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GOP debate off to a contentious start as Donald Trump refuses to commit to supporting party nominee

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The latest on the first Republican debate of the 2016 campaign for president:

10:25 p.m.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is emphasizing his opposition to abortion.

He says he believes future generations will “call us barbarians for murdering millions of babies.”

Rubio disputes the Republican presidential debate moderator’s characterization that he opposes abortion except in the case of rape and incest. He says he has never advocated for those exceptions.


10:18 p.m.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has no apologies about four of his businesses filing for bankruptcy.

Trump said he was acting like any other successful businessman in “taking advantage” of the nation’s laws. He spoke during the first GOP presidential debate in response to a question from Fox News host Chris Wallace.

Wallace pressed Trump further. He noted that the most recent bankruptcy filing of a Trump corporation cost hundreds of jobs and deprived lenders of $1 billion. Trump responded that the lenders were “killers” and said Wallace was “living in a dream world.” He added that he has never personally declared bankruptcy.

Trump concluded that his business skills would come in handy in the White House given that the United States is trillions of dollars in debt.


10:10 p.m.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is defending his lofty goal of achieving 4 percent economic growth, a rate last reached more than a generation ago.

At Thursday’s GOP debate, Bush said the threshold, which also includes 19 million new jobs by a second Bush term, is possible by simplifying the tax code, repealing Democratic President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law and accelerating domestic energy production by reducing regulations on the oil and gas industry.

But a key part of Bush’s economic plan is perhaps one of its most controversial among Republicans: an immigration system that puts people who are now illegally in the country on legal job and tax rolls.

He would do that by allowing people in the country illegally to stay in the country by seeking permanent legal status, in part by working, learning English and paying fines.

He says, “Fixing our immigration system and making it an economic driver is part of this.”


10 p.m.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich says the winning presidential Republican nominee must take a broad, pro-growth stance if the party wants to beat Democrat Hillary Clinton. But he says economic prosperity is meant to be shared with the less fortunate.

Asked during Thursday’s first presidential debate on Fox News, Kasich was asked how to answer Democratic criticism that Republicans favor the wealthy and do too little for the poor.

“Economic growth is the key to everything, but once you have economic growth you have to reach out to the people in the shadows,” the former congressman said.

Describing himself as the son of a mailman, Kasich predicted Clinton would take a narrow line of arguments against the GOP and said Republicans’ vision should be expansive.

“Restore the sense that the miracle will apply to you,” he said. “Lift everybody. Unite everybody. And build a strong United States of America again.”

9:40 p.m.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is defending his statement last year that people in this country illegally have committed “an act of love.”

During the GOP presidential debate, Bush said most people staying in the country illegally are trying to provide for their family, a position that earned him groans from the audience in the Quicken Loans Arena.

But Bush says fixing the immigration system is more important than figuring out why people are in the country illegally.

And Bush has called for limiting legal immigration based on family ties, and expanding it for economic reasons.

Bush, whose wife is a naturalized Mexican immigrant, says: “There’s much to do. Rather than talking about this as a wedge issue, the next president will fix this once and for all, as a driver for high, sustained economic growth.”


9:35 p.m.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says many U.S. citizens feel taken advantage of when it comes to immigration.

“This is the most generous country in the world when it comes to immigration,” he said Thursday, speaking from the stage at the first GOP presidential debate, televised nationally on Fox News.

He took issue with celebrity businessman Donald Trump’s assertion the Mexico is to blame for America’s illegal immigration problem. Most illegal immigrants, Rubio says, are coming from countries such as Guatamala and El Salvador and are overstaying their welcome, as opposed to sneaking over the border.

Rubio says his Senate office takes phone calls frequently with people who are frustrated with the slow legal immigration process and wonder if they should just come illegally.


9:30 p.m.

Billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump isn’t backing down on his allegations that Mexico is sending criminals into the United States.

Fox News host Chris Wallace challenged Trump to provide evidence of that charge during the first GOP presidential debate.

Trump snapped back that if it wasn’t for him, no one would be talking about illegal immigration.

He said that U.S. Border Patrol agents have told him the Mexican government is sending criminals to the U.S. because they know the government in America is “stupid.”

Trump says, “they say this is what’s happening because our leaders are stupid, our politicians are stupid. And the Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning.

He adds, “they send the bad ones over, because they don’t want to pay for them, they don’t want to take care of them. Why should they, when the stupid leaders of the United States will do it for ’em.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said that Trump’s immigration comments have clearly touched a nerve and it is “a mistake” for people to ignore him.


9:26 p.m.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is says executive experience is not a requirement for president.

The remark came in response to a question about kind comments Rubio had made about in-state rival Jeb Bush’s record as governor.

“I would add to that this election cannot be a resume competition,” Rubio retorted sharply. “This election better be about the future, not the past.”

Rubio’s reply is not just a jab at Bush, but also against Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton.

Rubio said if the election is a competition between people with government experience then Clinton, a former senator and former secretary of state, would win in 2016.

Rubio remarked that he was raised in a working class home in Miami.

“How is Hillary Clinton going to lecture me on living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised to paycheck to paycheck.”


9:20 p.m.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says defunding Planned Parenthood is only one strategy for addressing revelations contained in recently released videos.

Huckabee said during Thursday’s debate he would like to see the Constitution adjusted to protect the rights of the unborn.

“It’s time we admit the Supreme Court is not the supreme being,” he said.

An anti-abortion group released several secretly shot videos with Planned Parenthood executives describing how the organization provides fetal tissue to medical researchers and discussing different procedures and prices.

Planned Parenthood executives have denied claims that the transactions were sales and said any donations are legal and ethical. The law allows abortion providers to be paid for processing fees but not to profit from fetal tissue.


9:15 p.m.

Billionaire real estate mogul and Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is making no apologies for his past crude comments about women.

At the first GOP presidential debate Fox news host Megyn Kelly sharply questioned how Trump has described women in the past, criticizing their bodies and making sexually suggestive statements on his television show.

Trump tried to joke initially, saying the statements were only about liberal actor Rosie O’Donnell. But he said testily that he didn’t have time for “total political correctness.”

Staying combative, he said that if Kelly didn’t like it, “I’m sorry.” He added that he’s always said nice things about her, but he threatened to be less kind to her in retaliation.

“I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness,” he said. “This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore.”


9:05 p.m.

The opening moments of the first debate of the 2016 presidential election are all about Donald Trump, who refused to rule out running as an independent.

At center stage, the GOP frontrunner was the only one of 10 candidates to raise his hands when the Fox News hosts asked if anyone onstage would not pledge to support the eventual party nominee.

“I will not make the pledge at this time,” Trump said.

That enraged Sen. Rand Paul, who said Trump was “already hedging his bets because he’s used to buying politicians.”

Trump had already loomed over the events Thursday night. During an earlier event for candidates relegated to a discussion outside of prime time, Trump took shots for his past positions in favor of universal health care and abortion rights.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich got a standing ovation from the home-state crowd.


8:25 p.m.

Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t on stage for tonight’s GOP debate but her team is working hard to get in on the conversation.

Clinton’s campaign released a video hours before the debate began, attacking Republicans for their “throwback” stances on issues like gay marriage, women’s rights and immigration.

Her campaign is welcoming reporters into their campaign headquarters in Brooklyn to watch the televised face-off between the 10 Republicans who score highest in recent polls.

Even the Clinton headquarters decor is designed to send a message. Hanging on the walls of the conference room are posters featuring large photos of the Republican candidates and quotes of them praising…wait for it…Hillary Clinton.

“Women of every political party owe a debt of gratitude to Hillary Clinton,” reads a quote from Carly Fiorina. The former HP executive spent much of her time on the debate stage attacking Clinton.


6:20 p.m.

The undercard to the first Republican presidential debate is in the books.

The seven contenders who haven’t polled well enough to make the main stage spent their hour-plus debate attacking Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and comparing themselves to billionaire Donald Trump, who wasn’t there but leads in the polls.

Trump and the nine other top Republican hopefuls take the same stage for their debate at 8:50 p.m. on Fox News. The other Republicans include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.


6:15 p.m.

What’s the first executive order they’ll issue on the first day in the Oval Office?

For the candidates taking part in the early forum before Thursday’s prime-time GOP presidential primary debate, the answer is simple: Get rid of those issued by President Barack Obama.

Says former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, “It’s going to be a pretty busy day. … It will be a real long day.”

George Pataki says he undid many of the executive orders of Mario Cuomo when he took over as New York governor. “I would do this to Barack Obama’s executive orders.”

Former technology executive Carly Fiorini piled on. She says, “I would begin by undoing a whole set of things Barack Obama has done.”

Among Obama’s most unpopular executive orders among Republicans are his directives to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and defer the deportation of some people living in the country illegally.


6:05 p.m.

The lesser-known Republican presidential contenders are eager to go after Planned Parenthood.

At the Cleveland debate of second-tier GOP candidates Thursday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the Justice Department and IRS should investigate the group. He also called on Republicans in Congress to cancel federal funding for the organization, even if doing that sparks a government shutdown.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham denied Democratic charges that the GOP’s concern about the group is part of a “war on women.” The discussion was sparked by undercover videos that show Planned Parenthood officials talking about harvesting organs from aborted babies. Graham said that’s the real war on women.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki is the lone candidate who supports abortion rights but even he called for defunding the group.


5:50 p.m.

In the early forum, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is the first to launch a thorough critique of Democratic favorite Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying “she represents the third term of a failed presidency.”

Graham said Clinton would not accelerate economic growth because, he argued, she would not sign the repeal of President Barack Obama’s 2010 federal health care law.

Cutting even deeper, Graham underscored what national polls suggest is nagging doubt about Clinton’s trustworthiness. He noted the questions about the personal email server she used as secretary of state.

“When Hillary Clinton says, ‘I’ve given you all the emails you need,’ it means she hasn’t,” Graham said.

Graham, who grew up poor, also poked at Clinton’s claim that she left the White House “dead broke.”

“I know the difference between being flat broke, apparently she doesn’t,” he said. “Hillary, I’ll show you flat broke. That’s not it.”


5:30 p.m.

The second-tier candidates are trying to show off their conservative credentials on immigration.

Contenders at the early presidential debate in Cleveland on Thursday were asked what they would say to a child whose family could be broken up by deportation.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has proposed limiting legal immigration along with cracking down on illegal migration. He noted that his father had to wait in Italy for seven years before immigrating legally to the United States and reuniting with his family.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry spoke about the importance of securing the border. Neither candidate said how they would address a child whose parents they’d deport.

Real estate billionaire Donald Trump surged in the polls after blasting people who enter the United States illegally.


5:20 p.m.

Former technology executive Carly Fiorina is the only Republican presidential hopeful on the early debate’s stage to have never held elected office, and she is playing up her outsider status.

George Pataki and Jim Gilmore are both former governors in the 2000s. They have been quick to distance themselves from current-day politics. New York’s Pataki has been out of office since 2006, and Virginia’s Gilmore since 2002.

Asked about the enthusiasm that celebrity businessman Donald Trump, current GOP frontrunner, is tapping into, Fiorina said, “the political class has failed you.”

Like Fiorina, Trump’s never held elected office.


5:15 p.m.

Donald Trump didn’t attend the early debate for second-tier Republican hopefuls. But he’s looming over it.

The seven contenders who couldn’t crack the top 10 in polls were asked early-on in the event about the billionaire real estate mogul’s lead in the polls.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry complained that Trump is running a campaign based on celebrity rather than conservatism. He noted that Trump once supported universal health care.

Former Hewlett-Packer CEO Carly Fiorina noted that Trump once backed abortion rights and once supported allowing people in the country illegally to stay. He’s also close to the Clintons.

But Fiorina also said Trump has tapped into an anger felt by voters sick of politics as usual.

Trump will be standing center stage during the prime time debate starting at 9 p.m.


5:10 p.m.

The first line of questioning for the second-tier Republican presidential candidates is humbling at best.

In the opening minutes of Thursday’s forum for candidates who didn’t make the 9 p.m. main event, Fox News moderators Bill Hemmer and Martha McCallum ticked through a series of questions that effectively asked: Why are you running?

Former New York Gov. George Pataki weighed running in 2008 and 2012. He says about those campaigns, “I was ready to lead, but I wasn’t ready to run.”

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore says unlike eight years ago when voters elected then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, they’re looking for experience in 2016.

“I think the times are different now,” says Gilmore, who has been out of office for more than a decade.


5:01 p.m.

And the first debate question of the 2016 campaign goes to … Rick Perry.

The former Texas governor was asked why voters should choose him as the party’s nominee at Thursday’s pre-debate forum.

Taking part are the seven lower-polling candidates who didn’t make the cut for the prime-time debate.

The main event starts at 9 p.m. with 10 candidates, selected based on their rank in five recent national polls.

Perry said being the powerful individual in the world requires an extraordinary amount of work, and said he’s ready for the job four years after his first run for president.

There were only a few people in the seats at Quicken Loans Arena to watch the early debate, which includes Perry and three other current or former governors, a sitting senator from a crucial early-voting state, a former senator and the GOP’s only female White House candidate.


4:35 p.m.

The National Rifle Association will air its first political ad of the 2016 campaign during Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate.

Their target: Gun control advocate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The 30-second spot suggests that the billionaire media mogul is either running for president or wants to pick the next one. The ad says his agenda will be: “Outlaw your snack foods. Drive up your electric bill. Dismantle your gun rights.”

Bloomberg has been a major financier of gun control advocates in recent years, including spending millions backing candidates who favor curbing gun rights.

The NRA has spent millions doing the opposite.

The NRA said it will spend around $1 million on the ad, which will run on Fox News, CNN and on local television in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. All three are home to early presidential primaries or caucuses.

The ad will also appear digitally in those states and South Carolina, another early primary state.


3:25 p.m.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul says the indictment of a longtime political aide to his family is “a little bit of a distraction” as he heads into the first Republican debate of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Federal prosecutors this week unsealed charges against Jesse Benton and two others who worked for Rand Paul’s father during then-Rep. Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign for president.

They are accused of conspiring to buy the support of an Iowa state senator just before that year’s Iowa caucuses.

Rand Paul tells WBKO-TV in Bowling Green, Kentucky, that it’s “suspicious that President Obama’s administration is bringing this forward in the middle of a presidential debate.”

Benton has temporarily stepped down from his role at a super PAC supporting Rand Paul’s White House bid.

He says in an email to The Associated Press that he “will return soon when I am exonerated.”


3 p.m.

President Barack Obama expects a lot of the talk at the first presidential debate of the 2016 Republican primary campaign will be about him.

But he’s not clearing his schedule to watch all of Thursday night’s event in Cleveland.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says Obama is interested in the arguments that will be made and will be following the news coverage of the debate.

Earnest predicts most of the debate will be about Obama and his use of his influence. But the White House isn’t preparing responses they can send out right away to criticism leveled by the GOP candidates.

On the Republican side, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he will be watching the two-hour debate.

McConnell says it “should be a lot of fun.”


1:45 p.m.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has some advice for the Republican presidential candidates getting ready for their first debate: Be respectful and embrace solutions.

Haley tells a summer meeting of the Republican National Committee on Thursday that her state is still healing from the horror of June’s racially motivated massacre at an African-American church.

Haley says that people coming together in the wake of the shooting led to the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state capital in Columbia.

The second-term Republican governor says if that kind of consensus can happen in South Carolina, “just think of what we can do across this country.”

She spoke at a GOP lunch just blocks from the site of Thursday night’s debate in Cleveland.

She says she’ll be watching for substance and details at the debate. Her message for the candidates: “Tell me how you’re going to solve our problems.”


12:15 p.m.

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker are giving him a rousing send-off as the Wisconsin governor heads to Ohio for the first debate of the 2016 campaign.

Cheers of “Go get ’em, Scott!” rang out from a crowd Thursday at the Wisconsin State Fair, where Walker visited before leaving for Cleveland.

Walker, looking relaxed in a blue fair polo shirt, jeans and sneakers, said at the opening ceremony he couldn’t miss the first day of an annual event he loves.

He also noted that Abraham Lincoln visited the Wisconsin State Fair in 1859, the year before he was elected president.

Walker says he’ll be back at the fair next week to participate in a meat auction, livestock auction and to take his two nieces on the potato-sack slide.


11: 15 a.m.

It’s a big day for Republicans, but Democrats are making some debate news of their own.

The Democratic National Committee released plans for its presidential debates on Thursday, announcing the first of six will be held Oct. 13 in Nevada.

Four debates are planned for early primary states in advance of the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1.

That decision has already prompted complaints from candidates trying to challenge front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton for the nomination.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley says “it would be very foolish for the DNC and bad for our party, bad for our prospects, for us to be the party that limits debates.”

Dates for the final two gatherings are not yet set. But the committee says they will be in February or March.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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