNN has said the debate could be as long as three hours.
  • There was an earlier "undercard" debate with the four candidates trailing in the polls: Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Lindsey Graham.

Updates

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It's Over!

After more than five hours of debate action will just leave you with these images of Donald Trump high five-ing Ben Carson and Jeb Bush.

Goodnight!

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Christie says the "Adams family" has been left off our currency.

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Codename: Duck Hunter?

Because clearly the debate hadn't gone on long enough, CNN decided it would be fun and useful to ask the candidates each what they would have as their Secret Service code names. Here are the answers:

Christie: True Heart Kasich: Unit One Fiorina: Secretariat Walker: Harley Bush: Everready Trump: Humble Carson: One Nation Cruz: Cohiba Rubio: Gator Huckabee: Duck Hunter Paul: Justice Never Sleeps

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Was Trump against the war in Iraq?

During the Republican debate Wednesday night, Donald Trump said he was on the record as being actively against the Iraq War before the invasion in 2003.

"I am the on this dais β€” the only person that fought very, very hard against us β€” and I wasn't a sitting politician going into Iraq," Trump said. "Because I said going into Iraq β€” that was in 2003."

Trump said it would be easier to find "25 different stories" of him being against the war before the invasion. But an extensive BuzzFeed News review was unable to find any Trump statements on the Iraq War before the invasion in March 2003.

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Blinding me with science:

Science snuck into the end of the debate Wednesday night, when Senator Marco Rubio was asked about his opposition to Environmental Protection Agency rules aimed at combatting climate change.

"You can measure the climate," Rubio said, explaining his opposition wasn't to the science itself, but to costs of EPA's moves, which would to dethrone coal as the leading source of power nationwide by 2030.

Rubio and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin said the EPA rules would cost thousands of manufacturing jobs; the EPA's analysis found that the policies would actually add a small number of jobs over time.

While the candidates said that the rules won't stop China, the leading emitter of industrial greenhouse gases, from continuing to pollute, a meeting in Paris in December is expected to ratify commitments to make these cuts made by the USA, China, India and other nations. β€” Dan Vergano

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The candidates had a brisk back-and-forth on national security.

Trump, discussing invading Iraq, said, "I am a very militaristic person, but you have to know when to use the military." With Jeb Bush shooting back soon after: "If there's one thing I can relate about my brother, it's that he kept us safe."

Chris Christie said, "America was safer those seven years and Obama has taken that safety away from us."

Rand Paul, meanwhile, focused on the legacy of the past two presidents, saying, "There will always be a Bush or Clinton if you want to go back to war in Iraq."

In terms of ISIS, Bush said that when the U.S. "politically and military pulled back" in Iraq, "this lead to the creation of ISIS." Carson said that "We either allow [ISIS] to progress and appear to be the winners, or use every resource to destroy them."

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Jeb Bush: "Forty years ago I smoked marijuana, and I admit it. I’m sure that other people might’ve done it and may not want to say it in front of 25 million people. My mom’s not happy that I just did."

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At the CNN Republican presidential debate on Wednesday night, Donald Trump said he’d β€œtalk to” and β€œget along with” Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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As an Ohio Congressman in 1995, Kasich championed a government shutdown.

Earlier in the debate, John Kasich warned fellow Republicans on Wednesday of the consequences of shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood. In his 2006 book, he called the 1995 government shutdown "one of the greatest moments of my career."

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As we head into hour four of our debate extravaganza, an important question:

CNN

Who is the babe sitting behind Jake Tapper? Issac Fitzgerald investigates.

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Donald Trump and immigration

Where the first debate was a race to see who could go farther to the right on immigration, the candidates Wednesday were forced to grapple with where Donald Trump has taken the issue.

Chris Christie said that deporting 15,000 immigrants a day would be impossible because of funding and law enforcement limitations. Jeb Bush said he was on the Reagan side, not on the side of Trump who believes everything happening in America is bad. The border must be secured, he said, but building a wall and deporting "half a million people a month," would "destroy community life and tear families apart."

The candidates did not challenge Trump on ending birthright citizenship but Rubio and Bush teamed up on Trump saying it is not a crime to speak Spanish.

Bush invoked his wife, asking Trump to apologize to her for bringing her up while campaigning, and Rubio mentioned his Cuban grandfather who taught him to love America, while speaking to him in Spanish. β€” Adrian Carrasquillo

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from @twitter: So far, the top 3 mentioned candidates on Twitter during this debate: 1. Donald Trump 2. Carly Fiorina 3. Jeb Bush

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Trump and Fiorina's face off

Carly Fiorina was given a chance to respond to a recent Rolling Stone article that quoted Trump as saying this about her: "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?"

Fiorina responded that, "I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said."

Trump then said, "I think she's got a beautiful face and I think she's a beautiful woman."

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Clinton campaign manager: Lindsey Graham is right

Ruby Cramer / BuzzFeed

Dozens of staffers from the Clinton campaign, seated on desks and bean bags in the candidate's Brooklyn headquarters, listened to a pep talk from their boss before watching the start of the debate. Clinton's manager, Robby Mook, told his staff that the 11 Republicans on stage would be a reminder of "what this election is all about."

Standing in front of a large television screen in the office analytics department, Mook quoted a line from Lindsey Graham, who participated in the first debate of the night, along with other low-polling candidates: "Hillary Clinton has a list a mile long to help the middle class," Graham said.

Mook happily repeated the line to his staff: "Lindsey Graham himself actually put it very well tonight: 'Hillary Clinton has a list a mile long of what she is going do to help the middle class,' and the focus of the campaign is to help the middle class."

"We are here to fight for the middle class for their economic future, for our economic future," he said. "That's why we're here." Mook also said that, in last month's Republican debate, the candidates mentioned "middle class" only four times: "Unfortunately, I don't think you're gonna hear them talk about it much tonight."

On the occasion of Wednesday's debate, Clinton's campaign has organized more than 100 "Women For Hillary" watch parties. The candidate is not at her headquarters for the debate. But Clinton, Mook told his staff, "just called in." Earlier on Wednesday, she taped a segment on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

β€” Ruby Cramer

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Planned Parenthood redux:

Much like during the first debate, the candidates on stage are making tough statements about de Planned Parenthood and vying to show who has the best record on outlawing abortion.

After being asked to respond to Ted Cruz's belief that Republicans should shut down the government until President Obama agrees to defund Planned Parenthood, John Kasich said that while he agrees that the non-profit should be defunded, he doesnt' believe that shutting down the government will get that done.

"The President of U.S. is not 'gonna sign this," Kasich said. "All we're going to do is shut the government down … and open it back up again. Then the country will be like, 'What is it with these Republicans?'"

Cruz responded by suggesting that "preemptively surrendering to Obama" will accomplish nothing.

"Obama is committed to his liberal principals," Cruz said, adding Republicans should stop surrendering and force him through the shutdown of government to defund Planned Parenthood.

Fiorina brought up the shocking content of the heavily edited videos of Planned Parenthood research labs that was the catalyst for the current debate over the non-profit's funding. "I challenge Hillary Clinton and Obama to watch a fully formed fetus on the table its heart beating, legs kicking, while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain,'" Fiorina said passionately. "If we don't convince President Obama not to veto this bill, shame on us!"

And Gov. Christie took the opportunity to discuss Clinton's support of the non-profit. "Hillary Clinton believes in the systematic murder of babies in the womb to preserve their body parts for sale." β€” Ema O'Connor

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The candidates are asked about Rowan County Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for defying court orders to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Frederic J Brown / AFP / Getty Images

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who joined Davis at a rally when she was released from jail on Wednesday, called the Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage "judicial tyranny." Putting Davis in jail, he said, amounted to the "criminalization of her faith."

Jeb Bush tried to tried to walk a tightrope between allowing same-sex marriage and religious freedom. As LGBT reporter Dom Holden wrote:

"In a big tolerant country, we should respect the rule of law," Bush said. However, the former Florida governor continued, "I was opposed to the decision, but we can't just say, 'Gays can't get married now.' But there should be some accommodation for her conscience, just as there should be for people who are florists who don't want to participate in weddings, or bakers." "If the law needs to be changed in the state of Kentucky, which is what she is advocating, it should be changed," Bush concluded.

Here's what the candidates in the earlier debate had to say about her decision to defy a federal judge's order to issue marriage licenses.

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The most telling Trump exchange so far in the debate was this back-and-forth between him and Scott Walker:

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Walker, who is struggling in the polls after getting off to a strong start in his campaign earlier this year, was reluctant to criticize Trump before this and appeared to be recalibrating his position on immigration rightward as Trump made birthright citizenship a big issue in the presidential race and as anti-establishment feeling has swept the contest. His willingness to take on Trump could indicate a shift in strategy, and had the hallmarks of being a planned moment ("Mr Trump, we don't need an apprentice in the White House, we have one right now" isn't the kind of line that most people think of on their feet.) –Rosie Gray

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Cheers.

During the earlier JV-team debate, Lindsay Graham said he would encourage more drinking in the White House. Here's a drinking game to get things started β€” and get you through this marathon of a debate night.

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Hillary Clinton trolls the GOP on Reagan

As the members of one party share the stage at the Reagan library, the frontrunner from the other is commemorating the occasion with a watch party at her headquarters in Brooklyn Heights. Reporters covering Hillary Clinton are watching the second Republican debate from inside the campaign's 11th floor offices, where aides have decorated the walls of a conference room with posters quoting Reagan on ideas that β€” so Clinton would argue β€” don't represent the current GOP.

Ruby Cramer / BuzzFeed

Members of the campaign such as communications director Jennifer Palmieri will be on hand all night to provide real-time reactions to the debate, aides said.

β€” Ruby Cramer

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Bush says Trump tried to buy his way into casino gambling in Florida.

Jeb Bush is asked to respond to Trump's accusation that he is a puppet for his donors. Bush denies this and talks about how he Trump tried to lobby him on casino gambling while Bush was governor.

Trump responds, "That's totally false." Then adds, "If I wanted it, I would have gotten it."

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CNN

Donald Trump reacts to the first debate question.

Should Trump have his finger on the "button?"

CNN host Jake Tapper gives the candidates not named Donald Trump a chance to criticize the GOP frontrunner. He asked Carly Fiorina whether she'd be comfortable with Donald Trump having control of nuclear weapons. She declines to answer. "I think Mr. Trump is a wonderful entertainer."

Rand Paul has no problem saying he isn't comfortable with Trump, who she said, behaves immaturely and attacks people for their looks.

"Do we want someone with that kind of character, that kind of careless language to be negotiating with Putin? Do we want someone like that to be negotiating with Iran?" Paul asked.

"I think really there's a sophomoric quality that is entertaining about Mr. Trump, but I am worried. I'm very concerned about him -- having him in charge of the nuclear weapons, because I think his response, his -- his visceral response to attack people on their appearance β€” short, tall, fat, ugly β€” my goodness, that happened in junior high. Are we not way above that? Would we not all be worried to have someone like that in charge of the nuclear arsenal?"

Trump's response: "I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me there is plenty of subject matter right there." He also said he is qualified to be president. "I've dealt with people all over the world, been successful all over the world. Everything I've done virtually has been a tremendous success."

Trump also said he can't believe Paul is on the debate stage. "Rand Paul shouldn't even be on this stage. He's number 11, he's got 1 percent in the polls, and how he got up here, there's far too many people anyway."

Scott Walker also joins the anti-Trump chorus. "We don't need an apprentice in the White House, we have one right now," he said.

John Kasich criticizes his fellow Republicans for infighting. ""If I were sitting at home watching this back and forth, I'd be inclined to turn it off."

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Game on.

The 11 candidates ahead in the polls have taken the stage and are given 30-seconds to introduce themselves, tell the audience how much they love their spouses and idolize Ronald Reagan.

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Before the debate started, Donald Trump had some thoughts ...

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Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

Republican presidential candidate take the stage in the early CNN Republican presidential debate.

Everybody watching the debate is making the same CNN-plane joke

The backdrop for tonight's debate is Ronald Reagan's Air Force One and "CNN found the plane jokes" were everywhere.

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The Main Event

Eleven Republicans will take the stage in California at the Reagan Presidential Library β€” at one of the weirdest times in recent memory in politics.

The top-tier candidates don't look much like the top tier anymore.

The candidates many expected to be leading the pack β€” Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker β€” are seeing their support slip significantly in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Walker's support is cratering, down to just 2% in Iowa per a poll this past week.

Instead, Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson are solidifying their leads. The style's very different β€” Trump is bombastic, while Carson is mellow and gentle β€” but the results have been similar, in an anti-establishment period. Trump has commanded massive media attention, destroyed other candidates by aggressively (carelessly, honestly) attacking them, and also by taking up a few causes that most Republicans avoid, but are popular within the party (strict immigration policies and questioning the tax system that is friendly to hedge funders, in particular).

CNN has promised confrontation in their three-hour debate.

Presumably that will mean pitting Trump and those he's attacked against each other β€” but that could also involve how to address illegal immigration (a source of considerable disagreement between most of the presidential field and a lot of the Republican base), foreign policy (which Trump seems to know little about), federal education standards (which Jeb Bush favors, unlike most of the field), and taxes and the economy (a range of opinions).

Everyone wants to get ahead in a debate, but for Walker, who spent the early part of the week arguing for the end of federal public-sector unions (a return to the founding principles of his national career), making the case that he's a credible national politician is critical. β€” Katherine Miller


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