GOP Debate Recap: 2016 Presidential Hopefuls Square Off

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By Carrie Dann

The NBC News political unit live-blogged the second prime-time Republican primary debate, which featured 11 candidates: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Chris Christie.

Our full recap is below.

11:13pm ET: After lengthy closing statements from all 11 candidates, the second GOP presidential debate is over, clocking in at over three hours.

11:04pm ET: The most-tweeted moments of the CNN debate as of 10:45pm ET? Both involved Carly Fiorina.

10:57pm ET: Candidates are asked what their Secret Service code names would be:

Bush says Eveready: "It's very high energy, Donald."

Trump: "Humble."

And then this high-five happened:

10:55pm ET: Candidates asked which woman they'd put on the $10 bill. Rosa Parks is a common answer. Jeb Bush says Margaret Thatcher. Carly Fiorina says she wouldn't change currency at all, calling it a mere "gesture." Says treating women as "not a special-interest group" is more important.

10:54pm ET: Trump said that if we stop "over-vaccinating", he thinks that we’ll "see a huge effect on autism." Per NBC's Charlie Gile: the relationship between vaccines and autism can be traced to a 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield that claimed to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The paper was formally retracted in 2010.

10:46pm ET: Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon, asked about Donald Trump's skepticism of childhood vaccines. Carson explains "extremely well-documented proof" that there is no correlation between vaccinations and autism, says Trump "can read about it if he wants to." Trump suggests an employee's child got vaccines, then had a fever, "now has autism."

Carson laughs in response. "He's an OK doctor."

10:42pm ET: Moving on to climate change. Rubio says: "I'm skeptical of the decisions that the left wants us to make."

10:38pm ET: We've heard very little in this hour from the two front runners, Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

10:34pm ET: Despite the pot jokes, a very substantive conversation about marijuana legalization. Fiorina chimes in with an emotional plea, speaking about her daughter's death from substance abuse.

10:29pm ET: Rand Paul alludes to Jeb Bush's use of marijuana in high school but doesn't mention him by name. Bush jumps in to come clean: "Forty years ago, I smoked marijuana." AND he jokes that his mother isn't happy that he just admitted it on national TV.

10:26pm ET: In the last segment, Christie said that he was appointed to be a U.S. attorney the day before 9/11. Per NBC's Justin Peligri, Christie was appointed by George W. Bush on December 8, 2001, according to a New York Times article at the time. Granted, the nomination had “been expected for months,” but it was in no way official until months after the 9/11 attacks. Christie’s spokespeople have alleged that he had a conversation from members of the Bush administration before the attacks which, according to Politifact, “set in motion a months-long hiring process.” He might have accepted the job — but he wasn’t formally offered it because background checks had not been completed.

10:21pm ET: Another commercial break. This is a *long* debate.

10:18pm ET: Cruz vs. Bush now on whether or not the appointment of John Roberts to the Supreme Court was a mistake. Cruz, who argued before the court as Texas Solicitor General, says George W. Bush should have made appointments that would have resulted in overturning of Obamacare.

Bush: "[Cruz] supported John Roberts... You can rewrite history, I guess, Ted. I think he is doing a good job."

Cruz concedes that he supported Roberts at the time of his confirmation. "That was a mistake. I regret it."

10:11pm ET: Trump is winning the social media race so far.

And speaking of Twitter, Jeb Bush's wife weighed in using the social media platform to address Trump's refusal to apologize for his comments about her.

10:08pm ET: That just happened. Carson and Trump high-fived when talking about their opposition to the Iraq War.

10:04pm ET: Rubio says "North Korea has dozens of nuclear weapons." NBC's Charlie Gile notes that North Korea’s nuclear stockpile is unclear. According to a Johns Hopkins study, North Korea has a stockpile of 10-16 weapons. The Wall Street Journal reported in April that the Chinese estimated that North Korea might have 20 weapons.

9:59pm ET: A testy back and forth between Trump and Bush on George W. Bush's record. Trump contends that the 43rd president's economic record was so bad "even Abraham Lincoln couldn't have gotten elected." Bush snaps back: "He kept us safe."

9:57pm ET: Trump slams Rubio for his low attendance record in the Senate. Rubio counters that he's missing votes because he's leaving Congress and not running for reelection.

9:52pm ET: Trump is asked about his stumbling interview with Hugh Hewitt. "There are few people anywhere, anywhere who would know those names," he counters, noting that Hewitt apologized for the content of some of his questions. "Arab name, Arab name..."

Marco Rubio won't *quite* take the bait on contrasting himself with Trump on foreign policy knowledge. but he tells moderators to dig deeper on foreign policy. "You better be able to lead on the first day."

9:50pm ET: Ben Carson wouldn't specify tonight how much, exactly, the minimum wage should be changed. In an interview with CNBC in May, he said "I think, probably, it should be higher than now," NBC's Justin Peligri notes.

9:45pm ET: Moderator Hugh Hewitt contrasts John Kasich's style with Carly Fiorina's when it comes to attacking Hillary Clinton. "I'm from Ohio," says Kasich. "She is not going to beat me there!"

9:42pm ET: Scott Walker is asked about his statement that raising the minimum wage is "lame." He replies "The best way to help people see their raises go up is education."

9:39pm ET: Fiorina said she saved 80,000 jobs during her time at HP and that the company grew to 160,000 jobs, notes NBC's Justin Peligri. The number of jobs in the company barely budged from her start to her finish, from before the merger with Compaq to afterwards. Here's some more information on her business record.

9:36pm ET: A risky move for Christie, but he gets applause at the end. Telling Fiorina not to interrupt him, he chides both Trump and Fiorina for arguing over their business records.

"We don't want to hear about your careers!" he says, citing economic woes of the middle class. "Stop this childish back and forth!"

9:33pm ET: Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump sparring over their respective business records.

Trump to Fiorina: "I’ll only say this: She can’t run any of my companies."

Fiorina to Trump: "You were forced to file for bankruptcy. Why should we trust you?"

9:27pm ET: Cruz said that he’s the only candidate who has never supported "amnesty." Via NBC's Justin Peligri, it is true that he has never supported it. Politifact also says that he is the only one who has never “plainly supported something like a path to citizenship or some other form of legal status. Six HAVE expressed outright support for a path to citizenship…” Some candidates have waffled, though — Carson for example, said that the path to citizenship is a “moral choice.” He wouldn’t comment on the Gang of Eight bill that Rubio was part of. In the debate just now, he didn’t get any more specific.

9:26pm ET: Donald Trump talks about the "lot of really bad dudes here from outside" the United States. Via NBC's Charlie Gile, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Press Secretary Gillian Christensen, Homeland Security doesn’t keep track of the number of incarcerated illegal immigrants. However, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported that it had removed 86,923 criminal aliens from the United States.

9:21pm ET: Rubio jumps in to the debate about English vs. Spanish speakers, telling the story of his immigrant grandfather.

By the way, here's some more background about how many people in the United States speak a language other than English at home.

9:18pm ET: Trump defends his slam of Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish on the campaign trail. "It didn't sound great to me," Trump says. "We have to have assimilation."

9:15pm ET: The immigration portion of the debate has begun, with fireworks. Bush tells Trump that his comments about Bush's Mexican-American wife were "totally inappropriate."

Bush asks for an apology, and while Trump says he's heard "great things" about Columba Bush, he refuses to apologize, saying "I did nothing wrong."

9:07pm ET: Right before the commercial break, the exchange many have been waiting for: Trump is asked about his reported "Look at that face!" comment about Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina: "I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said."

Trump: "I think she’s got a beautiful face and I think she’s a beautiful woman."

9:03pm ET: Big, enthusiastic crowd response for Carly Fiorina, who graphically describes the Planned Parenthood videos and calls for conservatives to act.

"As regard to Planned Parenthood, anyone who watched this video tape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us! "

9:01pm ET: Where's Donald Trump? Not much to say in this brawl over Iran and the possible government shutdown over Planned Parenthood, the wheelhouses of the one candidate he hasn't feuded with: Ted Cruz.

8:57pm ET: The questions over Planned Parenthood have begun. Kasich says he doesn't want to shut down the government over funding, while Cruz says "we need to stop surrendering."

8:52pm ET: Ted Cruz and John Kasich are in a back-and-forth over Iran. Kasich emphasizes need for global unity, while Cruz slams the agreement.

8:48pm ET: Donald Trump gets a question on Syria from conservative commentator and host Hugh Hewitt. They've tangled before; Trump called his interview questions "gotcha" last week.

8:45pm ET: Again, Walker jumps in to the game, saying he'd love to play cards with Putin because Obama "folds every time."

8:43pm ET: Via NBC's Charlie Gile: In attacking opponents for taking money from big donors, Trump says "I’m not taking money from anybody." Trump told CNN in August that he “would even take big contributors as long as they don't expect anything because the only people that can expect something from me is going to be the people that want to see our country be great again." So he has said that he doesn’t want any strings attached to his donations, but that’s not the same thing as accepting them altogether. Trump has a campaign website and the money goes to the campaign, according to the Washington Post.

8:40pm ET: Fiorina takes a dig at Donald Trump, noting why it's important for candidates to be able to identify actors like Quds Force commander Ghasem Soleimani. Here's what she's talking about.

8:36pm ET: Jeb Bush repeats his claim that Florida led the nation in job growth seven out of eight years. But NBC's Justin Peligri notes that the stat isn't quite accurate: Florida placed 5th overall in job growth, behind Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming, and Idaho. So the state had pretty good job growth — but he’s exaggerating a bit. Here's more from the Washington Post Fact Checker.

8:33pm ET: Jeb Bush really mixing it up with Trump, saying the real estate mogul shelled out big donations in his fight to get casino gambling in Florida. (Bush maintained his stance against gambling in the state.) Trump replies with a zinger: "More energy tonight! I love it!"

Jeb Bush: "You wanted it and you didn't get it — because I was opposed to casino gambling before, during and after. and I'm not going to be bought by anybody."

8:31pm ET: Carly Fiorina leaps in to the debate about outsiders.

8:30pm ET: Trump says "everything I've done has virtually been a success." NBC's Charlie Gile notes that while Trump has never personally filed for bankruptcy, his businesses have filed Chapter 11 four times. (Trump Casino in 1991, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in 1992, Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts in 2004 and Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009.) More at this link.

8:26pm ET: Scott Walker jumps into the fray between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump, saying "Mr. Trump, we don't need an apprentice in the White House. We don't need an apprentice in the White House, we have one right now." NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reported on that strategy from the Wisconsin governor here.

8:22pm ET: Trump vs. Paul, continued! Trump says of the Kentucky senator: "I never attacked him on his look and believe me there's plenty of subject matter there — that I can tell you."

8:21pm ET: Donald Trump insists that he has the right temperament to be president, but first he takes a jab at Rand Paul, saying that Paul doesn’t deserve to be on the stage.

8:20pm ET: Right off the bat, Fiorina won't answer whether she'd be comfortable with Donald Trump's finger on the nuclear codes. "That's not for me to answer."

8:19pm ET: Creative. Chris Christie asks directors to point camera at audience during his introduction and asks if they think they're better off under Obama.

8:16pm ET: Donald Trump says in his introduction that he wrote "The Art of the Deal" and that he's rich, but he adds that he says so "not in a braggadocious way."

8:14pm ET: Candidates try to hit some funny notes in their introductions. Rubio, famously thirsty in his State of the Union response, mentions he's got his water handy. Huckabee makes a Mr. T reference and takes a swipe at Hillary Clinton.

8:12pm ET: Aaaaaaand we're off! Each candidate gets 30 seconds to introduce themselves. The first word goes to Rand Paul, who says "I spend my days defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."

8:02pm ET: The candidates are walking to the stage. The big question on many of our minds? Who will take on Donald Trump?

7:55pm ET: While we're waiting for the prime-time debate to begin, here are the eight match-ups we'll be watching. And here's First Read's summary of what each candidate on stage needs to do.

7:50PM ET: Before the prime-time debate, four candidates who did not qualify met in an hour-long “undercard” debate. Those candidates were: Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki.

You can read NBC’s coverage of that event here.

Those four candidates debated for a total of 85 minutes. Between 8pm and 11pm ET, 11 candidates will face off on a much more crowded stage.

The standout from the undercard debate was Lindsey Graham. Here's a look at what he said, from NBC's original video team.