The top-polling Republican presidential candidates took to the podiums Tuesday night for the fourth GOP debate of the 2016 election season. The debate, housed at the Milwaukee Theatre in Milwaukee, was hosted by Fox Business Network and Wall Street Journal and was yet another chance for Republican hopefuls to woo voters.
The eight candidates who qualified for the main debate were the party's front-runners real estate mogul Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Going into the debate, Carson and Trump were neck-and-neck against the other Republican candidates, according to NBC News. Carson had a slight lead over Trump at 24% support among voters nationwide; Trump held 23%. Rubio came in third at 12%. Bush and Cruz followed with 8% each.
We'll be updating this story with highlights from the Fox Business Network/Wall Street Journal Republican debate as it's going on.
The first question of the debate centered on minimum wage. Candidates were asked whether they stood with protesters and organizers of Fight For $15, a group urging lawmakers to raise the minimum wage for fast food workers and child care workers to $15 per hour. Trump and Carson both said they would not support the movement, and Rubio said raising the minimum wage was not the right way to fix a disappearing middle class.
Debate moderator and Fox anchor Neil Cavuto questioned Carson on recent attacks in the media after it was discovered the former neurosurgeon lied about receiving a full scholarship to West Point. "I don't have a problem with being vetted," Carson said. "I do have a problem with being lied about."
Trump said it was "a great day" Monday when a federal judge determined President Barack Obama's executive decision to protect roughly 5 million undocumented immigrants was overreaching, and building a wall to prevent immigrants coming in from the U.S.-Mexico border could be as "successful" as Israel's security wall built along the Israeli West Bank.
Other candidates quickly shot down Trump's idea of building a wall, including Bush, who said the Hillary Clinton campaign was giving each other high-fives every time Republican candidates touted unrealistic ideas.
When it came to health care, Fiorina came swinging. "As patients, we don't know what we're buying," Fiorina said. Fiorina, who is a cancer survivor, said the president's signature health care act was "failing the very people it's designed to help."
Fiorina said Obamacare should be repealed and that states should be allowed to regulate simpler health care laws, similar to her tax code reform plan which would cut the federal tax code to just three pages.
Fiorina went on to underscore her time as head of Hewlett-Packard and said innovation had been "crushed by government bureaucrats who don't do their jobs very well, and aren't held accountable."
Cruz agreed with Fiorina on the issue of reforming the tax code, saying, "There are more words in the IRS tax code then there are in the Bible." Cruz discussed his plan to abolish the IRS, claiming every income group will see double digit income growth if his plan was put in place. Cruz also said he would abolish the Department of Energy, among five programs that would be removed in a plan that would save the government $500 billion dollars, according to the Texas senator.
Paul and Rubio squared off when it came to the intersection of economics and defense spending. Paul argued Rubio is liberal in his values when it comes to increasing military spending, while Rubio called the Kentucky senator a "committed isolationist" and said he knows the world is a safer place when America has the strongest international military.
Trump agreed that "we have no choice" when it comes to building up the military, "so that nobody messes with us." He also said that he'd rather do smaller deals with each country in the Trans-Pacific Partnership or have no trade deal at all, saying the current agreement allows China to abuse the U.S. through currency manipulation, which he says is not included in the nearly 6,000-page document outlining the partnership.
Carson said Obama's decision to keep special ops in Syria and troops in Afghanistan is better than not having them there at all. "Our goal is to destroy them before they destroy us," Carson said, referring to the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. Bush agreed with Carson when asked what the biggest problem facing the U.S. is, saying it's "Islamic terrorism."
Trump suggested terrorists caused the Russian airplane crash on Oct. 31 that killed all 224 passengers and crew members, although that has yet to be confirmed by U.S. or Russian investigators.
Candidates then discussed U.S. relations with Russia. Rubio called Russian President Vladimir Putin "a gangster" and said Obama doesn't seem to have any strategy with handling the nation.
The audience at the debate booed when moderator Bartiromo noted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has more experience in government and a more extensive political career than most of the candidates standing on the stage.
Rubio claimed under his leadership, the Democratic party would "be the party of the past, and we would be the party of the 21st century." Cruz also said international conflict has increased under Clinton's leadership. "All right I think it's fair to say you're not fans of Hillary Clinton's resume," Cavuto said.
"We are not," Trump replied.
When it came to closing statements, Paul was up first, telling viewers he was the "only fiscal conservative on this stage." Kasich then said he worries what the lives of his grandchildren will be like if Clinton is elected president, and said Republicans must win this election.
Fiorina agreed, saying if Clinton is president, "the rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer ... we must beat Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina can beat Hillary Clinton." Carson said there is something great about America that shouldn't be taken by political correctness, and Trump noted he is self-funding his campaign. The business magnate also said Clinton "is the worst secretary of state in this country" and said the Republican party needs to beat Clinton in the general election.
Each candidate said they would be able to beat the democratic front-runner in the general election.