Live Blog: ABC Republican Presidential Debate

By Mark Joyella 

It’s Saturday night in America, and that means it’s debate night. Or something. Anyway, we do have a debate and–twist!–it’s the Republicans opting for the weekend, instead of the Democrats.

“On the eve of the biggest game of the year, the biggest debate of the season,” ABC’s announcer intoned as the network’s coverage began at 8 p.m. ET. (Biggest?) A promo for Sunday morning’s This Week begins, “right after the EPIC debate…” (Epic? Shouldn’t we have the debate first, promo department?)

A bit of housekeeping: Donald Trump returns to the debate stage, but Carly Fiorina, who wanted a spot on stage, was shut out.

Our moderators tonight are David Muir and Martha Raddatz, and pre-game coverage (you didn’t think the debate started at 8, did you?) is being handled by George Stephanopoulos.

At 8:04 p.m., Stephanopoulos said “the debate, just minutes away.” That often means you can watch an episode of House Hunters and still be back in time to gripe about how long you have to wait before things actually start, but we’ll keep you posted.

8:17 p.m. ET: THE MOST UNBELIEVABLE CANDIDATE INTROS IN AMERICAN POLITICAL HISTORY Somehow, Ben Carson became unsure of whether he should walk on stage. Other candidates passed him. A stagehand waved him on. He waved them off. Donald Trump joined Carson on hold behind the curtain. Marco Rubio walked by both of them, smiling. Jeb Bush strolled by, tapping Trump. John Kasich only came on stage after–it seemed–another candidate reminded the moderators he was part of the debate.

Could this moment by Jeb! be a campaign commercial?

8:26 p.m. ET: Cruz Blames CNN, Again Yet again, Cruz suggests that CNN–he named Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and Wolf Blitzer–reported Carson would not go on from Iowa directly to New Hampshire, and said it took three hours for the network to clarify he was not dropping out.

CNN has responded, here.

Carson followed up that the initial report was actually clarified within one minute to say that this was not a campaign suspension.

8:40 p.m. ET: Raddatz Takes No BS. Martha Raddatz, as she did during ABC’s Democratic debate, gets kudos from fellow journalists for her take-no-prisoners approach to campaign speech, interrupting the candidates to clarify, and to press for answers:

9:03 p.m. ET: Eminent Domain Turns to a Bush Attack on Trump “He wants to be a tough guy,” says Trump, on the defensive after Bush attacks Trump, saying he used eminent domain to try and take an “old lady’s house” for a “limousine parking lot” for his Atlantic City casino.

When he’s booed, Trump suggests the audience is packed with “special interests and donors” and not his supporters.

9:10 p.m. ET: Half Time? George Stephanopoulos anchors a short half-time-ish conversation about the first hour of the debate, and promises to return with the candidates “on stage.” It was, of course, on the ABC Democratic debate after a half-time break that led to the debate resuming without Hillary Clinton onstage.

9:30 p.m. ET Was Rubio Booed for Canned Lines?

9:40 p.m. ET: Mary Katharine Ham Gets Props, Too The Fox News contributor is getting nice comments tonight on Twitter for her questions:

And how about this for a big night?

10:05 p.m. ET: Trump’s Talk Time Unlike previous debates, Trump is not dominating the talk time tonight:

As time runs down, many ask about topics that didn’t make the cut. What was missing in your view?

We’re headed to final statements, but first, a commercial break, a short conversation between Stephanopoulos and Jonathan Karl, and then a promise to return with the candidates. Not everyone amused:

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