At the final GOP debate before Super Tuesday, the five remaining candidates met in Houston, Texas to weigh in on issues concerning voters such as immigration, taxes, foreign policy and recent news headlines.
Even though there are still five hopefuls in the race, it became clear it was a three-man show between Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. With Trump one step closer into locking in the GOP nomination, the two-hour ‘WWE Handicap match’ wrestling featured both Senators mercilessly pounding and attacking the front-runner with Trump counterattacking back with one-liners.
Here are the best lines of each issue from the candidates throughout the debate:
The debate began with the question on immigration with the first question going to Trump.
Donald Trump: “You wouldn’t have asked that as the first question if it weren’t for me. When my opening when I talked about illegals immigration, it wouldn’t even be a big subject. But, we either have a country, or we don’t have a country.”
Ted Cruz: “I really find it amazing that Donald believes that he is the one who discovered the issue of illegal immigration. I can tell you, when I ran for Senate here in the state of Texas, I ran promising to lead the fight against amnesty, promising to fight to build a wall. And in 2013, when I was fight against the “gang of eight” amnesty bill, where was Donald? He was firing Dennis Rodman on “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Marco Rubio: “Donald mentioned that his position on immigration is what has driven this debate. Well, the truth is, though, that a lot of these positions that he’s now taking are new to him.”
John Kasich: “The answer is you complete the border. You let people know that once it’s done, you don’t have a right to come in. If you come in, we don’t want any excuse. You’re going to go back.”
Ben Carson: “I believe in liberty and justice for all. I think everything that we do should be fair. We need to secure all the borders, because it’s not just people coming in from South America and Mexico, but there are terrorists who want to destroy us, who are getting across our borders fairly easily and we have to stop that.
On NYT Article of Trump Hiring Foreign Workers
Rubio went after Trump in regards to the real estate mogul hiring illegal immigrants and referred specifically to a New York Times published earlier before they took the stage.
Rubio: “And so even today, we saw a report in one of the newspapers that Donald, you’ve hired a significant number of people from other countries to take jobs that Americans could have filled.
Rubio added, “My mom was a maid at a hotel, and instead of hiring an American like her, you have brought in over a thousand people from all over the world to fill those jobs instead.”
Trump explaining his reasoning of hiring illegals to work at various properties he owns in Florida. “As far as the people that I’ve hired in various parts of Florida during the absolute prime season, like Palm Beach and other locations, you could not get help,” Trump said. “It’s the up season. People didn’t want to have part-time jobs. There were part-time jobs, very seasonal, 90-day jobs, 120-day jobs, and you couldn’t get.”
Rubio went on to mention his hiring of workers from Poland. “He hired workers from Poland. And he had to pay a million dollars or so.”
Trump responded back to the attacks with counterattacks. ” I’ve hired tens of thousands of people over at my job. You haven’t hired one person, you liar,” Trump fired back. “You’ve had nothing but problems with your credit cards.”
“It’s a fact. Again, go online and Google it Donald Trump, Polish workers,” Rubio added. “You’ll see it.”
“I’ve hired tens of thousands of people. He brings up something from 30 years ago,” Trump said receiving loud applause from the audience. “I’ve hired people. Nobody up here has hired anybody.”
Former Mexican President Comment
Vincente Fox on Univision’s responded to Trump’s proposal of Mexico paying for the wall he plans to build saying, “I’m not going to pay for that F*%#ing wall! He should pay for it, he’s got the money”
Trump: “This guy used a filthy, disgusting word on television, and he should be ashamed of himself, and he should apologize”
“I will, and the wall just got 10 feet taller, believe me,” Trump continued on. “We are going to make them pay for that wall. Now, the wall is $10 billion to $12 billion, if I do it. If these guys do it, it’ll end up costing $200 billion”
Rubio response to Trump: “If he builds the wall the way he built Trump Towers, he’ll be using illegal immigrant labor to do it.”
Trade War With Mexico
After his response on Mexico’s President remarks, Wolf Blitzer asked Trump would he start a trade war with Mexico if they refused to pay for the wall.
Trump: “Well, you know, I don’t mind trade wars when we’re losing $58 billion a year. We’re losing so much with Mexico and China…Mexico just took Carrier Corporation, maker of air conditioners. They just took Ford. They’re building a $2.5 billion plant. They just took Nabisco out of Chicago. They’re taking our businesses. I don’t mind.”
Rubio was asked to respond.
Rubio: “About the trade war, I don’t understand, because your ties and the clothes you make is made in Mexico and in China. So you’re gonna be starting a trade war against your own ties and your own suits.”
“Why don’t you make them in America?” Rubio would ask Trump.
“Because they devalue their currency,” Trump argued.
“Well, make them in America,” Rubio repeatedly said four times during the three minute exchange with the moderators losing control to stop the back and forth.
“You don’t know a thing about business. You lose on everything you do,” Trump fired back.
“Well, I don’t know anything about bankrupting four companies. You’ve bankrupted,” Rubio responded harshly. “I don’t know anything about starting a university, and that was a fake university.”
Trump pushed back by painting Rubio as a puppet controlled by lobbyist. “Here’s a guy that buys a house for $179,000, he sells it to a lobbyist who’s probably here for $380,000 and then legislation is passed,” Trump said. “You tell me about this guy. This is what we’re going to have as president.”
To which Rubio countered Trump’s attack, “If you hadn’t inherited $200 million, you’d be selling selling watches on the streets of Manhattan.”
On Latinos and the Republican Party
Cruz: “It is extraordinary that of five people standing on this stage that two of us are the children of Cuban immigrants.”
Rubio: “I do think it’s amazing that on this stage tonight there are two descendants of Cuban origin, and an African American. We are the party of diversity, not the Democratic party”
Kasich: “With me and the Hispanic community, I think they like me. And I appreciate that, because I want them to have the same opportunity that I and my children and my wife and the people we love have had in this country”
Carson: “We need to have policies that give liberty and justice to all people. I think that’s the way the Republican Party generally thinks. We don’t pick and choose winners and losers. We are compassionate.”
Trump: “I currently employ thousands of Hispanics, and over the years, I’ve employed tens of thousands of Hispanics. They’re incredible people and they are the reason I won in Nevada.”
On Telemundo Poll that Shows 3 out of 4 Hispanic Voters Don’t like Trump
Trump: “First of all, I don’t believe anything Telemundo says”
On Filling the Vacancy of Late Justice Antonin Scalia
Cruz: “I don’t want a Supreme Court justice that you cut a deal with Harry Reid to undermine religious liberty, because that same justice will also erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights.”
Rubio: “The next president of the United States has to be someone that you can trust and believe in to appoint someone just as good as Scalia — plus there may be at least two other vacancies.”
Carson: “As president, I would go through and I would look at what a person’s life has been…That will tell you a lot more than an interview will tell you. The fruit salad of their life is what I will look at.”
Rubio: “We need to repeal Obamacare completely and replace it with a system that puts Americans in charge of their health care money again. If your employer wants to buy health insurance for you, they can continue to do so from any company in America they want to buy it from.”
Trump: “The insurance companies are making an absolute fortune. Yes, they will keep preexisting conditions, and that would be a great thing. Get rid of Obamacare, we’ll come up with new plans. But, we should keep pre-existing conditions.”
Kasich: “I would repeal Obamacare for a variety of reasons. I would take some of the federal resources, combine it with the freed-up Medicaid program, which I would send back to the states, and cover the people who are currently the working poor because we don’t want to have tens of millions of Americans losing their health insurance.”
Carson: “Healthcare is not a right. But I do believe it is a responsibility for a responsible society, and we are that. We spend almost twice as much per capita on healthcare as many other nations who have actually much better access than we do. I propose a system in which we use health empowerment accounts, which are like a health savings account with no bureaucrats. And we give it to everybody from birth until death.”
Cruz: “On Obamacare, both Donald and I say we want to end it, but for very different reasons. I want to end it because it goes too far, it’s killed millions of jobs, and it’s hurting people’s health care. Donald wants to end it because he says it doesn’t go nearly far enough. And what was amazing in that exchange that was missing is for decades Donald has been advocating socialized medicine.”
On Tax Cuts
Trump: “We’re going to make many cuts in business. We’re getting rid of so many different things. Department of Education — Common Core is out. We’re going local. Environmental protection — we waste all of this money. We’re going to bring that back to the states. We are going to cut many of the agencies, we will balance our budget, and we will be dynamic again. We will cut so much, your head will spin.”
Kasich: “I think it takes three things and I’ve done it. I mean, we got the budget balanced. We cut the capital gains tax. You see, in order to get this economy moving again, you have to grow the economy, and you have to restrain the spending… Within the first hundred days, we will have the plan to get this done.”
Per Mitt Romney instructions to Release Individual Tax Returns
Trump: “Mitt Romney looked like a fool when he delayed and delayed and delayed. And Harry Reid baited him so beautifully. And Mitt Romney didn’t file his return until a September 21st of 2012, about a month-and-a-half before the election. And it cost him big league.”
Rubio: “Yes, tomorrow or Saturday, in fact, is our plan to release them. And there’s nothing really that interesting in them. So I have no problem releasing them. And luckily I’m not being audited this year, or last year, for that matter.”
Cruz: “So, I’ve released five years of tax returns already. We will have two more years available tomorrow.”
On Beating Hillary Clinton
Cruz: “The most important question is how do we win the general election in November, 2016. And roughly 65 percent of Republicans think Donald is not the right candidate to go against Hillary Clinton.”
“RealClearPolitics he has lost to Hillary on eight of them,” Cruz added. “In the last 10 polls on RealClearPolitics, I either tied or beat Hillary.”
Trump’s response: “I sort of have to laugh when Ted makes a big deal out of the fact that he’s doing well in the polls. Well, I’m beating him in virtually every poll. I’m tied in Texas, by the way, which I shouldn’t be. But I think I’ll do very well.”
Trump added on, “One other thing — Hillary Clinton, take a look at USA Today, take a look at the Q poll. I beat her, and I beat her badly. And I — and I haven’t even started at her. I only had one little interchange and that was four weeks ago, when she said I was sexist. And believe me, they had a rough weekend that weekend, between Bill and Hillary. They had a rough weekend.”
Cruz fired back, “Donald, you’re not beating Hillary.”
“If I can’t beat her, you’re really going to get killed, aren’t you?” Trump said.
On Israel and Palestine
Trump: “There’s nothing that I would rather do to bring peace to Israel and its neighbors generally…if I could bring peace, that would be a fantastic thing. It would be one of my greatest achievements as president.”
Cruz: “Well, this is another area on which Donald agrees with Hillary Clinton and on which I disagree with them both strongly. Both Donald and Hillary Clinton want to be neutral, to use Donald’s word, between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Kasich: “I’ve been a supporter of Israel — a strong supporter of Israel longer than anybody on this stage. I didn’t give as much money as Donald gave, but I’ve been standing with the Israelis for a very long time.”
Rubio: “The position [Trump] has taken is an anti-Israel position. You cannot be an honest broker in a dispute between two sides in which one of the sides is constantly acting in bad faith. The Palestinian Authority has walked away from multiple efforts to make peace, very generous offers from the Israelis.”
Trump’s Response to Rubio: “In all fairness, Marco is not a negotiator. I watched him melt down and I’ll tell you, it was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.
“He thinks a Palestinian is a real estate deal,” Rubio responded. “Donald might able to build condos in the Palestinian areas, but this is not a real estate deal.”
“You are not a negotiator,” Trump fired back. “With your thinking, you will never bring peace.”
On the U.S. Ceasefire in Syria
Trump: “I really don’t because it not working and the countries aren’t agreeing to it and the rebels aren’t agreeing and Syria is not agreeing. So it’s a meaningless ceasefire.”
Cruz: “We’re certainly hopeful that the violence will cease, but there’s reason to be highly skeptical. Russia has enhanced its position because of Obama’s weakness in the Middle East, weakness in Syria.”
Rubio: “I argued if it takes a long time, you’re going to have rebel forces emerge like these radical Islamists to take advantage of the vacuum. And that’s what happened. That’s where the term ‘lead from behind’ came. And that’s the foreign policy that apparently Senator Cruz appears to agree with.”
Trump response to both Cruz and Rubio remarks: “What I’ve seen up here — I mean, first of all, this guy is a choke artist (pointing to Rubio on his right), and this guy is a liar” (pointing to Cruz on his left), Trump said. “You have a combination of factors. He can’t do it for the obvious reason (pointing to Rubio), and he can’t do it because he doesn’t know how to tell the truth” (pointing to Cruz).
Carson would interject, “Can somebody attack me, please?”
Kasich: “We should have been supporting the rebels long ago. They could have taken Assad out, and because we did nothing, the Russians are in, and they’re sitting in the catbird seat.”
Going Off Topic
Cruz: “Every time anyone points at Donald’s actual record what he said on national television, Donald yells ‘liar.’ Let me tell you something, falsely accusing someone of lying is itself a lie.”
Trump response: “I watched what this man did to Dr. Ben Carson, who I respect, in Iowa, where he said that Ben Carson is out of the race, he has left Iowa and he’s out of the race. And I thought it was disgraceful.”
“I know politicians, believe it or not, better than you do,” Trump continued to add. “And it’s not good.”
“I believe it. No, no. I believe you know politicians much better than I do,” Cruz said mocking Trump. “Because for 40 years, you’ve been funding liberal Democratic politicians.”
“I funded you. I funded him. Can you believe it?” Trump fired back. “I gave him a check. He never funded me.”
To which Cruz responded, “Yeah, you gave me $5,000, you are welcome to have the check back.”
“Donald. Donald. Donald. I understand rules are very hard for you. They’re very confusing,” Cruz continued on. “Donald, you can get back on your meds now.”
“This is a lot of fun up here tonight, I have to tell you,” Trump joked back during the back and forth crosstalk.
FBI vs. Apple
Rubio: “The FBI made this very clear 48 hours ago, the only thing they’re being asked to do, is allow us to disable the self- destruct mode that’s in the Apple phone so that we can try to guess using our own systems what the password of this killer was. And I think they should comply with that. If that’s all they’re asking for, they are not asking for Apple to create a back door to encryption.”
“Let me tell you, their brand is not superior to the national security of the United States of America,” Rubio added.
Cruz: “Apple should be forced to comply with this court order. Why? Because under the Fourth Amendment, a search and seizure is reasonable if it has judicial authorization and probable cause. In this instance, the order is not put a back door in everyone’s cell phone. On the question of unlocking this cell phone of a terrorist, we should enforce the court order and find out everyone that terrorist at San Bernardino talked to on the phone, texted with, e-mailed. And absolutely, Apple doesn’t have a right to defy a valid court order in a terrorism investigation.”
Carson: “I think allowing terrorist to get away with things is bad for America. We have a Constitution. We have a Fourth Amendment. It guards us against illegal and unreasonable search and seizure. So absolutely, I would expect Apple to comply with the court order. If they don’t comply with that, you’re encouraging chaos in our system.”
Kasich: “You know what the problem is? Where’s the president been? You sit down in a back room and you sit down with the parties and you get this worked out. You don’t litigate this on the front page of the New York Times, where everybody in the world is reading about their dirty laundry out here.”