The Republican presidential candidates congregated in South Carolina on Thursday for the latest and angriest primary debate ahead of the opening Iowa caucus on Feb. 1.
Hosted by Fox Business, the field was reduced to seven, with businessman Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich taking the stage to bad-mouth each other and Barack Obama.
Here are the key moments:
The birther issue, born during the 2008 campaign and nurtured by Trump in 2012, has haunted Cruz’s campaign in recent days, the Senator’s purity coming under suspicion over a Canadian birth certificate.
According to the Constitution, only a “natural born citizen” can hold the top job. Trump contends this disqualifies Cruz. Legal experts say otherwise, however it’s been a useful stick with which to beat the Texas senator over the side parting for a week.
Cruz had a prepared answer for Trump, even questioning tycoon’s purity over his Scottish mother. The whole thing was wonderfully preposterous, with Cruz besting the exchange.
Or as one tweeter put it:
On my first day in office, I'll rip up the Internet!
Declining poll numbers have all but ended Ben Carson’s campaign. That and his belief that ancient pyramids were used as grain silos. On Thursday he said that nasty Internet comments were not representative of America’s Christian-Judeo heritage, but stopped short of promising to police the online sphere for civility. The idea had several high-profile converts…
I'm walking here!
Hitting back over the birther issue, Cruz recently highlighted Trump’s “New York values,” playing to the Republican voters' distrust of "big city liberals" and their progressive views on women, guns and abortion. As Cruz pointed out, “Not many conservatives come out of Manhattan.”
Trump, however, gave a staunch defence of the Big Apple, noting the city’s resilience after 9/11. It was the mogul’s best moment of the night, ending with a scolding for Cruz: "That's was very insulting."
It's the apocalypse!
Carson was asked about fighting Isis, the area that has proved a banana skin for the brain surgeon. The candidate started with a jibe at Obama, stating the president doesn’t understand modern warfare. He then described what sounded like a techno-shooter from the '90s, including a riff on electromagnetic pulses.
Still no Muslims!
Despite the outcry at home and abroad, Trump still wants to ban Muslims from entering the US. When asked if he wanted to revise his opinion, Trump said flatly “no.”
Bush offered a rare moment of internationalism in response. “Donald, Donald, I hope you reconsider this, because this policy is a policy that makes it impossible to build the coalition necessary to take out ISIS," he said. "The Kurds are our strongest allies. They're Muslim. You're not going to allow them to come to our country?"
...wasn't mentioned once.