Highlights from the GOP's first big presidential debate

GOP presidential hopefuls on the debate stage.
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The 10 leading Republican presidential candidates met in Cleveland Thursday night for the Fox News GOP debate, moderated by network personalities Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace, and Brett Baier.

The debate was attended by Donald Trump, former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.), Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.), Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), Gov. John Kasich (Ohio), Gov. Scott Walker (Wis.), and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.). For two hours, the candidates were asked questions about specific issues, including how they would stop ISIS, how they would handle going up against Hillary Clinton if she becomes the nominee for the Democrats, and what they would do on day one of their presidency regarding the Iran nuclear deal. Here are some highlights:

On immigration: Trump said that Mexican government is sending "the bad ones over," because "they don't want to pay for them, they don't want to care for them, and why should they when the stupid leaders of the United States will do it for them." He reiterated earlier statements that he would build a wall along the Mexican border, but would add a “big beautiful door” to let in legal immigrants. Rubio agreed that there needs to be a fence built, and an e-verify system and entry-exit tracking system. Bush said that he "believes a great majority of people coming here illegally have no other option," but "we need to control our border" and "eliminate the sanctuary cities in this country."

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On abortion: Trump said he has evolved on several issues over the years, and became against abortion after seeing friends raise a child they planned to abort: "That child today is a total superstar, a great, great, child."

On Hillary Clinton: Carson called Clinton "the epitome of the secular progressive movement," and said she "counts on the fact that people are uninformed."

On ISIS: Bush stated that "knowing what we know now with faulty intelligence," it was "a mistake" to go to Iraq, and he wouldn't have gone in. He added that he did not feel that those who died in Iraq gave their lives in vain, and pinned ISIS on President Obama. "Barack Obama became president and abandoned Iraq. Al Qaeda was done for, ISIS was created because of the void we left. Now there's a caliphate the size of Indiana. ... We need to take out ISIS with every tool at our disposal." Paul said that only ISIS is "responsible for their depravity," and claimed to be "the leading voice in America for not arming the allies of ISIS."

On the economy (and miracles): Kasich said that "economic growth is the key to everything," and "once you have economic growth, you reach out to people in the shadows" like minorities. "America is a miracle country," he said, and he would "restore the sense that the miracle will apply to you."

On Iran: While both Walker and Paul said they don't agree with the Iran nuclear deal, they said they would handle it differently. Walker said on Day 1 of his presidency, he would "terminate the deal," then would put in place "more crippling sanctions" and urge other countries to follow suit. Paul said that he plans to vote against the deal, but doesn't "immediately discount negotiations." Calling himself a "Reagan conservative," he said it's important to "negotiate from a position of strength, and I think President Obama gave away too much, too early."

On gay marriage: Kasich said that while he "happened to believe in traditional marriage," he recently attended the wedding of a gay friend. "Just because someone doesn't think the way I do doesn't mean I can't care about them or love them," he said. "If it were one of my daughters, I would love them and accept them. That's what we're taught when we have strong faith."

On hugs: After a back and forth between Christie and Paul over NSA records, Paul snapped, "I don't trust President Obama with our records. I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead." Christie quickly retorted, "You know, the hugs that I remember are the hugs that I gave to the families who lost their people on September 11th."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for TheWeek.com. Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.