Here Are 7 Instances The Republican Nominees Were On-Point During The Debate

Important issues with important answers.

Last night's Republican presidential debate featured 11 candidates, all vying to move up in the polls behind Donald Trump.

As with all presidential debates, it was followed up with some concern about the candidates' apparent hyperbole and potentially misleading rhetoric. We did a bit of fact-checking. Here's what they got exactly right.


1. Rand Paul on the drug war.

When CNN moderator Jake Tapper presented a question to Rand Paul about the federal government's involvement in the drug war, there were two ways it could have gone: the Paul of old, who advocated for reform in the drug war and opposed prosecution of minorities, or the Paul of this past summer, who spent time calling on the #BlackLivesMatter movement to change its name. 

But Paul stuck to the facts, citing the racial disparities in drug prosecution and even calling out Jeb Bush for his hypocrisy and "privilege" in being a drug user in his youth, escaping without punishment, and now advocating for the punishment of drug users today.  

"There is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who said they smoked pot in high school," Paul said. "And yet the people who are going to jail for this are poor people, often African Americans and often Hispanics. And yet the rich kids who use drugs aren't."

As a Vox video revealed, rates of marijuana use are similar regardless of race.

But black and white users are still arrested at very different rates.

"America has to take a different attitude," he added. "More rehabilitation and less incarceration."

2. George Pataki said he would have fired Kim Davis.

Since Kentucky clerk Kim Davis has refused to do her job and issue marriage licenses to gay couples, citing her religious values, Republicans have rushed to her defense. Mike Huckabee even said he would take her place in jail.

But regardless of her belief system, Davis was violating the law by not performing her job. It was a bold thing to say considering the take on the situation from other candidates, but Pataki made a strong case by keeping it plain and simple.

"We have one rule of law in America," Pataki said. "An elected official can't say that I'm not going to follow that law if it conflicts with my beliefs. I think she should have been fired and if she worked for me I would have fired her. We have to uphold the law." 

3. Carly Fiorina on handling Donald Trump.

Since the Republican race has kicked off, many have tried — without much success — to address the antics of unlikely poll leader Donald Trump. Most have resorted to getting down in the mud with him and slinging insults, making personal attacks and trying to discredit his history of financial success.

But Carly Fiorina took a different angle. Jake Tapper presented her with the following question:

"In an interview last week in Rolling Stone magazine, Donald Trump said the following about you. Quote, 'Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?' Mr. Trump later said he was talking about your persona, not your appearance. Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona."

Rather than diving into a tirade on Trump's persona (or his personal appearance), Fiorina took the high road.

"I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said," she responded. And with that, the crowd gave her a raucous ovation and she didn't say another word, not even when Trump stammered out a compliment on how beautiful he thought she was.

4. Ben Carson on vaccines.

Throughout the debate, several candidates made outright false claims about vaccines. Donald Trump told a story about a two-year-old who got a vaccine, then suffered from a fever and became autistic. Senator Rand Paul, a physician, said that he'd heard of many children who had vaccines and suffered "profound mental disorders."

Of course, there is no evidence for any of this. As Dr. Ben Carson pointed out, "there have been numerous studies, and they have not demonstrated that there is any correlation between vaccinations and autism."

5. Jeb Bush on immigration.

Two moments between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump stuck out above the rest, both concerning Bush's stance on immigration and ties to Mexico. After Trump was encouraged by Bush to apologize for making comments about Bush's Mexican-born wife (he declined), Bush took the opportunity to show the juxtaposition of his and Trump's views on immigration.

He asked the crowd if they were going to "take the Ronald Reagan approach" of optimism and hope that someone can come to our country and make it a better place, or the "Donald Trump approach" that says everything is bad and coming to an end. Trump has previously advocated for building a wall and mass deportation.

In some ways, this is more about Trump being wrong than Bush being right. Trump twice said that immigration is costing the United States $200 billion, an unsupported claim that actually ignores the fact estimates for his plan to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants would cost taxpayers $137 billion or more. Trump also insisted that Mexicans should "assimilate" and "speak English," although the United States does not have a national language. 

6. Donald Trump on big money in politics.

Despite some of his belligerent claims and false statistics, Trump did hit one nail on the head:

"The donors the special interests the lobbyists have very strong power over these people."

In fact, Trump's history of exposing the way his own money has influenced politicians to make decisions for him sparked support from Harvard professor and Democratic nominee Larry Lessig, who is running to get money out of politics and vowed to immediately resign the presidency to his vice president once he's done so. 

"Before this, two months ago I was a businessman," Trump said in an August debate. "I give to everybody. When they call I give. And you know what, when I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me." 

Despite the fact that few individual Americans have ever given money to politicians, Jeb Bush has raised $114.60 million and Hilary Clinton has raised $64.36 million. To top that off, it's important to note that money in politics is becoming a major concern for Americans. 

7. Rick Santorum on the minimum wage.

"What every Republican is up there saying is that we are against the minimum wage, because if you are not for increasing it and [few] are making the minimum wage right now, the answer is: Republicans don't believe in a floor wage in America," he said during the debate. "Fine, you go and make that case to the American public. I'm not going to. Not from a party that supported bailouts... not from a party that supports special interest tax provisions for a whole bunch of other businesses. But when it comes to hardworking Americans who are at the bottom of the income scale, we can't provide some level of income support." 

The jury is still out on whether a raise in minimum wage will be healthy for the economy, but early and isolated incidents are showing some optimistic outcomes. One thing we can say for sure, though, is that Americans are in favor of it, and Republicans are on the outside looking in. From Pew:

Democrats would be more likely than Republicans to vote for a wage hike backer by a 72% to 26% margin. A Pew Research Center survey conducted last month found strong support for increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, with 73% of those surveyed in favor.


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