The final debate before the New Hampshire primary for Republican presidential candidates was held in Manchester, New Hampshire. The participants were: Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, former Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. John Kasich. ABC News hosted the debate with the Independent Journal Review, and in partnership with the Republican National Committee. The primary is on Tuesday.
The candidates were asked how Republicans can relate to young voters who favor same-sex marriage and abortion rights.
“Believing in traditional marriage like I do does not make you a bigot,” Rubio said.
He also said he opposes abortion. “On abortion, Democrats are extremists.”
“On this stage, I am the most pro-life candidate,” Bush said. He criticized Hillary Clinton for supporting late-term abortion rights.
“But I believe there should be exceptions: rape, incest and the life of the mother,” Bush said. He called that “the sweet spot” for voters.
Rubio said he also supports exceptions, but opposes abortion generally.
“I would rather lose an election, than be wrong on the issue of life,” Rubio said.
Christie said he also supports exceptions.
“I believe if a woman has been raped, that is a pregnancy she should be able to terminate,” Christie said.
In closing arguments:
Kasich said he has attended more than 100 town hall meetings in New Hampshire. “I have had a conservative message, but a positive message of how we can draw people together . . . please give me a chance to carry this message forward to the United States of America.”
Christie said he has spent his career focused on serving people, not politics or partisanship on a night he turned in one of his best performances.
“You have gotten to know my heart,” Christie said.
Bush referred to the late President Ronald Reagan and his goals of limited government and peace through strength, promising “to make America safer.”
Carson said pundits have tried to “bury” him.
“Guess what, I’m still here and I’m not going anyplace. . . . There is still a place in this country for faith and common sense,” Carson said.
“You vote for me, we will grow the conservative movement,” Rubio said.
Cruz said everyone promises to “stand up to Washington,” but that he has done it by opposing mandates to promote ethanol.
“I will stand with the American people against the bipartisan corruption in Washington,” Cruz said.
“Our country [that] we love so much doesn’t win anymore,” Trump said. “If I’m elected president we will win, and we will win and we will win.”
Trump said police are victims, too, in some confrontations.
“The police are absolutely mistreated and misunderstood,” Trump said. “The police in this country have done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order and they are afraid for their jobs ... They can’t act, they are afraid to lose their pensions; they don’t know what to do.”
“There can be a win-win here,” Kasich said. He said he brings community leaders and police together in Ohio to resolve such issues. “We love the police, but we have to be responsive to the people in the community.”
Rubio said he would visit a mosque as president. But he was also critical of Obama for failing to take a harder line against “homegrown violent extremism” in Muslim communities.
Christie said he would quarantine people with symptoms of the Zika virus, as he detained a nurse who showed signs of the Ebola virus.
Christie defended Muslim Americans “as good, hardworking people” who need to be asked to help in a bigger way to root out terrorists.
Carson said quarantining people “willy nilly” because they were in Brazil isn’t an effective way to combat the Zika virus.
Rubio said young women should be required to register for the Selective Service in the event a draft is revived.
Bush also said women should register for the draft to help military readiness.
“When we are weak militarily, it doesn’t matter what we say ... no one fears us and they take actions against us,” Bush said. However, he added: “The draft is not going to be reinstituted.”
Christie, the father of two daughters, said, “There is no reason why young women should be discriminated against from registering for the Selective Service.”
Bush said he would focus on health care of veterans.
He blamed the Obama administration for the failings of the Veterans Affairs hospitals.
“This is outrageous,” Bush said.
Kasich said that in Ohio, veterans are given college and job credit for their military service.
“The Pentagon has got to work with the returning soldier and sailor ... I call them golden employees,” Kasich said. But he said there is a disconnect between companies and veterans. Veterans need to be connected with training and health care.
Rubio said he would allow veterans to take their government-paid health care to any doctor they choose.
Cruz defended his call for “saturation carpet bombing” of Syria, but said it would be strategically targeted at oil facilities and highways to eliminate the terror group known as the Islamic State
He said a building in Syria called “Jihadist University” should be bombed “to rubble.”
“We should use overwhelming force then get the heck out of there,” Cruz said.
Rubio said the Islamic State must be defeated with ground troops mostly comprised of Muslim allies.
“They have affiliates in over a dozen countries across this planet . . . but it all begins with taking away safe operating bases,” Rubio said.
Rubio said that although the Islamic State is the worst jihadist group “in history,” a surge in the number of U.S. troops in the region would lead to further sectarian violence. He said Muslim allies are needed.
“They know what air power is when the United States is committed to the cause,” Rubio said.
Trump has also called for bombing of the Islamic State.
“Four years ago, I said bomb the oil and take the oil,” Trump said. If that had been done, he said, the Islamic State wouldn’t have risen.
He said Obama doesn’t want to bomb oil fields because of the environmental fallout.
“Can you imagine Douglas MacArthur saying don’t bomb?” Trump said. “It should have been done four years ago.”
Bush said he supports more airstrikes in Libya, which the Obama administration is now considering to counter terrorism.
“We have to lead,” Bush said. “Without the United States, nothing seems to work.”
Carson said the United States needs a “pro-active foreign policy” to avoid the Islamic State creating a strong, central base of operations,” in Libya.
“They are already sending their fighters there,” Carson said. He said he supports “the possibility of renewed airstrikes” if the Joint Chiefs of Staff agree.
“None of us up here are a military expert — some of us talk like we are, but we aren’t,” Carson said.
Cruz said he opposes the use of torture by the United States in interrogations. But he called water boarding “enhanced interrogation,” but not torture.
He said would not allow waterboarding to be used again in a “widespread way,” but would use it to protect a U.S. city from imminent attack.
Trump said we are dealing with “medieval” mentality in the Middle East.
“I would bring back waterboarding, and I would bring a hell of lot worse,” Trump said.
Bush said closing Guantánamo Bay prison for foreign terror suspects would be a mistake.
Rubio said anti-terrorism is not like law enforcement.
“The same tactics do not apply,” Rubio said when asked if he supports the use of waterboarding in which a suspect is nearly drowned, repeatedly.
Cruz said he would use executive power “to change the direction of this country.”
Specifically, he said he would rescind Obamacare, Obama’s added gun control and Obama’s Common Core in schools.
Trump defended his ability to make deals, like the founding fathers and Republican President Ronald Reagan did.
He called Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran “amateurish.”
“You can’t leave the White House, and go play golf in Hawaii for three weeks,” Trump said of Obama.
Kasich said the president has to work with Congress, not issue repeated executive orders.
“He isn’t a king . . . you don’t trump the legislature,” Kasich said. “Americans first, party and ideology second . . . that’s what we need to do.”
Bush called for moving more federal spending and programs to state control. He said transportation, education and other programs need to be run more by states, not the federal government.
Kasich agreed with Bush for an aggressive move to change Washington. In the first 100 days of his presidency, he would “move America forward, I promise you, we will move America forward,” Kasich said.
Heroin abuse has become a major, deadly problem in New Hampshire and the candidates were grilled on how they would address the growing national problem.
Cruz repeated the story of his half-sister, a single mother, who struggled with addiction her whole life, eventually being imprisoned and spending time in a crack house. She eventually died.
“This is an absolute epidemic, we need leadership to solve it,” Cruz said. He said actions include securing the borders against drug cartels and a “deluge of drugs flowing over our southern border.”
Christie said he would combat the drug trade even without the support of the Mexican government.
Christie said New Jersey has used diversion of drug defendants to rehabilitation programs.
“I am anti-abortion, and not just for the nine months in the womb,” Christie said. “Every one of those lives is a gift from God.”
“I will bring the same solutions to the country,” Christie said.
Pressed on his ability to counter Clinton in a general election, Trump said, “I do very, very well against Hillary Clinton. I am the last person she wants to run against,”
“How she gets away with the email stuff is hard to believe,” Trump said, referring to her use of a private email server for official business while U.S. Secretary of State.
Rubio said voters see the election “as a turning point . . . a referendum on our identify as a nation and as a people.”
“We are going to bring this party together and we are going to defeat Hillary Clinton. . . . She put classified information on her email server because she thinks she’s above the law,” Rubio said.
Carson said Clinton “is known as a deceitful individual.”
“I would simply make it a referendum on decency and honesty,” Carson said of a general election campaign.
Turning to a hot New Hampshire issue, the candidates were asked about government seizure of private property for public projects such as an energy pipeline.
“Eminent domain is essential,” Trump said. He said the land owner gets “a fortune” when the owner must sell land and the public benefits from public projects such as schools.
Bush said Trump tried to use eminent domain to take an elderly woman’s property for a casino project in New Jersey.
“That is just wrong,” Bush said. “A limousine parking lot for his casino is not a public purpose.”
“He wants to be a tough guy,” Trump said of Bush. “He’s not good at it.” Trump was booed, and blamed that on “donors in the audience” to Bush and others.
“The reason they don’t like me is I don’t need their money,” Trump said.
Trump, 69, and Bush, 62, engaged in a heated confrontation.
Bush tried to cast Trump as a heartless billionaire developer unsuited to be president; Trump continued to call Bush weak, and unfit to be president.
Kasich emphasized that as governor of Ohio he has balanced budgets and brought jobs to the state that is a battleground in presidential politics.
“In America, conservatism means . . . that everyone has a chance to rise so they can live their God-given purpose,” Kasich said.
Trump said conservatism is about “conserving” our wealth, saving our country, and preserving our values. Other GOP candidates have accused Trump of Manhattan of not being a true conservative.
“I will bring jobs back from China. I will bring jobs back from Japan. I will bring jobs back from Mexico,” Trump said. He said he would do it by cutting taxes for corporations and the middle class, and bringing corporations’ overseas cash reserves back to the United States by easing the tax liability for overseas investments.
Christie said Kasich “has done a very good job in Ohio, I never said he hasn’t.” But Christie said the state’s more recent jobs record is worse and that New Jersey has done better.
“We have rebuilt the economy . . . and by the way, I like Kasich’s record, too, he is a good governor,” Christie said.
Kasich said he eliminated a deficit and grew jobs faster than most other states.
Kasich said the key is lower taxes and reducing business regulation.
“That is a record I can take to Washington, using the same formula,” Kasich said, drawing applause from the crowed of invited voters.
Rubio said, “I don’t know of any problem in America that is going to be fixed with a tax increase.”
He criticized U.S. code for taxing American companies for doing business in the United States as well as abroad. He said no other country so thoroughly taxes companies.
Bush said he, “would like to see more millionaires.” He said he doesn’t want to tax millionaires more, as Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have called for.
“The problem with the left is another tax, another regulation . . . makes it harder for [people] to rise up,” Bush said.
Christie said that before he became governor, the New Jersey state legislature raised taxes on millionaires. He said that caused $70 million to leave the state.
“It is a failed idea . . . it is class warfare,” Christie said.
Kasich called for a harder line against North Korea.
“We have to be very tough,” Kasich said.
Bush said he supports a strike on a missile on a launchpad in North Korea, before it’s launched.
“If a pre-emptive strike is necessary, we should do it,” Bush said.
Trump said China should be given a freer hand to get tough with North Korea. He said China has great influence with North Korea.
“I deal with the Chinese all the time,” Trump said. “I would let China solve that problem . . . they can do it.”
“The next president of the United States has to get back into the game,” Bush said. He said the United States should use “crippling sanctions” against North Korea as it becomes a nuclear power.
Bush and Christie said Obama shouldn’t try to negotiate with North Korea over the fate of a student taken into custody there, or to curtail nuclear proliferation there.
“You never pay ransom to the criminals, ever,” Christie said. “They do not understand anything but toughness and strength.”
Kasich called for “practical solutions” to combat illegal immigration. He said immigrants who came to the United States without proper documentation can’t be rounded up and deported as Trump has called for. Instead, he called for a “a path to legalization, not citizenship.”
Cruz said he would deport those who came to the United States illegally. “We’re going to build a wall, we’re going to triple the border patrol,” getting a smile from Trump who first called for a wall along the Mexican border.
“And I have an idea who should build it,” Cruz said with a nod to Trump.
Cruz said he also would end public assistance for immigrants here illegally
“I will enforce the law,” Cruz said, defending his plan to deport immigrants without proper documentation. “Closing the borders will help U.S. workers.”
Rubio said “the American people have zero trust that the government will enforce the laws.” He said the Obama administration has “refused to protect the borders and that has endangered America.”
“When I am president we are going to enforce the law first . . . and then we will see what the American people are willing to support” for immigration policy.
Christie said Rubio failed to fight for his tougher immigration law in the Senate.
“The fact is a leader must fight for what he believes in . . . not run,” Christie said. “That’s not what leadership is, that’s what Congress is.”
Trump said he would repeal Obamacare, but still cover all Americans with government-backed health care.
“The insurance companies are getting rich on Obamacare,” Trump said. He said he will use free enterprise to get insurance companies to compete.
“We are going to take care of people who are dying on the street,” Trump said. “You’re not going to allow anyone to die sitting in the middle of the street in this country.”
Cruz said “socialized medicine is a disaster, it does not work.” He said it only leads to poor service.
“If I am elected president, we will repeal every word of Obamacare,” Cruz said. He said he would make health insurance portable and keep government “from getting in between us and our doctors.”
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, also criticized Obamacare. He called instead for “health empowerment accounts” for all Americans so each family can become a kind of insurance company to lower overall costs and premiums.
Carson blamed Cruz last week for telling Iowa caucus goers that Carson, who lost much of his original staff to resignations in recent weeks, was planning to suspend his campaign. Cruz’s staff has since said the phone calls they made were based on tweets by reporters on Twitter.
Carson said Saturday night that he wouldn’t “savage the reputation of Sen. Cruz. But I will say I was very disappointed with his campaign.”
“It gives us a very good example of certain types of Washington ethics . . . that’s not my ethics. My ethics is you do what is right,” Carson said.
“When this transpired I apologized to him and I do now,” said Cruz. “Ben, I’m sorry.”
Cruz said he was following a news report on CNN that Carson was suspending his campaign. Cruz said his staff immediately contacted followers.
“I knew nothing about this,” Cruz said. “I reached him [Carson] the next day and I apologized . . . I regret that CNN didn’t correct that story” until after 9 p.m. on the night of the Iowa caucuses.
Rubio defended his record in the U.S. Senate on immigration and other issues. His critics have compared him with what they call Obama’s inexperience.
“Let’s dispense with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he is doing,” Rubio said, calling it a “systematic” dismantling of America.”
“The fact is it does matter when you make decisions and you have to be accountable,” Christie said of Rubio. “But he simply doesn’t have the experience to be president . . . don’t make the same mistake again.”
Christie accused Rubio of a “drive-by shot” with misinformation about the New Jersey governor then gave a “memorized 30-second speech.” . . . Senate debating “does not prepare you to be president of the United States.”
Rubio shot back, accusing Christie of only reluctantly returning to New Jersey in the face of a major snowstorm recently.
“You know what the shame is, Marco?” Christie countered. Christie said Rubio missed Senate votes.
Bush said he dealt with four hurricanes in just a few months as governor, and that’s the kind of experience needed to be president.
“You learn this by doing it,” Bush said. “Marco Rubio is a gifted, gifted politician . . . but we tried it the old way with Barack Obama and soaring rhetoric.”
Cruz blamed the rise of the threat from North Korea on President Bill Clinton, who Cruz said eased sanctions. He said the nuclear deal with Iran, negotiated by the Obama administration, represents a similar threat.
“It’s qualitatively different when you deal with a country with nuclear weapons, that’s why you deny them nuclear weapons,” Cruz said. “The stakes are too high.”
Trump, ahead in the New Hampshire polls but stinging from his loss to Cruz in the Iowa caucus last week, defended his temperament, after Cruz questioned it.
“I actually believe I have the best temperament,” Trump said. He said he first talked about illegal immigration, “took a lot of heat,” and now all other candidates are following his lead.
“The world is getting much more dangerous,” Cruz said. He took aim at Democrats — President Barack Obama, and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — as not having the temperament to be an effective president.
But Cruz wouldn’t repeat his concern about Trump’s temperament.
“I think that is an assessment the voters will make,” Cruz said.
“He didn’t answer your question,” Trump said.