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Republican debate gets animated as field narrowed down to four

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DETROIT– The latest on the Republican debate on FOX :


10:30 p.m.

John Kasich and Ted Cruz are sharing their different ideas on the question of religious liberty.

Both Republican presidential candidates are calling for the defense of religious expression, though Kasich is asking voters to “respect each other.”

Kasich said Thursday at the GOP debate in Detroit that Americans are open-minded, and that religious liberty doesn’t mean religious restrictions.

Cruz said he can compromise on certain things, but not on selecting a Supreme Court justice who fails to upholding religious liberty.

“I will never compromise away your religious liberty,” he said.


10:28 p.m.

Ted Cruz blames Democrats for Detroit’s 60-year decline and says he’d overhaul business taxes to bring manufacturing jobs back to the Motor City and America.

The Texas senator also said at Thursday’s Republican presidential debate in Detroit that repealing the federal health care law would restore manufacturing jobs in the country.

Cruz says Detroit is a “great city with a magnificent legacy,” but one struggling with rampant crime. He says getting rid of payroll and estate taxes and institution a “business flat tax” would help attract jobs.


10:25 p.m.

Marco Rubio is slamming Democrats for “politicizing” the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. But he’s not laying out any concrete ideas for preventing similar issues in the future.

Rubio was asked at Thursday’s Republican presidential debate in Detroit why the GOP hasn’t seriously addressed the lead-poisoned water in the Michigan city to the degree that it’s been discussed by Democrats.

Rubio said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, is holding people accountable for what happened in Flint. He says there is a “proper role” for government to play in such issues but did not give any specifics.


10:20 p.m.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich says people are hungry for a president who can fix problems facing the country, not candidates bickering.

Kasich pleaded in Thursday’s Republican debate: “Let’s stop fighting!”

Kasich is trying to position himself as the most serious candidate in a debate where Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are hurling insults at one another.

Kasich said “people are hungry” for someone who can address problems like raising wages and fixing problems in Washington.

He says voters “want to believe they have the power to fix things where they live.”


10:15 p.m.

Donald Trump is taking Marco Rubio’s charge that he’s a “con” and throwing it back at him.

Trump says the Florida senator has “scammed” and “defrauded” the people of his state by running for president and missing votes in Washington.

In Thursday’s Republican debate, Rubio criticized Trump for his university that has prompted lawsuits from students. Rubio also says Trump is “making promises he has no intention of keeping.”


10:10 p.m.

Donald Trump is on the hot seat over the ongoing class-action suit against his now-defunct “Trump University.”

The GOP front-runner is again facing questions at Thursday’s GOP debate about the business seminars, which former students claim were marketed with false claims over instructors’ credentials, among other issues.

Rival Marco Rubio said Trump is “trying to do to the American voter what he did to the people that signed up for this course.”

He added that Trump “is making promises he has no intention of keeping.”

But Trump is downplaying the suit, calling it a minor case and turned the accusations around against Rubio, calling him a “con artist” for skipping Senate votes.


10:05 p.m.

Donald Trump is once again defending his changing positions on a host of issues by saying it’s important for a president to be “flexible.”

But he asserted at Thursday’s Fox News debate that he also has a “very strong core” of convictions.

Moderator Megyn Kelly showed clips of Trump offering different positions on a host of issues, including Trump seemingly supporting allowing Syrian refugees into the country in a September interview then rejecting the same idea the next day.

Trump says he was generally unaware of the refugee issue the first time he was asked about it, but later found out the U.S. government planned to let “thousands” of refugees into the United States.

Also during the debate Trump has advocated flexibility on visas for highly skilled foreign workers.


10:00 p.m.

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump is naming three people he would consider putting in his administration to lead on national security.

They are diplomat Richard Haass, Gen. Jack Keane and Col. Jack Jacobs.

Trump was asked during Thursday’s presidential debate who he considers to be the best people to oversee U.S. national security.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is trying to turn the question to his advantage, saying he has the experience to deal with national security.

Kasich says, “I was there when Ronald Reagan rebuilt the military. I worked with him.”

Kasich even repurposed a famous quote from a 1988 vice presidential debate saying, “I knew Ronald Reagan and I’ll leave it right there.”


9:55 p.m.

Ted Cruz is again defending his change-of-heart on National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, who revealed the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records program.

Cruz had originally praised Snowden for doing a public service by bringing the program to light, but has since called him a traitor.

But at Thursday’s GOP debate in Detroit, Cruz said he believes the evidence must be examined before making a judgment.

He says the evidence soon became clear that Snowden not only broke the law, but committed treason.

Rival Donald Trump says that he has felt from the beginning that Snowden was a spy.


9:52 p.m.

Donald Trump is saying the United States should engage in enhanced interrogation including waterboarding, and go further, even as senior military officials said they would not engage with him because of his proposed views on torture.

Waterboarding, the sensation of drowning, is illegal, but Trump said at Thursday’s GOP debate in Detroit that the U.S. should use waterboarding and worse in interrogations.

U.S. military and intelligence officials, some who’ve said they will not engage in such activity, are “not going to refuse me.”

Trump: “If I say do it, they are going to do it.”

Cruz chided Trump for making bold statements, saying actions speak louder than words.


9:50 p.m.

John Kasich says U.S. ground troops must be sent to Libya because it is a “fertile ground” for the Islamic State group.

The Ohio governor appeared to go a step further than Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in Thursday’s Republican presidential debate. Rubio committed to air strikes and sending a “significant number” of special forces to the country, which is an “operating space” for the terrorists.

Rubio says ISIS must be “targeted wherever they are.” Kasich says the U.S. can’t just send special forces but “must be there on the ground in significant numbers.”


9:45 p.m.

Donald Trump says he’s “changing” and “softening” his position on a visa program for highly skilled foreign workers.

Trump’s website outlines a policy for encouraging American companies to hire native workers rather than giving out more H-1B visas for people from overseas. But Trump is now telling moderator Megyn Kelly he’d be more open to bringing in highly skilled workers, especially for jobs in Silicon Valley.

Trump’s admission of “softening” his position is fresh fodder for his opponents who are calling him to release the transcripts of an off-the-record conversation with the New York Times about immigration.

Ted Cruz is hitting back against Donald Trump’s proposed immigration program, saying that millions of Americans are out of work because of existing immigration policies.


9:40 p.m.

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump says he thinks it’s just fine that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio negotiated with other lawmakers when debating how to deal with people living in the country illegally.

But Trump said in Thursday’s presidential debate that his position on combatting illegal immigration is stronger than Rubio’s.

Trump frequently touts his deal-making ability on the campaign trail. And in the debate he says that give and take is OK, although he may differ with Rubio on the degree to which that happens.

Rubio has been forced to answer for his role in the so-called Gang of Eight deal that would have provided a path to citizenship for people living in the country illegally. Rubio says he did the best he could in a Democratic-controlled Senate.


9:38 p.m.

Donald Trump says that, despite what he may have told the New York Times editorial board off the record, he’s “not very flexible” when it comes to his proposals to build a wall across the southern border and force Mexico to pay for it.

Trump reportedly told the Times that he was flexible on some aspects of the plan. But he says many of those comments were off the record.

Still, he says “there’s always give and take, there’s always negation” when it comes to his policy plans.

Rival Marco Rubio notes that Trump could authorize the Times to release the interview transcripts if he wanted to.

But Trump says he’s not doing it because he has “too much respect” for that process.


9:35 p.m.

Ted Cruz says Donald Trump wrote 10 checks to Hillary Clinton, four of them for her presidential campaign.

He’s asking Trump at the GOP debate in Detroit how he can “stand on a debate stage now” and challenge her in a general election. He says “if you don’t like Obamacare, Donald Trump funded it” by supporting Democrats like Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who were able to pass it by winning control of Congress.

Trump says he’s written checks to Democrats and Republicans because he’s in business. He says he “owed that to my company, to my family, to my workers, to everybody, to get along.”


9:32 p.m.

John Kasich says he opposes an increase in the federal minimum wage, but states are free to “figure out” whether the hourly wage should be hiked.

Kasich was responding to a question on his position, and he quickly pivoted to touting his experience as a congressman balancing the federal budget.

He says he is the “only person” left in the Republican field who was a “chief architect” of balanced budget. He says “it’s not a theory for me” while other candidates have just made broad proclamations about fiscal responsibility.


9:30 p.m.

Ted Cruz is slamming Donald Trump for lacking policy specifics and warning a Trump presidency would result in more Washington corruption.

Cruz largely faded from the spotlight for an extended exchange between Trump and Marco Rubio. He’s piling on the businessman with his latest slot of time, saying Trump has donated to Democrats and used government for private gain.

Trump, in response, isn’t shying away from his past support for Democrats, saying that he’s given to all kinds of politicians. He says it’s acceptable because he was doing it in a business capacity and not as a politician.


9:28 p.m.

The presidential debate moderators are challenging Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on his math.

Fox anchor Chris Wallace asked Trump on Thursday how his promise to cut waste, fraud and abuse would be enough to pay for his proposed tax cut that comes with a $10 trillion tax cut.

Trump says he would come up with the money by getting rid of common core academic standards and reducing the size of the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS and cutting costs in Medicare.

But Wallace is pushing back, saying that wouldn’t come close to paying for his tax plan.

Trump now says he will save money “through negotiation throughout the economy” by spending less on what the government buys.


9:25 p.m.

Donald Trump and Marco Rubio are sparring over job creation, with Rubio hitting Trump for manufacturing his clothing line overseas and Trump saying Rubio hasn’t created a job in his life.

Rubio accused Trump of spending his career duping Americans and called on the billionaire to produce his clothing line in the U.S.

Trump says he’s been doing that more and more.

Trump is also hitting back, calling Rubio a “little guy” who “has lied so much about my record.”

The two are sparring viciously, with Trump calling Rubio “little Marco” and Rubio hitting back, calling Trump “Big Donald.


9:22 p.m.

John Kasich says he is the “adult on the stage” in the Republican debate and he will do better as primaries move to northern states like his native Ohio.

The Ohio governor said in Thursday’s debate in Michigan that he “can get the crossover votes” and he won’t get into nasty exchanges like those between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio.

Pressed by a moderator about staying in the race to force a contested convention this summer, Kasich promises he will win Ohio on March 15 and will continue his message of “bringing people together.”


9:20 p.m.

Marco Rubio and Donald Trump are starting off with a tussle over who is more electable in both the GOP primary and a general election.

Rubio is pointing out that the majority of primary voters hasn’t picked Trump and alleges that Trump doesn’t represent the conservative movement, noting the businessman defended Planned Parenthood in the last debate.

Trump is shooting back, saying he’s the best prepared to beat Hillary Clinton and noting he’s won far more primary contests than Rubio or Ted Cruz.

The exchange became so heated that moderator Megyn Kelly had to jump in, saying “no one can understand you when you’re talking over each other.”


9:15 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says the American people are not interested in listening to “bickering school children.”

Cruz is making the case in Thursday’s Republican presidential debate that voters want to hear the candidates talk about substantive issues, not insult one another.

Cruz made a pitch to the “truck drivers, steel workers and mechanics” who he says have been suffering under President Barack Obama the past seven years.

In a slam against Donald Trump, Cruz says that it’s easy to print campaign slogans on baseball caps, but the question is whether he understands what made America great in the first place.


9:10 p.m.

Marco Rubio says his sharply critical personal and political assault on Donald Trump over the past week is well-deserved.

Rubio says if there’s anyone who has deserved to be treated with that level of criticism, “it’s Donald Trump.”

But Rubio is pledging to abandon the attacks in favor of a thorough policy exchange beginning immediately.

Meanwhile, Trump is defending the size of his hand, which Rubio had mocked as small in what was viewed as an insult about Trump’s sexual prowess.

Trump referred to Rubio’s tease with a crude sexual reference of his own.

Holding his hands up for the audience to see, Trump said: “I guarantee you, there’s no problem.”


9:05 p.m.

Republican Donald Trump is being asked to respond to attacks lodged by 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney as Thursday evening’s debate gets under way.

Romney said in an unprecedented speech Thursday morning that Trump’s domestic policies will lead to recession and his foreign policy will make the country less safe.

Trump responded by calling Romney “a failed candidate.”

He says his candidacy,” was an embarrassment to everybody” including the Republican Party and that Romney is only looking to be relevant. He says, “he wants to be back in the game.”

Trump says he believes in free trade — but only if it’s beneficial to the country. And he says he totally disavows the Ku Klux Klan and former Klan leader David Duke.


8:50 p.m.

Republican presidential candidates are gathering in Detroit for the latest Fox News debate as the question over who will represent the party in the general election increasingly sends the party into turmoil.

Donald Trump, having emerged from the Super Tuesday contests with a substantial, but indecisive, victory over his opponents is receiving criticism from his rivals and members of the party alike, with many painting the billionaire as unfit to be the nominee.

Former GOP nominee Mitt Romney said earlier Thursday that the prospects for a “safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished” if Trump is nominated.

This is the first debate since retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson announced that he will not continue with his campaign, leaving only Trump, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich left to compete for the nomination.

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