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GOP candidates agree: Obama should not appoint Scalia replacement

Despite agreeing on Scalia, candidates threw verbal punches over the Iraq war, immigration and Planned Parenthood.
By Ann Marie Awad   |   Feb. 13, 2016 at 7:07 PM
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GREENVILLE, S.C., Feb. 13 (UPI) -- In a rare moment of unity, Republicans unanimously agreed that President Obama should not appoint a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died earlier Saturday.

"This is a tremendous blow to conservatism," Donald Trump said. "I think it's up to [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and everyone else to stop it, it's called delay delay delay."

"I just wish we hadn't run so fast into politics," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said. "I really wish the president would think about not nominating somebody."

"I fully agree that we should not allow a justice to be appointed during his time," Dr. Ben Carson said.

"The Senate needs to stand up and say: we're not going to give up the U.S. Supreme Court for a generation by allowing Obama to appoint another liberal justice," said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Trump and Bush get heated over Iraq war

Trump was asked about 2008 remarks he made calling for the impeachment of George W. Bush. Trump fell short of saying he stood by the sentiment.

"Obviously the war in Iraq is a big fat mistake," he shouted over boos from the crowd. "There were no weapons of mass destruction."

"I'm sick and tired of Barack Obama blaming my brother for all the problems that he's had," Jeb Bush responded, turning his attention to Trump. "While Donald Trump was on a reality TV show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe."

Trump interrupted. "The World Trade Center came down on his watch," he said as the crowd erupted in boos.

Bush went on to praise his family, starting with his dad, former President George H.W. Bush. When he got to discussing his mother, Trump cut in again.

"She should be running," the real estate mogul quipped. More boos. Trump repeated a claim from the last debate that the boos were coming from "special interests" and donors of Bush's campaign.

After bemoaning the fighting onstage, Kasich weighed in. "I don't believe the United States should involve itself in civil wars," he said "We should go to war when it is in our direct interest, we should not be policemen of the world."

Rubio was then asked for his take. "I thank God all the time that it was George W. Bush in the White House on 9/11 and not Al Gore," he said, to thundering applause.

"The World Trade Center came down, how is that keeping us safe," Trump asked, eliciting more boos, to the point where he could not be heard over them.

"The World Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton didn't kill Osama Bin Laden when he had the chance," Rubio interjected again.

Cruz and Rubio spar on immigration once again

Rubio and Cruz's disagreements on comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate have been played up in previous debates, but things were more tense than ever before Saturday.

"To argue he's a purist on immigration is just not true," Rubio said when Cruz accused him of supporting "amnesty."

"Marco right here supports citizenship for 12 million people here illegally," Cruz said. "Marco went on Univision in Spanish and said he would not rescind Obama's executive order on immigration one he got into office."

"I don't know how Ted knows what I said because he doesn't speak Spanish," Rubio fired back.

"En Español, sí te quieres," Cruz shouted back, meaning "In Spanish, if you want."

Moderators tried to calm things, moving to Bush and asking about previous remarks Bush had made saying people immigrate to the United States illegally "as an act of love."

"They're not all rapists as you-know-who said," referring to Trump. "We should show a little more respect," to undocumented people, while supporting increased border security.

"He's so weak on immigration, it's unbelievable," Trump said.

"You want to talk about weakness? It's weak to disparage women," Bush retorted, as Trump shook his head. "It's weak to disparage Hispanics."

Cruz and Trump squabble over Planned Parenthood

Cruz alleged that Trump supported federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and to Trump, that was the last straw.

"You are the single biggest liar," Trump shouted. "This guy will say anything, nasty guy, now I know why he doesn't have a single endorsement from one of his friends."

"Donald did not disagree with the substance," Cruz replied. "When you point to his record he screams 'liar liar.'"

"Where did I say it, Ted?" Trump shouted. Cruz accused Trump of saying Planned Parenthood did "wonderful things."

"It does do wonderful things, but not as it relates to abortion," Trump shouted back to some boos from the audience. Trump did tell CNN over the summer that he supports Planned Parenthood for providing other services, like contraception, but called the group "an abortion factory."

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The six remaining GOP presidential candidates gathered on the debate stage again Saturday, after more vitriol between leading candidates Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

One week from the South Carolina Republican primary, the pared-down slate of candidates met in Greenville, S.C., Saturday at 9 p.m. EST in a debate sponsored by CBS News.

After showdowns in Iowa and New Hampshire, the remaining candidates are preparing for a long primary battle in the coming months. Here's a look at what they've been up to since the New Hampshire primary earlier this week.

Donald Trump

Trump has laid in to Cruz, who is his most likely rival for the Republican nomination. The two are one for one, with Trump winning New Hampshire this week and Cruz winning Iowa the week before.

Trump once again dominated headlines going into the New Hampshire primary after he called Cruz a vulgar word at a rally the night before. In the days since his victory, Trump has threatened to sue Cruz for "not being a natural born citizen," referring to earlier questions Trump raised about Cruz's citizenship due to the fact that he was born in Canada.

On Friday, Trump tweeted: "How can Ted Cruz be an Evangelical Christian when he lies so much and is so dishonest?" Later tweets called Cruz a "liar."

No doubt, any friendliness that once existed between the two front runners is long gone.

Sen. Ted Cruz

Cruz has drawn Trump's ire because of several campaign ads that target the real estate mogul's support for eminent domain, with one resurrecting Trump's failed 1998 legal battle to seize the home of Vera Coking to expand his Atlantic City casino. The ad calls the legal fight a "pattern of sleaze" for Trump.

On Friday, Cruz was snubbed by three major Texas newspapers who passed on endorsing the Senator from their state.

"As much as we'd like to see a Texan in the White House," the Dallas Morning News wrote, opting instead to endorse Ohio Gov. John Kasich, "we fear that Cruz's brand of politics is more about disruption than governing and threatens to take the Republican Party to a dark place."

Cruz also continues to take flack for misleading campaign tactics, such as mailing fake checks to solicit donations, and sending out mailers that look like official state documents accusing recipients of committing "voting violations." Cruz's campaign also left voicemails with supporters on the eve of the Iowa caucuses falsely telling them that Dr. Ben Carson had dropped out of the race. Carson took Cruz to task for it in the last debate, Cruz apologized but blamed it on CNN which he said reported Carson had dropped out. CNN denies the claim.

Expect Cruz to mention supreme court nominations. Less than two hours after news broke that Justice Antonin Scalia had died, Cruz tweeted: "Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement."

Sen. Marco Rubio

Rubio placed fifth in the New Hampshire primary after a New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hammered Rubio in the last debate. After slamming Rubio for repeating prepared remarks, "Rubio-bots" have been following him on the campaign trail.

The debate performance raised questions about Rubio's grace under pressure, or lack thereof. In the heated exchange with Christie, Rubio did indeed repeat himself four times. Moments later, the Florida senator could be seen sweating profusely. Author McKay Coppins wrote: "Though generally seen as cool-headed and quick on his feet, Rubio is known to friends, allies, and advisers for a kind of incurable anxiousness — and an occasional propensity to panic in moments of crisis, both real and imagined."

Dr. Ben Carson

South Carolina may be a comeback state for Carson, where his Evangelical appeal may once again become an asset for him. Even still, it will be an uphill battle. Carson polls at 6 percent on average, according to RealClear Politics, the lowest of any candidate.

Another hurdle for Carson on Saturday is his relative obscurity in debates. Conservative news site Breitbart pointed out that Carson was asked five questions, compared to Cruz and Rubio who were asked ten.

Not to mention Carson only narrowly qualified for Saturday's debate. Saturday could be his last chance to turn the tables before the South Carolina primary. If he fails to make a dent in a third primary race, it's not clear if he'll be able to stay in the running based on cutbacks his campaign has made.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich

Kasich has been riding high since his second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary. Where other candidates are bickering, Kasich has endeavored to keep a positive campaign tone.

Sensing a different audience in South Carolina, Kasich has also talked faith more than he has previously.

This is what he told reporters in New Hampshire last week: "I don't go out and try to win a vote by using God. I think that cheapens God. But people know I'm sort of faith—I mean, I don't think they know that or not. But I think they pick it up."

Compare that with what he says in his South Carolina-targeted campaign ad: "My parents were killed by a drunk driver, but my parents did not die in vain. I was transformed. I discovered my purpose by discovering the Lord. I believe the Lord put us on this earth to use the gifts that we've been given to bring about a healing. And that's the motivation for me."

As Kasich has emerges as a serious contender to front-runners, he's drawn more attacks from Right to Rise USA, a super PAC supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's presidential bid. The group put out an ad calling Kasich "dangerously wrong" on national security. Kasich has also been the target of attacks from Planned Parenthood of Ohio, which said he's "made life hell" for women in Ohio.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush

Bush has had help from his family on the campaign trail in South Carolina, which mom Laura Bush and older brother Former President George W. Bush stumping for him in the Palmetto state.

After finishing fourth in New Hampshire, Jeb Bush affirmed to supporters: "this campaign is not dead." He may be on to something. According to RealClear Politics, he polls at 11 percent on average in South Carolina, up three points this week.

Bush plans to double down on earlier attempts to position himself as "the anti-Trump" telling supporters at a forum earlier this week: "I mean is anybody here worried about the front-running candidate shouting out obscenities in front of children? It's like what is going on?"

With the first two primary contests out of the way, expect candidates to try harder to win voters over by any means necessary -- even if it means playing dirty.

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