CLEVELAND -- Candidates in the early round of the Republican debate Thursday focused their attacks on President Barack Obama and Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton rather than Donald Trump.
The seven Republican hopefuls, relegated to a drive-time forum rather than prime time, agreed on most everything when quizzed by Fox News moderators. They said Obama hadn't done enough to subdue Islamic terrorists and they'd oppose the Iran nuclear deal he's proposed. They said Clinton has tried to divide Americans, that they'd be tougher on immigration than Democrats are and they'd unite the country.
They spent most of the time focusing on Obama and Clinton rather than their intraparty adversaries.
"She represents the third term of a failed presidency," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said of Clinton.
"Hillary Clinton lies about Benghazi, she lies about emails," former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, the lone female in the field, said at another point.
Rather than disagreeing, they focused on trying to persuade viewers of their past records and their vigor.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he'd sic the IRS and the Department of Justice on Planned Parenthood in an attempt to shut down the pro-abortion-rights group. Asked about immigration, Jindal, whose parents came from India, said he was "tired of hyphenated Americans."
"Immigration without assimilation is an invasion," Jindal said.
On the Iran nuclear deal proposal, Graham said, "We need somebody ready to be commander-in-chief on day 1, who understands there are no moderates in Iran -- they've been killed a long time ago."
"The first thing I will do is tear up that agreement with Iran," former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said. He also emphasized that he was the lone candidate with experience on border-security issues and one of the few who served in the military.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum promised to reduce "the level of immigration by 25 percent."
Former New York Gov. George Pataki touted his record for winning three elections in a liberal state and said it shows he can accomplish things in a divided government. He mentioned that he led the state amid the Sept. 11 attacks, noted his sons served in the military and said he would devote resources to "destroying" Islamic terrorists overseas but "then get out."
The lone candidate who supports legal abortion, Pataki was asked if the recent controversial Planned Parenthood videos changed his mind and whether he'd want to change abortion laws. "My heart has not changed because I've always been appalled by abortion," Pataki said. "I'm a Catholic. I believe life begins at conception. But Roe v. Wade has been the law for 42 years. And I don't think we should continue to try to change it."
Fiorina made the only pointed attack of Trump, referring to a phone call last spring between Trump and former President Bill Clinton. "Well, I don't know. I didn't get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped into the race. Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton?" Fiorina said. "I didn't. Maybe it's because I hadn't given money to the foundation or donated to his wife's Senate campaign."