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Hours before the debate even began, the man at center stage was already attacking his host, tweeting that CNN was “milking” the debate coverage. Donald Trump said it was “too long, too many people on stage!”
Will be heading over to the debate soon. Can you believe @CNN is “milking” it for almost 3 hours? Too long, too many people on stage!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 16, 2015
Later, Trump built drama by arriving just moments before the undercard debate opened, earning himself live coverage on CNN as he stepped out of his car. There was also a mis-step, with CNN mistakenly identifying a woman in the audience as Nancy Reagan, then apologizing for being wrong.
“We thought we saw Nancy Reagan here in the hall. We are now told that was not Nancy Reagan,” Wolf Blitzer said. “We’re going to find out what exactly happened, but that’s an apology from all of us here.”
Now, on to the main event.
8:13 p.m. ET: The “A-Team.” Mike Huckabee draws a line between the Republicans and the Democrats. “None of us are self-professed Socialists. None of us are under investigation.” The Republican candidates, Huckabee says, are “The A-Team.”
8:16 p.m. ET: Sen. Marco Rubio, noting that California has a drought, pulled a bottle of water from his lectern and joked “I brought my own water,” a reference to his notorious sip of water during the 2013 Republican response to the State of the Union address.
The joke seemed to fall flat in the debate hall.
8:20 p.m. ET: Asked whether he’d be qualified to be in control of the nation’s nuclear launch codes, Trump immediately says “Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage. He’s number 11, he’s one percent in the polls.”
Paul then called Trump’s answer revealing, and more appropriate for “junior high” than the White House.
8:27 p.m. ET: John Kasich expresses frustration with the tone of the debate so far. “If I were watching at home, I’d turn it off.”
8:32 p.m. ET: “More Energy Tonight”. Bush accuses Trump of trying to use political donations–to Bush during his time as Florida governor–to get casino gambling in Florida. Trump immediately calls the claim a lie. “Wrong. Jeb. Don’t make things up.”
As the two men heatedly clashed, Trump took a shot at Bush, who he has repeatedly dismissed as “low energy.” Pointing at Bush, Trump said, “More energy tonight. I like that.”
8:55 p.m. ET: Planned Parenthood debate. In a series of comments on defunding Planned Parenthood, Chris Christie urged Republicans to unite and oppose the Democratic frontrunner. Hillary Clinton, he said “believes in the systematic murder of children in the womb.”
9:10 p.m. ET: “Women All Over This Country Heard Very Clearly What Mr. Trump Said.” Carly Fiorina gets one of the largest reactions from the crowd for her response to Tapper’s question about Trump’s comment on Fiorina’s face. Trump then backtracked, saying Fiorina was “beautiful.” His comment seemed to get no reaction from the audience.
9:20 p.m. ET: Should Jeb Speak Spanish? Jeb Bush passionately explained why he answers questions in Spanish, despite Donald Trump’s claim he should speak English. Later, Sen. Rubio explained that, like his grandfather, many Conservative Americans feel more comfortable–and get their news–in Spanish. “If they get their news in Spanish, I want them to hear it from me, and not from the translators at Univision.”
Search Spike: Bush also asked Trump to apologize to Bush’s wife for bringing her into the debate over Mexican immigrants. Trump declined, but web searches suggest Bush had a memorable moment:
So Bush, in green, had a crazy spike in web search, right around when he called for Trump to apologize to his wife. pic.twitter.com/KspM0cz27Q
— Nick Corasaniti (@NYTnickc) September 17, 2015
9:35 p.m. ET: “You Can’t Interrupt Me”. Trump and Fiorina clash over her record at H-P, his record with casinos in Atlantic City, and who can best run the country. Chris Christie steps in to accuse both of touting their resumes at the expense of viewers who want answers about the economy, and then blasts Fiorina for attempting to interrupt. “Carly, Carly. Listen, you can interrupt everybody else on the stage, you can’t interrupt me.”
9:52 p.m. ET: Trump Makes Nice with Hugh Hewitt. After calling Hewitt a “third rate” radio announcer following Trump’s stumble in an interview on Hewitt’s show, Trump tonight called Hewitt a “nice man,” and said “we had a misunderstanding.”
Program Note: As Hillary Clinton gets name-checked repeatedly in the debate, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer tweeted he’d have Clinton on to talk about the debate tomorrow:
— Wolf Blitzer (@wolfblitzer) September 17, 2015
Trending: This moment seems to have entertained many:
The high five gif y'all have been waiting for pic.twitter.com/d74l6MWllD
— Amber Phillips (@byamberphillips) September 17, 2015
10:30 p.m. ET: Jeb Smoked Pot. Addressing an issue that moderator Jake Tapper says viewers wanted asked, Rand Paul said he thinks the only victims of marijuana use are likely the users themselves, and hinted that at least one person on stage was supporting laws that punished primarily minority users of the drug, while having admitted to smoking pot himself. “That’s me,” said Jeb Bush, saying his Mom would not be happy hearing him admit he smoked as a student years ago.
Apparently Bush tweeted from the lectern–or someone did it for him:
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) September 17, 2015
Final Questions: Jake Tapper asks the candidates who they’d put on the ten dollar bill (Jeb Bush reaches to the U.K. and suggests Margaret Thatcher), and what their Secret Service code name should be. Rand Paul: “Justice Never Sleeps.” Jeb Bush jokes he should be “Eveready,” and turns to Trump to say “that’s high energy.” Trump gives Bush five.
Trump says his code name should be “Humble.”
11:13 p.m. ET: And it’s over.