Live Blog: Trump in Crossfire at CNN Republican Debate

By Mark Joyella 

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Once again, it’s debate night in Las Vegas.

This time, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump takes center stage for the first time since making his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country.

On Twitter, Trump said “I hope I get treated fairly”

Chris Christie, who failed to qualify for the prime time debate on Fox Business Network last month, returns to the main event on the heels of some solid recent polls. Rand Paul, who was in danger of dropping to the undercard, qualified for the main debate based on his standing in a Fox News poll released Sunday.

“In the light of new polling released this morning and in the spirit of being as inclusive as possible, CNN has decided to include Sen. Rand Paul in the prime-time debate,” a CNN spokeswoman said.

Earlier, the second-tier candidates (George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum) opened CNN’s “first round” Republican debate by attacking frontrunner Donald Trump and his proposed Muslim ban.

8:48 p.m. ET: Opening Statements Sen. Rand Paul introduces himself by naming two other candidates–Donald Trump and Marco Rubio; Chris Christie lights a fire on social media by suggesting that mothers drop their kids at school, while fathers go off to work; and Dr. Ben Carson asked for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the San Bernardino attack.

9:03 p.m. ET: “Chaos Candidate” Asked about his remark that Donald Trump is “unhinged,” Jeb Bush described Trump’s policies as dangerous. “Donald is great at the one liners,” Bush said, “but he is a chaos candidate and he would be a chaos president.”

In a rebuttal, Trump said Bush doesn’t believe what he says, but is trying to recover from a failing campaign.

9:15 p.m. ET: Paul Battles Rubio on Immigration Paul blasts Rubio, calling him “the weakest of all the candidates on immigration.”

9:38 p.m. ET: “This Is Troubling” Bush again takes on Trump, this time over Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. go after the families of terrorists. “This is troubling,” Bush said, adding that it was more proof that Trump was “not a serious candidate.”

When Trump objected, Bush pushed back. “Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the Presidency.”

Trump took the final word. “With Jeb’s attitude, we will never be great again,” Trump said at the end of the exchange, earning a few boos from the Las Vegas crowd. The moderator, Wolf Blitzer, and questioners Dana Bash and Hugh Hewitt, are getting good reviews for trying to force the candidates to answer questions:

10:17 p.m. ET: Trump Objects to CNN’s Questions “I thought it was very unfair…that it was Trump this or Trump that…to get ratings.” Trump’s objection leads to another heated exchange between the two men.

“The simple problem is you think this is tough? Imagine dealing with Putin,” Bush said.

“Oh yeah, you’re a tough guy Jeb,” Trump responded, mocking Bush’s drop in presidential polls.

9:45 p.m. ET: Who Is Coughing? The questions to the candidates have focused on terrorism and immigration, but on social media, one key question is: who is coughing? The repeated cough has generated endless comments on Twitter, with BuzzFeed theorizing the offending cougher may be Ben Carson.