Four long-shot GOP presidential candidates aggressively competed for the spotlight in Wednesday's "undercard" debate – hoping to use the event as a springboard to break out of the lower-polling pack and join top-tier Republican candidates.
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The contenders – former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former New York Gov. George Pataki – took the stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, at 6 p.m. EST. The issues they discussed included illegal immigration, ISIS, the refugee crisis, Planned Parenthood funding, Iran, the U.S. economy and religious freedom.
Jindal began by attacking GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, who he called a "narcissist": "Let's stop treating Donald Trump like a Republican. If he were really a conservative and 30 points ahead, I would endorse him. He's not a conservative. He's not a liberal, he's not a Democrat, he's not a Republican, he's not an independent. He believes in Donald Trump."
Santorum responded, "Personal attacks please one person, Hillary Clinton. ... Donald Trump has a right to run as a Republican as anyone else in this audience."
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Pataki called Trump "unfit" to be the GOP nominee.
Not one of the four candidates has the support of even 1 percent of Republicans. Santorum is leading the group with just .8 percent.
He has complained about the split debate format, based on his performance in 2012, when he came out of nowhere, polling just as poorly as he is now, to beat front-runner (and eventual GOP nominee) Mitt Romney in the Iowa causes.
The four were relegated to the undercard debate rather than the main event at 8 p.m. EST based upon their positions in the three major polls used by CNN to determine the candidates' standings.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is tied with Santorum in the polls, did not appear on stage because he exited the race on Sept. 11., when he could no longer pay his staff.
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Graham and Pataki are polling the lowest among the four long-shots. Former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III is performing so low in the polls he wasn't even invited to the event.
As WND reported in August, Carly Fiorina was quickly declared the winner in Fox News' opening contest, even though she was then a member of the first debate, rather than appearing in the prime-time event with the top-tier candidates.
But her stellar performance shot her onto the national scene and into the top-tier for the CNN debate.
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Immediately after the Fox debate, Fiorina experienced a massive six-point jump from her previous status at just 2 percent. She has continued to climb in some polls and has since dipped in others. Fiorina has cracked double-digits and reached 11 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of polls for the New Hampshire Republican primary.
It is her success that gives the four candidates in the first debate some hope of cracking into the top tier themselves.
CNN chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper is moderating both GOP debates, which will be shown live on CNN and live-streamed on the network’s website. Audience members have been asked not to cheer or boo during the debates.
The prime-time event begins at 8 p.m. EST and features the 11 leading Republican candidates: Donald Trump. Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina.
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Real Clear Politics' polling average has Trump leading the GOP pack with 30.5 percent. Carson is at 20 percent, and is followed by Bush (7.8 percent), Cruz (6.8 percent), Rubio (5.3 percent), Huckabee (4.5 percent), Paul (3.3 percent), Fiorina (3.3 percent), Walker (3 percent), Kasich (2.5 percent), Christie (1.5 percent), Santorum (.8 percent), Perry (.8 percent, though he’s no longer running), Jindal (.5 percent) and Lindsay Graham (.3 percent).
The following topics were discussed Wednesday:
Immigration and refugee crisis
Immigration is one of the hot-button issues of the 2016 elections. The porous U.S.-Mexico border and the flood of incoming Muslim "refugees" were expected to take center stage at both debates.
During Wednesday's debate, Jindal promised to secure the border within six months of taking office if he becomes president.
Santorum criticized Jindal's plan for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently in America. He expressed concern for workers in America "who know their wages are being undermined."
"I am not for amnesty," Jindal responded. "I've never been for amnesty, I will never be for amnesty." He criticized sanctuary cities in America.
Pataki said America can't send illegal immigrants back to their home countries, but it should require them to come forward and do 200 hours of community service to earn legal status.
Regarding the issue of birthright citizenship, Pataki said, "I don't think we should tell that child who was born in America that we're going to send them back."
The U.S. won't deport 11 million people, Graham said, but it should start with the criminals. "This is an economic problem, so let's solve it. Amnesty is doing nothing, and neither is birthright citizenship." He said sanctuary cities should be outlawed, and he warned of the damaging impact of "birth tourism."
Graham asked Santorum twice in a row: "What are you going to do with the 11 million" illegal aliens in the country?
Santorum responded, "As you know, Lindsey, 40-to-60 percent of the 11 million are here on visa overstays. We know exactly who they are. We should know where they are. But we have a government that doesn't tell them to return home."
"You can solve half of the problem of the 11 million by simply telling them they have to return to their countries of origin. So that's half your problem."
America's immigrant population hit a record high of 42.1 million (legal and illegal) in the second quarter of 2015. The total Mexican immigrant population (legal and illegal) reached 12.1 million in the second quarter of 2015 – the highest quarterly total ever. In addition to Mexico, growth in the immigrant population was propelled by a 449,000 increase by people coming from Latin American countries other than Mexico in the last year.
A Breitbart analysis of federal data shows Muslims are coming to the United States in droves, with 117,423 in 2013 alone coming from Muslim-dominated nations.
In the U.S., 1.5 million Muslims were permanently resettled in cities and towns throughout the country between 2001 and 2013. The refugees are placed on a fast-track to full voting citizenship, which is attainable within five years. Critics fear this will be a recipe for a major demographic shift in America.
All refugees, selected by the United Nations, are brought to the U.S. legally under the authority of the Refugee Act of 1980.
Dozens of the refugees have also run afoul of the law, including 72 cases of Muslim immigrants who have been arrested, just in the last year, for terrorist activity, according to a study by the Senate immigration committee.
Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, introduced a bill in the House July 30 to halt all refugee resettlements but not a single U.S. congressman has stepped up to co-sponsor his bill.
The refugee crisis swamping Europe is closely watched in the U.S., with many Republicans concerned about the likely prospect of Muslim terrorists using the opportunity to infiltrate the West.
Graham has said the U.S. has an "obligation" to Syrian refugees. He asked, "How does President Obama sleep at night? Look what you've allowed to happen on your watch. ... I'm blaming Barack Obama for this mess, and I want to fix it."
ISIS and 'Muslim extremists'
All four candidates agreed that the U.S. should more vigorously pursue ISIS.
"It's not enough to denounce generic violence, they've got to denounce them by name," Jindal said of Muslims who do not speak out against terrorism.
But he said the most discrimination in the U.S. is not against Muslims but against Christians in the U.S.
"The president says Ft. Hood was an issue of workplace violence," Jindal continued. "We're at war with radical Islam. Our president loves to apologize for America. He goes to the National Prayer Breakfast and brings up the crusades, criticizes Christians. We're at war today with radical Islamic extremists."
Graham added that the U.S. government should be monitoring Islamic radicals online, and said ISIS jihadis are "religious Nazis running wild."
He said, "The military is in decline," and he has the determination and vision to "win a war we cannot lose."
Congress now has little chance of stopping implementation of President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran now that Democrats in the Senate have blocked a bill disapproving the agreement. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is threatening to sue. But Obama had vowed to lift sanctions on Iran even if Congress hadn't failed to muster the votes to stop the deal.
All the GOP candidates and every Republican in Congress oppose the deal.
Asked if he would authorize a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, Graham said, "They know I would if I had to." Graham said, "This deal is a nightmare for Israel."
Graham added, "Hillary Clinton, supporting this deal, she was the senator from New York on Sept. 11. She saw what happened at the hands of radical Islam. This is the senator who did the reset program with Russia, who allowed the Middle East to deteriorate into flames, who has lied about Benghazi and is now supporting the Iranian deal. That's the opponent we are going to have next November. We have got to win this election."
Santorum said, "[Iranians] believe in bringing about the end of the world. ... Their regime preaches it. They believe in bring about the end times. That's their end goal. And we are in the process of giving them nuclear weapons to do just that." He said taking out Iran's facilities would "stop a war, because a nuclear Iran is the end."
Critics say Obama's deal is a disaster that does nothing to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons because:
- The inspections process is largely determined by Iran, including which sites to inspect and when.
- Inspection details will be kept secret from Congress and the American public.
- The deal legitimizes Iran's vast, and supposedly peaceful, nuclear program.
- It will give $150 billion in unfrozen assets to the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism.
- It lifts the conventional arms embargo on Iran in five years.
- And it eliminates international travel restrictions on some of the world's leading terrorists, including the head of Iran's revolutionary guard.
- The deal does nothing to stop Iran from building or buying nuclear weapons after a decade.
Economy and Jobs
According to numerous surveys, the most important election issue in the 2016 cycle is the economy, including jobs.
Millions of Americans still can't find full-time jobs, and their paychecks are barely keeping up with inflation. Private-job growth plunged in July, signaling slowing momentum in the U.S. economy. Employers hired 185,000 workers in July, significantly below the expected increase of 215,000 jobs. In the second quarter of 2015, the U.S. economy grew at a lackluster 2.3 percent. In August, private-sector jobs growth fell short of expectations with 190,000 positions – again below the projected 200,000.
Tapper noted that Jeb Bush and Donald Trump both propose raising taxes on hedge-fund managers. When asked about the issue, Pataki said he would throw out the entire tax code and get rid of all loopholes and exemptions.
Santorum proposed a 20 percent flat tax on individuals and corporations, saying it would create growth and allow the U.S. to be competitive with every country in the world.
However, Pataki said he'd prefer a rate of 12 percent on manufacturing and to eliminate excessive government regulations.
While Santorum proposed increasing the minimum wage, Graham disagreed, saying such a move would cause businesses to lay off workers.
"Nobody's talked about the elephant in the room, which is debt," he added. "Not one more penny to the federal government until we get out of debt."
Santorum said he wants a 50 cent increase over a couple years, adding, "Ninety percent of workers don't own a business. ... They work for a living."
"How are we going to win if 90 percent of Americans don't think we care at all?" he asked.
Kim Davis and religious freedom
Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis – along with assorted Christian bakers, photographers and florists – have become focal points in the battle of religious freedom, particularly since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
Pataki said, "I think [Davis] should have been fired, and I would have fired her. ... There's a place where religion supersedes the rule of law. It's called Iran."
Santorum defended Davis: "Sixteen years ago, this country was tremendously inspired by a young woman who faced a gunman in Columbine and was challenged about her faith and she refused to deny God. We saw her as a hero. Today, someone who refuses to defy a judge's unconstitutional verdict is ridiculed and criticized. Chastised, because she is standing up and not denying her God and her faith.
"That is a huge difference in 16 years. People have a fundamental right in the First Amendment – there's no more important right – it is the right that is the trunk that all other rights come from, and that's freedom of conscience.
"And when we say in America we have no room – how many bakers, how many florists, how many pastors, how many clerks are we going to throw in jail? Because they stand up and say, 'I cannot violate what my faith says is against its teachings.'"
Jindal said he wants the left to present Christians with a list of jobs they're allowed to have, if not pastors, bakers, politicians, county clerks and other officials.
OneNewsNow reported, "A national poll done by Caddell Associates … shows almost three-quarters of Americans (71%) desire 'a commonsense solution that both protects religious freedom and gay and lesbian couples from discrimination.' Thus far, however, protection from such 'discrimination' typically has come at the cost of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.
"When asked which was more important – protecting religious liberty or protecting homosexual rights – voters by a 4-to-1 margin (31% to 8%) chose religious freedom. Most of the rest said both are important."
When respondents were asked whether it should be up to the federal government to determine what constitutes legitimate religious beliefs, "[O]nly 11 percent agreed and a massive 79 percent disagreed. Indeed, even two-thirds of those on the 'left' of the segmentation disagreed."
Conservatives say they are increasingly seeing a war on traditional values coming from the homosexual activist movement.
The nation's biggest abortion provider has been reeling from the fallout of a series of devastating undercover videos exposing its business selling baby body parts, apparently for profit – which is illegal. Planned Parenthood received $528 million from taxpayers last year.
A bill to defund the agency failed in the Senate because there were not enough Republicans to overcome the 60-vote threshold to avoid a filibuster by Democrats.
Jindal declared, "Now's the time for Senate Republicans to stand up and fight we're tired of the establishment saying there's nothing we can do."
But Graham said there's essentially nothing that can be done, adding, "If you want to kill Obamacare, get a new president. If you want to defund Planned Parenthood, elect a pro-life president. 'Cause that's the only way."
Graham added that Obama would just veto the Corker bill, a bill that gives Congress a chance to review the Iran nuke deal, if it passed in Congress, adding, "The world is the way it is."
"I'm not going to tell you by shutting the government down we're going to defund Obamacare as long as he's president," Graham said. "All that does is hurt us. I'm trying to lead this party to winning."
Jindal replied, "Lindsey, well that's my frustration. You basically heard a Senate Republican say, 'We can't defund Planned Parenthood despite these barbaric videos.'"
Graham interrupted Jindal repeatedly: "Are you going to shut the government down?"
Jindal responded, "I wish the Senate Republicans had half the fight in them the Senate Democrats did.
"If we can't defund Planned Parenthood now, if we can't stand for innocent human life after these barbaric videos, it is time to be done with the Republican Party.
"If we can't win on that issue, there is no point. ... It is time to get rid of the Republican Party. Start over with a new one that's at least consrvative."
Graham said, "I'm as offended by these videos as you are," but he said he would not shut down the federal government in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood.
Thirty-one Republican lawmakers in the House of Representative signed a letter saying they are committed to opposing any legislation to fund the federal government unless it defunds the Planned Parenthood abortion business.
That could lead to another government shutdown, if a spending bill is not passed by Sept. 30.
According to a study by the Congressional Research Service, Planned Parenthood would continue to receive the majority of its federal funding – including all of its Medicaid payments – even if Congress cannot enact a new spending bill on Oct. 1.