GOP presidential candidates debate

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Latest on the first Republican debate of the 2016 campaign for president:


10:55 p.m.

He opened the GOP debate, and billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump closed it by promising to fix America.

"We can't do anything right," he said, adding that "we don't win anymore" against China, Japan or Mexico on trade.

Trump has been criticized for, among other things, lacking a detailed policy platform.

He was the last to speak at the debate, and Trump closed by promising to strengthen the military, take care of veterans, end Obamacare and make "our country great again."


10:45 p.m.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio earned some of the loudest applause of Thursday's first GOP debate when he offered a zinger hitting Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"Well, first let me say, I think God has blessed us. He's blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates," he said. "The Democrats can't even find one."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, meanwhile, said he has tried to act as God wanted him to as he's taken difficult political actions during his governorship.

Walker said he is "not a perfect man," but he has tried to act with respect.

"What God calls us to do is follow his will," he said. "And, ultimately, that's what I'm going to try to do. And I hope people have seen that in my state."

Walker said even when he drew over 100,000 protesters at the state Capitol while he was "trying to do the right thing," he acted in an upright manner.


10:40 p.m.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (KAY'-sik) received a rousing round of applause during Thursday's first presidential debate when he said he can disagree with someone on same-sex marriage and still love them.

Asked how he would explain his opposition to gay marriage to a child who announced he or she was gay or lesbian, the presidential contender said: "I'm going to love my daughters no matter what they do. Because you know what? God gives me unconditional love, and I'm going to give it to my family and my friends and the people around me."

Kasich said he believes marriage is between a man and a woman but he urged his state's residents to respect the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage a nationwide right. The lead plaintiff in the landmark case was an Ohioan. Shortly after the ruling, Kasich attended a gay wedding.

Earlier Thursday in Cleveland, plaintiff Jim Obergefell urged candidates in the first presidential debate to validate the decision.

Kasich said he wants to unite people and "issues like that are planted to divide us."


10:31 p.m.

Billionaire Donald Trump isn't bothering making his bellicose manner more polite, even if former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush doesn't like his tone.

"We don't have time for tone," Trump said Thursday at the GOP debate, referencing Islamic militants beheading Christians. "We've got to get out and get the job done."

Trump is atop the polls but has been criticized by Bush for being too negative and angry.

Bush was widely viewed as the front-runner before Trump's rise. Bush said the nominee needs to be positive and not divide the country like President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton do.


10:25 p.m.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is emphasizing his opposition to abortion.

He says he believes future generations will "call us barbarians for murdering millions of babies."

Rubio disputes the Republican presidential debate moderator's characterization that he opposes abortion except in the case of rape and incest. He says he has never advocated for those exceptions.


10:18 p.m.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has no apologies about four of his businesses filing for bankruptcy.

Trump said he was acting like any other successful businessman in "taking advantage" of the nation's laws. He spoke during the first GOP presidential debate in response to a question from Fox News host Chris Wallace.

Wallace pressed Trump further. He noted that the most recent bankruptcy filing of a Trump corporation cost hundreds of jobs and deprived lenders of $1 billion. Trump responded that the lenders were "killers" and said Wallace was "living in a dream world." He added that he has never personally declared bankruptcy.

Trump concluded that his business skills would come in handy in the White House given that the United States is trillions of dollars in debt.


10:10 p.m.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is defending his lofty goal of achieving 4 percent economic growth, a rate last reached more than a generation ago.

At Thursday's GOP debate, Bush said the threshold, which also includes 19 million new jobs by a second Bush term, is possible by simplifying the tax code, repealing Democratic President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law and accelerating domestic energy production by reducing regulations on the oil and gas industry.

But a key part of Bush's economic plan is perhaps one of its most controversial among Republicans: an immigration system that puts people who are now illegally in the country on legal job and tax rolls.

He would do that by allowing people in the country illegally to stay in the country by seeking permanent legal status, in part by working, learning English and paying fines.

He says, "Fixing our immigration system and making it an economic driver is part of this."


10 p.m.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich says the winning presidential Republican nominee must take a broad, pro-growth stance if the party wants to beat Democrat Hillary Clinton. But he says economic prosperity is meant to be shared with the less fortunate.

Asked during Thursday's first presidential debate on Fox News, Kasich was asked how to answer Democratic criticism that Republicans favor the wealthy and do too little for the poor.

"Economic growth is the key to everything, but once you have economic growth you have to reach out to the people in the shadows," the former congressman said.

Describing himself as the son of a mailman, Kasich predicted Clinton would take a narrow line of arguments against the GOP and said Republicans' vision should be expansive.

"Restore the sense that the miracle will apply to you," he said. "Lift everybody. Unite everybody. And build a strong United States of America again."


9:55 p.m.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush heard boos at Thursday's Republican presidential debate when the moderator said he is the lone candidate on stage who supports education standards known as Common Core.

Bush says he believes education should be a state responsibility and says education standards should be higher. If states don't want to take part in the Common Core standards, he says that's fine.

"I don't believe the federal government should be involved in the creation of standards directly or indirectly," he says.

But the former Florida governor is strongly defending the idea of standards created at the state level.

Bush says: "If we are going to compete in this world we're in today, there's no possible way we can do it with lowering expectations and dumbing down everything. Children are going to suffer and families' hearts are going to be broken that their kids won't be able to get a job in the 21st century."

Bush says that as governor he created the first statewide school voucher program in the country, emphasizing that he fought teachers' unions to do so. He says students and parents should have "real school choice."


9:50 p.m.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump says he no longer supports a single-payer system for health care and defends his donations to Democratic politicians.

At the Republican presidential debate in Cleveland, Trump said single-payer works well in countries such as Canada and could have worked in the U.S. when he supported it in the 1990s.

He says he now favors lessening state regulations of insurance to foster greater competition.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul jabbed back at Trump's answer by noting that Republicans have fought single-payer for a decade. Trump gave a withering response: "I don't think you heard me. You're having a hard time tonight."

Trump was also asked about his past donations to Democratic politicians, including that they led them to "do whatever the hell you want."

Trump's reply: "You better believe it."

He adds, "I call them, they are there for me. And that's a broken system." He said his donation to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton got her to attend his wedding.


9:46 p.m.

Ben Carson has one of the quips of the night so far at the first GOP presidential debate in Cleveland.

He was asked whether he would support a return to using waterboarding to obtain information from terrorists. His response: "Thank you. ... I wasn't sure I was going to get to talk again."

With 10 candidates on stage, there's a lot of space between when each gets a turn to speak.

Carson, by the way, didn't say where he stood on the issue, saying he didn't think it was wise to telegraph America's military strategy to its enemies.


9:42 p.m.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul fundamentally disagree about the collection of telephone records. But the policy difference about constitutional rights versus national security is turning personal.

Christie, a former U.S. attorney, says: "I'm the only person on this stage who's actually filed applications under the Patriot Act. ... This is not theoretical to me. I went to the funerals."

Paul blasted back, "You fundamentally misunderstand the Bill of Rights." He shouted across the stage to Christie: "Use the Fourth Amendment! Get a warrant! Get a judge to sign a warrant!"

Christie slammed Paul's Senate filibuster, saying, "When you're sitting in a subcommittee blowing hot air about this you can say things about that."


9:40 p.m.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is defending his statement last year that people in this country illegally have committed "an act of love."

During the GOP presidential debate, Bush said most people staying in the country illegally are trying to provide for their family, a position that earned him groans from the audience in the Quicken Loans Arena.

But Bush says fixing the immigration system is more important than figuring out why people are in the country illegally.

And Bush has called for limiting legal immigration based on family ties, and expanding it for economic reasons.

Bush, whose wife is a naturalized Mexican immigrant, says: "There's much to do. Rather than talking about this as a wedge issue, the next president will fix this once and for all, as a driver for high, sustained economic growth."


9:35 p.m.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says many U.S. citizens feel taken advantage of when it comes to immigration.

"This is the most generous country in the world when it comes to immigration," he said Thursday, speaking from the stage at the first GOP presidential debate, televised nationally on Fox News.

He took issue with celebrity businessman Donald Trump's assertion the Mexico is to blame for America's illegal immigration problem. Most illegal immigrants, Rubio says, are coming from countries such as Guatamala and El Salvador and are overstaying their welcome, as opposed to sneaking over the border.

Rubio says his Senate office takes phone calls frequently with people who are frustrated with the slow legal immigration process and wonder if they should just come illegally.


9:30 p.m.

Billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump isn't backing down on his allegations that Mexico is sending criminals into the United States.

Fox News host Chris Wallace challenged Trump to provide evidence of that charge during the first GOP presidential debate.

Trump snapped back that if it wasn't for him, no one would be talking about illegal immigration.

He said that U.S. Border Patrol agents have told him the Mexican government is sending criminals to the U.S. because they know the government in America is "stupid."

Trump says, "they say this is what's happening because our leaders are stupid, our politicians are stupid. And the Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning.

He adds, "they send the bad ones over, because they don't want to pay for them, they don't want to take care of them. Why should they, when the stupid leaders of the United States will do it for 'em."

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said that Trump's immigration comments have clearly touched a nerve and it is "a mistake" for people to ignore him.


9:26 p.m.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is says executive experience is not a requirement for president.

The remark came in response to a question about kind comments Rubio had made about in-state rival Jeb Bush's record as governor.

"I would add to that this election cannot be a resume competition," Rubio retorted sharply. "This election better be about the future, not the past."

Rubio's reply is not just a jab at Bush, but also against Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton.

Rubio said if the election is a competition between people with government experience then Clinton, a former senator and former secretary of state, would win in 2016.

Rubio remarked that he was raised in a working class home in Miami.

"How is Hillary Clinton going to lecture me on living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised to paycheck to paycheck."


9:20 p.m.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says defunding Planned Parenthood is only one strategy for addressing revelations contained in recently released videos.

Huckabee proposed during Thursday's debate he would like to see the Constitution adjusted to protect the rights of unborn children.

"It's time we admit the Supreme Court is not the supreme being," he said.

An anti-abortion group released several secretly shot videos with Planned Parenthood executives describing how the organization provides fetal tissue to medical researchers and discussing different procedures and prices.

Planned Parenthood executives have denied claims that the transactions were sales and said any donations are legal and ethical. The law allows abortion providers to be paid for processing fees but not to profit from fetal tissue.


9:15 p.m.

Billionaire real estate mogul and Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is making no apologies for his past crude comments about women.

At the first GOP presidential debate Fox news host Megyn Kelly sharply questioned how Trump has described women in the past, criticizing their bodies and making sexually suggestive statements on his television show.

Trump tried to joke initially, saying the statements were only about liberal actor Rosie O'Donnell. But he said testily that he didn't have time for "total political correctness."

Staying combative, he said that if Kelly didn't like it, "I'm sorry." He added that he's always said nice things about her, but he threatened to be less kind to her in retaliation.

"I've been challenged by so many people and I don't frankly have time for total political correctness," he said. "This country is in big trouble. We don't win anymore."


9:05 p.m.

The opening moments of the first debate of the 2016 presidential election are all about Donald Trump, who refused to rule out running as an independent.

At center stage, the GOP frontrunner was the only one of 10 candidates to raise his hands when the Fox News hosts asked if anyone onstage would not pledge to support the eventual party nominee.

"I will not make the pledge at this time," Trump said.

That enraged Sen. Rand Paul, who said Trump was "already hedging his bets because he's used to buying politicians."

Trump had already loomed over the events Thursday night. During an earlier event for candidates relegated to a discussion outside of prime time, Trump took shots for his past positions in favor of universal health care and abortion rights.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich got a standing ovation from the home-state crowd.


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