GOP candidates go after Trump in second debate


Presidential candidate Donald Trump is interviewed at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames on Saturday, July 18. 

Alex Hanson

After months of attacks from Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, GOP candidates came out swinging  at the billionaire businessman Thursday night in the second GOP debate – hoping to move up or regain ground in polls months before the Iowa Caucus.

All eyes were on the outsider candidates in the race – especially Trump and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina in the debate broadcast on CNN. The debate comes after Fiorina has been criticizing Trump and his campaign, and she was instantly on the defense.

“I think Mr. Trump is a wonderful entertainer,” Fiorina said.

Several candidates were also asked about if they would be comfortable with a President Trump having control the United States’ nuclear arsenal. Most candidates deflected, saying it would be up to the voters.

Trump came out swinging, as well, and without being provoked went after Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, saying almost out of nowhere, “First of all, Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage. He’s number 11. He’s got one percent in the polls. There’s too many people onstage already.”

Paul, who has said recently he plans to continue to call out Trump’s record as a “fake conservative,” responded.

“I think really there’s a sophomoric quality that is entertaining about Mr. Trump,” Paul said in response. “I am worried. I’m very concerned about having him in charge of the nuclear weapons. His response, his visceral response to attack people on their looks –short, tall, fat, ugly.”

Trump hit back with one more zinger, saying, “I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me there is plenty of subject matter there.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also went after Trump, saying we do not need an “apprentice” in the White House because we already have one. Trump hit back by attacking Walker’s record as governor.

Later in the evening, following a discussion on women’s healthcare, Fiorina was asked about recent comments Trump made about Fiorina’s face and why “anyone would vote” for her.

“I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Fiorina said to the longest applause of the evening.

“I think she has a beautiful face and I think she’s a beautiful woman,” Trump responded, trying to regain his ground.


There was much discussion on immigration reform and “amnesty” for illegal immigrants already in the U.S. Several candidates support a path to citizenship, while some continue to take a hardline stance on the issue.

Almost all agreed that securing the border should come before any legal status, but there was disagreement on birthright citizenship. Trump and others have called for ending the practice, which allows anyone born in the U.S. to gain citizenship, even if their parents are not in the country legally.

Fiorina disagreed, saying birthright citizenship is a guaranteed right in the constitution, although Trump disagreed with the interpretation.

“Not everyone agrees with you,” Fiorina said, hitting back at Trump’s combative style.

There was also a back-and-forth between Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush after comments made by Trump about Bush’s wife, Columba, were brought up. Bush asked Trump to apologize, although Trump refused.

“I won’t do that, because I said nothing wrong,” Trump said.

Planned Parenthood funding

When asked if they supported defunding Planned Parenthood, most candidates came out in support of the idea – where they differed on is if Republican’s in Congress should use the issue as leverage during an upcoming budget agreement.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he supports defunding it, but says it is not worth shutting down the government, because “it won’t work.” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz supports it, and says Republican’s should use any means possible to defund it.

Another big applause came when Fiorina gave an impassioned response on the issue. She tied it to Iran, saying policy on the nuclear agreement is about the survival of our nation, while Planned Parenthood is about the “character of our nation.”

Other topics discussed at length included tax policy, where several candidates called for a flat tax, while Trump called for keeping a progressive system; leadership and how to beat Hillary Clinton; and a lengthy discussion about foreign policy.

Also on stage for the primetime debate were former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Earlier in the night, CNN hosted an undercard debate featuring the bottom four candidates in the race – Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum and George Pataki.

Questions about Trump opened the earlier debate – with Jindal sticking to his guns attacking the billionaire businessman. Santorum said personal attacks hurt Republicans leading up to the general election.

There were several back and forth exchanges between the candidates, first on immigration when Santorum called out other candidates for support of “amnesty.” Jindal shot back saying he supports securing the border first. Graham took the most pro-immigrant stance, questioning Jindal and Santorum directly and defending those in the country illegally.

“Hispanics are Americans,” Graham said. “In my world, Hispanics are Americans.”

On same-sex marriage, Jindal and Santorum showed support for the Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Graham and Pataki took a moderate stance, arguing the Supreme Court has ruled, and even though they disagree, elected officials like Davis must follow the law.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was scheduled to take part in the earlier debate, but he suspended his campaign late last week following disappointing polling and fundraising.

Democrats, who are set to debate for the first time next month, were watching the debate, and weighed in on Twitter.