GOP Debate 2015 Recap: Immigration, Donald Trump Become Hot Topics For Candidates in Early Debate
Republican presidential candidates have gathered at the Ronald Reagan Library in California, and four White House hopefuls engaged in the first of two debates on Wednesday.
Based on CNN's guidelines, only four Republicans participated in the 6 p.m. EDT debate: former New York Gov. George Pataki, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore did not qualify due to CNN's guidelines, which was approved by the Republican National Committee.
By 6:22 p.m., the four candidates provided their respective opening remarks. The first question went to Jindal, responding to statements that Trump is "narcissistic" and an "egomaniac." Jindal said people should stop treating Trump as a conservative Republican.
"He (Trump) believes in Donald Trump," said Jindal, defending the concept of conservatism.
For Santorum, he said such personal attacks only helps Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner. Santorum said Trump has the right to run, as everyone, to run as a Republican, and it doesn't help when Republicans attack fellow Republicans. He said the focus of the debate should be about policy, knowing the differences on jobs and immigration.
Jindal responded that Bernie Sanders, "a socialist," is gaining on Clinton.
Graham, responding to polls showing him at 4 percent compared to Trump's 30 percent, said there's plenty of time before the elections and he can gain momentum. The South Carolina senator said he has a plan to send more ground forces into Iraq, "because we have to." He focused on the fight against the Islamic State militant group and foreign policy.
For Pataki, he signed an RNC pledge to support the Republican nominee, but reiterated he will not support Trump. The former New York governor said Trump is "unfit" to serve as president, acknowledging Trump's businesses in Atlantic City, which encountered previously bankruptcy.
"That's not someone we will nominate," said Pataki about Trump.
Back to Graham, he said he hopes all voters vote for someone to lead the country especially on foreign policy. Returning to the Middle East topic, Graham mentioned his numerous trips to Afghanistan and "is so ready" to serve. He said experience does matter, specifically for the commander-in-chief component of the presidency.
On immigration, Santorum said some of the GOP candidates have supported "amnesty," or a pathway to citizenship. He said the debate should be "what's in the best interest" for the country, and not focus on undocumented immigrants. He said the important issues are wages and employment -- topics that affect U.S. citizens. Jindal said he opposes amnesty, wants to secure the border and previously stated he would support a pathway to citizenship once the border security situation improves.
Pataki said people should come to the U.S. "legally," should outlaw "sanctuary cities," but something must be done for the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. He said those wanting legal status -- not citizenship -- should eventually come forward and earn it.
Graham said he has been trying to solve the immigration problem and does not support deporting all immigrants unless individuals have a criminal record. Santorum said he had a plan for border security in 2006, but Graham noted no Democrats supported his bill. Santorum said it was because the president at that time -- George W. Bush -- wanted a comprehensive approach.
The debate topic moved to foreign policy. Graham said President Barack Obama's foreign policy plan on combatting the Islamic State is not working. He said IS militants could enter the U.S. if the battle does not improve. Santorum agreed troops may need to return to combat the Islamic State before the caliphate grows; the former Pennsylvania senator previously called for 10,000 U.S. troops on the ground, while Graham recommended 20,000.
Jindal was asked about the 14-year-old Texan who was falsely accused of creating a homemade made despite it actually being a clock. The Louisiana governor spoke against political correctness, and said Muslim leaders must denounce people by name. Jindal said he's glad the "police was careful" and not continuing charges against the student.
"Young men in the Middle East are different from Kim Davis," said Graham.
On the Supreme Court, Jindal said it was a mistake for Chief Justice John Roberts to be on the highest court of the land, as well as Justice Anthony Kennedy -- a Reagan appointee. Santorum defended his vote in favor of Roberts.
Jindal said if he has to agree with Trump, it is time "to fire all" D.C. lawmakers and suggested term limits for congressional lawmakers. Graham initially defended Clinton but only for her time as senator for New York, but criticized her tenure as secretary of state and the Benghazi terror attack.
On the economy, Pataki spoke about Trump and Jeb Bush's proposal on tax hikes for hedge fund managers. He said he wants to reform the current loopholes, but he does agree with the businessman and former Florida governor. Pataki said he would lower rates "dramatically" and keep home mortgage and charitable deductions. Santorum said he will propose a 20-percent flat tax, which he claimed will create growth, especially in the job sector.
Santorum previously supported raising the minimum wage, but Graham said wage increase will negatively effect employment opportunities. Graham opposes minimum wage increases and instead wants to expand opportunities for people to earn more money. Santorum he had proposed a $.50 cents increase, over the span of three years, would help. Santorum said Republicans will not win if the party's lawmakers do not engage on the minimum wage debate.
On foreign policy, specifically the Iran nuclear deal, Graham said he would use the military against Iran, if needed. Referring to the nuclear agreement as a "nightmare," Graham said he would work on a better deal. Pataki, also against the deal, said the Iranian nuclear facilities will be at risk if he is elected president. Pataki said Clinton supports the nuclear deal, as a result, Republicans must win the election. Santorum, who voted in favor of sanctions on Iran while in the Senate, said he wants the nuclear facilities to be open for inspection or risk losing them.
Jindal criticized Graham for the inaction to act on pro-conservative actions, such as repealing the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood. Graham said if people want such actions, then elect a Republican president since Obama will simply veto such bills. Graham also opposed the idea of shutting down the government over the Planned Parenthood debate.
Wednesday's first Republican debate ended at 7:46 p.m. EDT.
The second prime-time Republican presidential primary debate is set for 8 p.m. EDT with GOP front-runner Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Politics Editor Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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