The sixth debate among Republican presidential candidates is over in North Charleston, South Carolina, one of the candidates’ final chances to widely appeal to voters before the first caucus on Feb. 1 in Iowa. The GOP hopefuls on the main stage were businessman Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and neurosurgeon Ben Carson. The debate was sponsored by Fox Business News.
Kasich said he is in the race “to give voice” to voiceless Americans who he said have been ignored by the Obama administration.
Christie said Obama, in his State of the State speech this week, talked about “a fantasy land,” because the people are in pain and facing a dangerous world.
“We need someone to fight for his country again. I fought all my life,” Christie said.
“So many Americans are discouraged and angry,” Carson said. “We’re not going to solve this problem with traditional politics. . . . I ask you to join me with truth and integrity and honesty . . . to inspire and revive America.”
Bush said, “I ask for your support to build, together, a safer and stronger America.”
Rubio said “our rights don’t come from government,” but “this country is changing, it feels different.”
He said Obama has turned his back on the nation’s allies and Clinton would make it worse.
“I want to speak to all our fighting men and women . . . who have a sense of betrayal” by Obama, Cruz said. “I want to speak for all of those maddened by political correctness. . . . This will end.”
Trump said he stood with 75 tough construction workers, crying, watching the U.S. sailors on their knees with Iranians holding guns to their heads.
“We will make America great again, we will win at everything we do,” Trump said.
Rubio defended his change from supporting more open borders.
“This issue has to be, first and foremost, about keeping America safe,” Rubio said. He said he supports strict screening.
“The situation has changed” with ISIS, he said. “They are recruiting people to enter this country. . . . This issue now has to be about stopping ISIS from entering the United States.”
Cruz said terrorism didn’t begin “24 months ago,” criticizing Rubio for what he saw as a reversal.
Rubio said Cruz used to support doubling the number of green cards and providing a path for immigrants without proper documentation.
Rubio accused Cruz of flipping on issues to help his popularity in Iowa, the key caucus state.
“He had no fewer than 11 attacks there,” Cruz said. “At least half of the things Marco said are outright false.”
Cruz and Rubio accused each other of flip-flopping on issues ranging from immigration to farming to the military in the Senate.
Bush called the Rubio-Cruz debate a fight among “back benchers.”
“The problem today is there is no confidence in Washington, D.C.,” Bush said.
Kasich said he created a task force over a year ago to improve police-community relations after deadly confrontations.
“They sat down as a group to make sure we heal some of our problems,” Kasich said. The result has been better policies on use of deadly force and better training, he said.
“It’s all about getting people to listen to one another’s problems,” he said. “In the end, the country needs healing. . . . You gotta bring people together, you’ve got to have hope.”
Christie said Obama’s Justice Department “gives the benefit of the doubt to the criminal, not the police.”
Christie, a former federal prosecutor, said he would order his attorney general to enforce the law against everyone fairly “and them [police] know how proud we are of them.”
Trump was asked what he would do with his companies as president.
Trump noted he “built a very great company. But if I became president, I wouldn’t give peanuts for it.”
He said his children would take over and he wouldn’t have a role.
“I wouldn’t ever be involved because I wouldn’t be interested in anything but our country,” Trump said.
Cruz said his business flat tax of 16 percent would allow the elimination of the corporate income tax, the payroll tax and Obamacare costs.
Cruz said he would “abolish the IRS” by simplifying the tax return to the size of a post card.
“It produces economic growth, it raises wages,” Cruz said.
“You may rename the IRS, but you are not going to eliminate it,” Rubio said. “Someone is going to have to collect that tax.”
Christie interrupted “this debate on the floor of the Senate.”
Cruz tried to interject.
“No, Ted, you had your chance and you blew it,” Christie said.
The candidates were asked how to fix crumbling infrastructure without adding to an already massive national debt.
Christie called for “repatriation” of overseas money of American companies that is kept overseas to avoid U.S. taxes. Christie said income from those billions of dollars could be earmarked for infrastructure repairs.
“We need to reform this tax system,” Christie said, and use the revenue for fixing roads and fighting terrorism.
Carson said he would work to stop that flow of cash overseas by reforming the tax code “and stop spending so much money.”
Carson said he learned about thriftiness from his mother’s scrimping and saving.
“If my mother was the secretary of the treasury, we would not be in a deficit situation,” Carson said.
Trump said companies “by the thousands” are thinking of moving out of the U.S. to save money.
“It’s one of the biggest problems we have,” Trump said.
“There is a middle ground,” Cruz said. “Obama is not protecting American workers . . . and we were getting hammered.”
Cruz said Bush is right that a big tariff would only prompt China to charge its own high tariff.
Bush said if China faced a 45-percent tariff it would undermine the U.S. economy because China would stop trade.
“We need a steady hand,” Bush said, directing his comment to Trump.
“And we don’t need a weak hand,” Trump said.
Kasich agreed with some of Trump’s argument.
“I’m liking him tonight,” Trump interjected.
Kasich ignored the comment, but said, “When countries violate trade treaties, we need to stand up without making them into an enemy.
“Let’s demand open trade, but fair trade,” Kaisch said.
Rubio said a tariff won’t work, because the cost will passed on to American consumers.
He called for “reversing course” from Obama with tax reform to benefit companies and encourage growth.
Rubio called Obamacare health care “a certified job killer.”
Trump said Rubio’s route “would take too long.”
Trump also said his tariff wouldn’t be passed on to American consumers because the threat of it would put China in line.
Trump targeted China as undermining America’s interests and economy because of a “very unfair trade deficit.”
Trump said the U.S. “has great economic power over China” if America uses it.
“If they don’t start treating us fairly . . . I would certainly start taxing goods that come in from China,” Trump said.
He denied a media report, however, in which he was quoted as calling for a 45-percent tariff.
He criticized China for devaluing its currency and creating an unequal playing field with the U.S.
“I’m a free trader, I believe it, but we have to be smart,” Trump said. “I love the Chinese people . . . but I am totally open to a tariff.”
Carson called for convening experts from around the world to develop new protocol for passports and screening.
Bush asked if we should ban immigrants from India and other allies.
“Of course not,” Bush answered his own question. Instead, he called for an Arab alliance. “You don’t do it with big talk about banning all Muslims,” Bush said, aiming at Trump.
Rubio said ISIS is a sadistic group and its followers must be stopped from entering the U.S.
Cruz said President Obama “acts as an apologist for radical Islamic terrorism.”
Cruz said he would suspend all refugees from nations in which ISIS controls “significant territory.”
“When it comes to ISIS, we will utterly and completely destroy ISIS,” Cruz said.
Christie said the only way to ban radical Islamists is to provide the resources needed to vet immigrants.
“We don’t have to keep everybody out, we just need to keep the bad people out who want to harm us,” Christie said.
Kasich said he supports “pausing” immigration of Syrian refugees because he said the screening isn’t yet efficient.
But he said the U.S. needs Arab allies, as President George H.W. Bush did in the first Gulf War, and stopping all Muslim immigration “is not right.”
“We are running for president of the United States . . . you can’t make rash statements,” Bush said to Trump.
“I want security for this country,” Trump responded. “I want security for this country. We have a serious problem with, as you know, radical Islam. It is not just a problem here.”
He cited “the two horrible people” in last fall’s attack in San Bernadino, California. “Many people knew what was going on. . . . Where were they? We need vigilance.”
Trump was pressed on his position to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and asked if he changed his mind.
“No. We have to stop with political correctness,” Trump said. ”I have many Muslim friends.”
He said he wants a temporary ban on the travel and many of his “Muslim friends — some said we need to get to the bottom of it. . . . We can’t be the stupid country any more.”
Bush said that thought will block any alliance with the Arab world to take out ISIS and restore democracy in Syria. Bush called for “tightening up” screening and keeping out dangerous immigrants.
“But all Muslims? Seriously? What does that say to the world?” Bush said to Trump.
The candidates were asked if the air strikes against ISIS have been effective, and if ground troops are needed.
“I think we need to doa lot more than we are doing,” Carson said. He said he wouldn’t tie the hands of military leaders and set them loose to take on the Islamic State group, then take the oil from the region.
He said such attacks shouldn’t be stopped out of fear of hurting civilians.
“Just get people out of there if they don’t want to be bombed,” Carson said.
Christie blamed Obama and Clinton for the violence in Syria through their inaction.
“We’re not going to have peace in Syria unless there is a no-fly zone,” Christie said. There would be no refugee problem, he said, adding “Syrians would stay in Syria.”
He said Syrian President Asaad must be replaced, despite his support by Russia.
“We will fight ISIS and defeat them,” Christie said.
“It’s so critical for us to be energy independent and we are getting there with fracking,” said Kasich, a strong supporter of hydraulic fracturing for oil trapped in shale deposits.
“You can’t do on-the-job training,” Kasich said, making an argument for an executive like himself who also has Congressional experience. He said the complexity of fighting ISIS demands nothing less.
Bush said he would grow and restore the military to end provocative actions by Iran, China and others.
“The planes are older than the pilots, we are gutting our military,” Bush said. “We have to rebuild our military that makes it clear we are back in the game.”
“Countries are moving away from us because we are weak,” Bush said.
Cruz defended his criticism of Trump as a having “New York values.”
“I think most people know exactly what New York values are,” Cruz said. “Everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal . . . focus around money and the media.
“Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan, I’m just saying,” Cruz said.
“Some conservatives do come out of Manhattan,” Trump said, citing William F. Buckley.
“When the World Trade Centers came down, I saw something that no other place could handle so beautifully,” Trump said. He talked of the “smell of death” that hung for months, as New Yorkers worked to clean up and recover.
“That was a very insulting statement that Ted made,” Trump said.
Christie was challenged on his mixed record on gun control.
“I don’t think the Founders made it No. 2 by accident . . . I think they made it second because it’s that important,” Christie said.
He called Obama “a petulant child” for using an executive order to order more gun control because he couldn’t work with the Congress on new laws.
Christie then addressed Obama: “The American people have rejected your agenda . . . and we are going to kick your rear end out of the White House this fall!”
Rubio defended gun rights in the face of terrorism.
Rubio said the “last line standing between them and us may be a gun.”
“This president at every chance has tried to undermine the Second Amendment,” Rubio said. “That will never happen when I am president of the United States.”
Cruz said Clinton believes the Second Amendment doesn’t provide a right for individuals to own guns, which will lead to confiscation of guns.
“I have a proven record fighting for the Second Amendment,” Cruz said, noting he is supported by the National Rifle Association.
Carson didn’t respond to the FOX Business News moderator’s question on whether Hillary Clinton is an enabler of sexual misconduct because she didn’t take more action against President Bill Clinton when he faced a sexual scandal in the White House. Carson instead talked generally about declining values that don’t mesh with the Christian-Judeo ethic.
“Is this America anymore? Do we still have values?” Carson asked.
He lamented race wars, religious wars, “every war you can image. You know our strength is in our diversity.”
He said the divisiveness “didn’t come from our Christian-Judeo roots.”
“There is such a thing as right and wrong, and let’s not let the secular humanists drive that out,” Carson said.
Kasich said the economy is in trouble and retraining older workers is part of the problem. He said recent college graduates also can’t land jobs.
“People are concerned about their economic future,” Kasich said. “My father used to say, ‘We don’t hate the rich, we just want to be the rich.’”
He said training and support is needed to provide opportunity for all Americans.
Rubio addressed a question on his sharp criticism of Christie as being Obama-like in his policies.
“This president is more interested in funding Planned Parenthood than the military. Chris Christie wrote a check to Planned Parenthood,” Rubio said. “If we don’t get this election right, there may be no turning back for America.”
Rubio said Christie has adopted many liberal positions on guns, social services and other issues.
“I never wrote a check to Planned Parenthood,” Christie said. “This is the difference between being a governor and a senator. When you are a senator you can talk and talk and talk. When you are a governor, you are accountable for everything you do.”
“We need to have a compelling conservative agenda that doesn’t disparage people,” Bush said.
He called for unity, saying all the GOP candidates are better than Hillary Clinton.
“If we damage ourselves,” Carson said, “this country is over as we know it.”
Trump said his only concern about Cruz’s citizenship is that if he wins and chooses Cruz as vice president, Democrats will bring a lawsuit that will disrupt government.
“You should go out, get a declarative judgment and let the courts decide,” Trump said.
“There is a big question mark on your head,” Trump said to Cruz. “You have to have certainty. . . . You can’t have a question.”
“I’m not going to be taking legal advice from Donald Trump,” Cruz said, noting that Trump’s expert on the topic formerly worked for Democrats.
Cruz said he’d consider Trump as a vice presidential running mate.
“I think I will go back to building buildings if it doesn’t work out,” Trump said. “But I think it will work out.”
Rubio switched the topic from “this episode of Court TV” and targeted Obama, promising to end all of Obama’s executive orders.
Trump was asked what he thought of some in the Republican establishment warning voters to avoid the voice of anger, meaning Trump.
“I will gladly accept the mantle of anger,” Trump said. He said so much is wrong with the country — “our country is a mess” — that everyone should be angry.
Cruz was questioned on whether he is a “natural born American,” which is a requirement to be president. Cruz was born in Canadian to an American mother.
Cruz dismissed it as not “one of the important topics of the evening.”
Cruz said Trump had months ago dismissed the concern.
“Since September, the Constitution hasn’t changed, but the polls have,” Cruz said, noting that he is now higher in the polls, threatening to surpass Trump.
Cruz said even Trump could be a problem under his logic, because Trump’s mother was a Scot who became an American citizen.
“I suggest we focus on who would be the best commander in chief,” Cruz said.
Trump shot back that he’s rising in the polls, and Cruz is dropping.
“You shouldn’t misrepresent how you are doing,” Trump said. “This isn’t me — I don’t care.” But he said a Harvard professor and lawyers feel there is a serious concern.
Cruz tried to brush off a recent New York Times article that reported his campaign failed to adequately report a $1 million loan. He called it “a truly stunning hit piece.”
Cruz said his campaign staff was inexperienced and not highly paid professionals like Hillary Clinton’s.
“Yes, I made a paperwork error, but if that’s the best hit The New York Times has got, they better go back to the well,” Cruz said.
Trump said his hard-line stance against immigration is not unfounded.
“It’s not fear of terror, it’s reality,” he said.
“When I look at the migration . . . where are the women? Very few women, very few children — strong, powerful men,” he said of the waves of Syrian refugees he would keep from the U.S.
“We can’t let all these people come into our country and break our borders, we can’t do it,” Trump said.
“What we need to achieve is peace through strength, which means we need to rebuild the military,” Bush said. “Our enemies no longer fear us . . . terrorism is on the run . . . and we pull back.”
“In a peaceful world people will know the United States is there to take care of our own interests and protect our allies,” Bush said. “Hillary Clinton would be a national security disaster.”
Bush said Clinton would be going “between the court house and the White House” because her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state is being investigated by the FBI.
“Hillary Clinton is disqualified from being commander in chief,” Rubio said. He said she failed to protect Americans in Benghazi.
“When I’m president we will win this war against ISIS,” Rubio said. “If we catch any of them alive, they are going to get a one-way ticket to Guantanamo and we are going to learn everything they know.”
Obama “doesn’t realize we live in the 21st century and war is very different,” Carson said. He cited cyberattacks, “dirty bombs” and the Islamic State group, which doesn’t have a traditional government, is the enemy now. He said Obama has tied the military’s hands behind its back.
Turning to foreign affairs, Christie was asked how he would take action to restore order.
“On Tuesday night I watched ‘Story Time’ with Barack Obama and it sounded like everything in the world was going great,” Christie said, drawing laughs.
He said he would keep his word with world leaders and make it clear “the limit of our patience” to bad actors. “If you are worried about our world being on fire . . . you cannot give Hillary Clinton a third term of Obama.”
Christie called Iran’s leaders “tin pot dictators” who wouldn’t stop a U.S. Navy vessel under a Christie administration.
Kasich said it takes three things to grow jobs: Common sense regulations on business, tax cuts for business and individuals, and fiscal discipline by government.
Do that, and “you’re going to make things move,” Kasich said.
Cruz said Americans were “horrified” by the U.S. sailors who were captured in Iranian waters, criticizing President Barack Obama for failing to mention it in his State of the State address.
“If I am elected president, no serviceman or servicewoman will forced to their knees,” Cruz said.
The first topic was how to grow jobs.
“The Obama-Clinton economy has left behind the working men and women of this country,” Cruz said.