Debate 2016: Republican Candidates Bring the Heat in Houston Debate

With Donald Trump fresh off large victories in South Carolina and Nevada, Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz took the gloves off Thursday night in the final debate before next week's critical the Super Tuesday contests.

On issues ranging from the release of tax returns to health care and support for Israel, Trump was under attack in a raucous debate while Ohio Gov. John Kasich and neurosurgeon Ben Carson sought to defend their continuation in the race after faltering in recent contests.

See all the all the news an analysis of tonight's debate in the recap of our live blog below.


10th GOP Debate: Check

10th GOP Debate: Check

Well, that does it for the final pitches before Super Tuesday. The five remaining Republican candidates brought their A-games in Houston, with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio slinging harsh attacks at front-runner Donald Trump and Trump shooting back his typical rhetoric.

Oh, and there was also Ben Carson's winning "fruit salad of their life" line, which even inspired a parody Twitter account.

Check out more highlights from CNN's GOP debate in our posts below and head to our Decision 2016 page for more analysis on the state of the election.

Comments/feedback? Tweet us @NBCNews & @msnbc

The Final Words...

The Final Words...

Ben Carson: "A movie was made about these hands," Carson said, raising his hands above the podium, palms facing the audience. "I'm asking you tonight to join hands with me to heal, inspire and revive America."

John Kasich: The Ohio governor brought forth his foreign policy experience in his closing statement, saying, "I have the ability to bring people together." Kasich added that if elected president, "We won't have to spend time figuring out what we're going to do - I will hit the ground running."

Marco Rubio: "The time for games is over," the Florida senator said. "I'm asking you to get behind me - bring an end to the silliness and looniness."

Ted Cruz: In his closing statement, Cruz laid out a laundry list of things he would do on his first day in office, including -- but not limited to --opening an investigation into Planned Parenthood, ripping apart the Iran nuclear deal, repealing Obamacare, and abolishing the IRS.

Donald Trump: "Nobody knows politicians better than I do," Trump began. "All talk - no action." As president, he said, "I will get it done. Politicians won't get it done. We will make America great again."

Andrew Rafferty

Trump to Cruz: 'I'm Relaxed, You're the Basketcase'

Tonight's fiery debate turned into a temporary shouting match between the top three GOP candidates.

GOP Debate Becomes Shouting Match 0:36

It started when Ted Cruz again knocked Donald Trump for his previous financial support to Democratic candidates.

Trump then began shouting over Cruz, saying he donated to the Texas senator's campaign and even has a signed book to show it.

"He never funded me" Marco Rubio chimed in.

"We're having a lot of fun up here tonight, I have to tell you," Trump said.

Cruz then told the GOP frontrunner to relax.

"I'm relaxed, you're the basketcase," Trump shot back.

David Taintor

Republican Candidates to Apple: Unlock the iPhone

The Republican candidates agreed that Apple should help the FBI unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. The tech giant has defied a court order to unlock the smartphone.

Rubio called on Apple to comply with the court order. Ted Cruz said Apple doesn't have the right to defy it. Ben Carson said if Apple doesn't comply, the company is "encouraging chaos in our system."

John Kasich used the question as an opportunity to promote his executive experience as a governor. Kasich said President Obama has failed to lead on the issue, noting that the president should bring both parties together to work it out. "That's why you want a governor," he said. "We do this all the time. We reach agreements all the time.

Andrew Rafferty

Carson Not Afraid to Whine About Not Getting Enough Questions

Ben Carson said he understands people think he whines a lot about not getting enough time to speak during debates.

And then he said he was going to whine some more.

Carson Attempts to Grab the Spotlight During Debate 0:44

"I didn't get asked about taxes, I didn't get asked about Israel," Carson said, adding that he had something to say about those issues and more.

The former pediatric neurosurgeon also said he got audited after his now noteworthy speech against Obamacare at an event attended by President Obama.

"They didn't find anything because I'm a very honest person," Carson added.

Carson, who momentarily surged to the top of the GOP presidential field last fall, has faltered in the polls. He has finished near the bottom of the pack in the most recent nominating contests.

Later, as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump sparred, Ben Carson could be heard yelling from the side of the stage: "Can somebody attack me please?"

David Taintor

Rubio Campaign Begins Selling 'Trump Watch'

Here's some quick e-marketing work by the Marco Rubio campaign. Shortly after the Florida senator said Donald Trump would be "selling watches" if he didn't inherit millions of dollars, Rubio's campaign web store began selling a $10 "Trump watch."

The item's description -- which features an image of a broken Rolex -- says:

"AS SEEN ON TV: "If Donald Trump hadn't inherited $200 million, he'd be selling watches like these in Manhattan." -Marco

NOTE: You won't actually get a broken Trump watch, but your $10 donation will help Marco stop him."

Rubio: 'The Palestinians are not a real estate deal, Donald'

Rubio: 'The Palestinians are not a real estate deal, Donald'

Asked how Donald Trump would remain neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when Israel is America's closest ally, the candidate argued that Israel wasn't actually America's closest ally.

"I think Obama has treated Israel horribly," Trump said of the president. Still, he said, "It doesn't help if I start saying -- I'm pro-Israel, I'm pro-Israel -- it doesn't do any good to start demeaning the neighbors." Trump said that he would love to negotiate peace for Israel, "that being said," he added, "I am totally pro Israel."

Asked to weigh in, Ted Cruz said that this is "another area where Donald agrees with Hillary Clinton," adding that as president, Cruz would stand "unapologetically" with Israel.

John Kasich said that he's been "standing with Israelis for a very long time," and that the problem is that "our enemies are not sure what we will do."

"The bottom line is a deal is not possible," Marco Rubio said, adding, "The next president needs to be someone like me who stands firmly with Israel."

Trump shot back: "In all fairness Marco is not a negotiator. These people may be even tougher than Chris Christie," he said.

"A deal is not a deal when you're dealing with terrorists," Rubio said, adding, "Donald may be able to build condos in the Palestinian area."

Andrew Rafferty

Trump: I Can't Release My Taxes Because I'm Being Audited

Donald Trump said continuous audits have complicated efforts to release his tax returns and hit back at Mitt Romney for suggesting the real-estate mogul's records could contain "a bombshell."

"For many years, I've been audited every year...I can't do it until the audit is finished," Trump said.

Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, on Wednesday called on Trump and all the GOP candidates to release their taxes. Romney released two years of his tax returns in September 2012, which Trump pointed out was much later in the presidential cycle.

"Mitt Romney looked like a fool when he delayed and delayed and delayed," Trump said.

During the debate, Romney responded to Trump:

Ted Cruz said the fact that Trump is being audited should make his unwillingness to release the records even more problematic.

"It's a very routine audit...It's very unfair," Trump said.

Trump: 'We're Going to Cut So Much Your Head Will Spin'

Trump: 'We're Going to Cut So Much Your Head Will Spin'

Donald Trump said that his proposed tax plan would not saddle the country in more debt because the country "will become more dynamic."

Trump said America's economy is being shut off because "we have the highest taxes in the world," adding, "we will do my tax plan, and it will be great."

Trump said he would cut the Department of Education and environmental protections, along with many other agencies, to balance the country's budget and manage debt.

Cutting those two specific agencies would only add up to $76 billion, CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer said, asking what Trump would do about the total $545 billion of debt.

"We're going to cut so much your head will spin," Trump said, adding that he will clean up waste, fraud and abuse, which is "all over the place.

Asked if Trump's plan will work, John Kasich did not answer, instead talking about his plans that have "diversified" the economy in Ohio. "What this country needs is jobs, jobs, jobs," Kasich said.

David Taintor

Carson's 'Fruit Salad of Their Life' Makes a Splash Online

Asked about the criteria he would use to nominate a Supreme Court justice, Dr. Ben Carson said he would look at the "fruit salad of their life."

The remark got some juice online, even inspiring a parody Twitter account.

David Taintor

Trump Dominating the GOP Debate Conversation on Twitter

Trump is commanding the most attention on Twitter tonight. No surprise here -- the GOP debate has revolved around him, and the Republican front-runner is facing attacks from all sides. Here's the full breakdown:

Andrew Rafferty

Rubio Attempts to Turn the Tables on Trump

Marco Rubio continued to challenge Donald Trump, accusing him of the very thing that temporarily derailed his campaign -- repeating himself.

"I watched him repeat himself five times in the last five seconds," Rubio said of Trump as the GOP frontrunner attempted to knock him over his reliance on talking points.

Trump Accused of Repeating Himself During Debate 1:35

Trump came up short on details when asked about his alternative to Obamacare, saying a number of times that he would eliminate state restrictions.

"Now he's repeating himself," Rubio said, setting off a shouting match.

Rubio's campaign immediately pounced on Trump's inability to provide a plan and made a highlight reel:

Trump has slammed the Florida senator for his momentary collapse during the final debate before the New Hampshire primary. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called him out for repeating rehearsed lines.

"I see him repeat himself every night. He says five things: everyone's dumb, he's going to make American great again, we're going to win, win, win, he's winning in the polls, and the lines around the states. Every night. Same thing," Rubio said.

Andrew Rafferty

Trump Pivots When Asked About Appointing Justice Who Would Protect Religious Liberty

Asked about nominating a Supreme Court justice who would defend religious liberty, Donald Trump pivoted to knocking Ted Cruz's support for Chief Justice John Roberts.

"That is a rough thing and I know Ted feels badly about it," Trump said.

Roberts, who was nominated by Republican President George W. Bush, was the deciding vote in decisions protecting the Affordable Care Act. Since then he has been scorned by conservatives who viewed it as a missed chance to undercut President Obama's signature achievement.

Cruz said Trump would "look to cut a deal rather than fight" for a justice committed to protecting religious freedom and hit him for previous support for Democratic lawmakers.

David Taintor

Cruz: Supreme Court 'Hanging in the Balance'

Ted Cruz said the Supreme Court is "hanging in the balance" in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia's death earlier this month.

"We are one liberal justice away from a five-justice radical liberal majority that would undermine" religious liberty, the right to life and the Second Amendment, Cruz said.

Trump, Cruz Trade Jabs Over Poll Numbers, Clinton 1:21

"Every justice I nominate will vigorously defend the Bill of Rights for my children and for yours," Cruz added.

Cruz didn't address the original question -- whether he believes Donald Trump would nominate conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

Trump Says Hispanic Voters 'Get It'

Trump Says Hispanic Voters 'Get It'

Asked whether recent polls showing Hispanic voters nationwide have a negative opinion of Donald Trump will make him unelectable, the GOP candidate said flatly: "No."

"I currently employee thousands of Hispanics," Trump said, adding that the reason he won the contest in Nevada is because Hispanics "know I'm going to bring jobs back from China, Japan."

"They get it," he said. "They're incredible workers."

Trump said that a new Republican Party is coming together, one with Democrats, one with Independents and one with many Hispanic voters. "I'm just telling you," he said, "I will do really well with Hispanics - I will do better than anyone else on the stage."

"We're building a much bigger, much stronger Republican Party," Trump said.

Andrew Rafferty

Rubio: The GOP is the 'Party of Diversity'

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz took a moment to put down their slings and arrows to reflect on the historic nature of their presidential campaigns as Hispanics.

Cruz became the first Hispanic to win a presidential nominating contest earlier this month when won the Iowa caucuses.

"It is extraordinary that of the five people standing on stage, two of us are the children of Cuban immigrants," Cruz said of he and Rubio.

"We are the party of diversity, not the Democratic party," Rubio added.

David Taintor

Trump and Rubio Keep Talking Over Each Other

Marco Rubio is aggressively going after Donald Trump tonight, and the two candidates talked over each other at length during an exchange about the billionaire real estate mogul's proposed border wall.

"If he builds the wall the way he built Trump Tower, he'll be using illegal immigration" to build it, Rubio said, referring to a New York Times article claiming Trump's businesses have hired undocumented immigrants.

Rubio Questions Trump's Business Tactics 1:29

Trump fired back, calling Rubio's claim a "cute soundbite."

Trump went after Rubio over his mortgage, and Rubio fired back at Trump over his inheritance.

Expect to see more of this back and forth throughout the evening.

David Taintor

Trump's Border Wall 'Just Got 10 Feet Taller'

Responding to criticism over from former Mexican President Vicente Fox, Donald Trump said his proposed border wall "just got 10 feet taller."

"Mexico will pay for the wall," Trump said. "It's a small portion of the money we lose and the deficits we have with Mexico."

Trump said he would consider a trade war with Mexico over the issue.

Andrew Rafferty

Trump and Rubio Spar as Debate Opens

The first question in tonight's debate in Houston, Texas centered on immigration, one of the most hot-button issues in the GOP primary -- and it led to a tussle between Marco Rubio and Donald Trump.

"A lot of theses positions that he is now taking are new to him," Rubio said of Trump's history supporting both sides on a number of issues.

Rubio, Trump Face Off on Immigration 1:17

The Florida senator hit Trump on his history hiring undocumented workers, citing news reports that Polish workers helped build Trump Tower while in the country illegally. He also hit the real estate mogul for seemingly favoring foreign workers over Americans at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida.

Trump retorted that he's the only one on stage that has hired anyone.

Here We Go...

Here We Go...

At the 10th Republican debate in Houston, Texas, the stakes are high for the remaining five candidates heading into Super Tuesday. Here's what they had to say first on Thursday night:

Ben Carson to his fellow GOP candidates: "It's not about us, it's about the American people," Carson said. "We will not solve any of these problems by trying to destroy each other."

John Kasich to the "young people": While talking about his family history of coal miners and immigrants, Kasich said to younger generations, "You can do whatever you want to do with your life - America is an amazing country. So to all the young people, he said, pursue "your hopes, your dreams."

Marco Rubio to the GOP establishment: "We have to find out our identity," he said of the Republican Party. "Are we still that kind of party or are we simply going to become the party that preys on people's fears?" he asked.

Ted Cruz to Texas: "Texas provided my family with hope," Cruz said, adding, "I promised Texans I'd fight for them." The senator of the Lone Star State said, "Democrats tell me 'I didn't vote for you, but you're doing what you said you would do."

Donald Trump to America: "Make America great again."