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Live Blog: Top GOP Candidates Spar at Second Debate

We followed the action in real-time as the top Republican presidential candidates gathered for the second debate of the 2016 race.
Photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP

VICE News is providing live coverage of the Republican presidential debate on September 16 starting at 8pm ET. We will be updating throughout the event, so please refresh this page regularly for updates.

Related:Tonight's GOP Debate Will Be a Battle of Insiders, Outsiders, and Afterthoughts

The top 11 Republican candidates are at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, tonight for the second highly-anticipated debate of the 2016 presidential race. The first GOP sparring match took place on August 6 in Cleveland, Ohio, and drew a record 24 million viewers.


Tonight's participants are Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Rand Paul, and Chris Christie.

The debate is hosted by CNN and moderated by the network's Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper, who will be joined on stage by CNN's chief political correspondent Dana Bash and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. The debate is slated to last two hours and 45 minutes — with exactly one bathroom break for the candidates. Stay tuned.


11:13pm: Jake Tapper closes the debate and candidates shake hands. Next presidential debate will take place October 13 between the Democratic candidates.

11:07pm: In closing statements, GOP candidates express admiration for Ronald Reagan, Israel, freedom, the Constitution and smaller government. Still no mention of Black Lives Matter movement, Keystone pipeline, or criminal justice reform.

Here you go Twitter — Brandon Wall (@Walldo)September 17, 2015

11:02pm: Full list of candidates and their self-chosen Secret Service code names:

Christie: True Heart

Kasich: Unit One (lol)

Fiorina: Secretariat

Bush: Ever-Ready

Trump: Humble

Carson: One Nation

Rubio: Gator

Huckabee: Duck Hunter

Paul: Justice Never Sleeps

Cruz: Cohiba (like the Cuban cigar)

Walker: Harley

10:57pm: The candidates, visibly tired after nearly three hours of debate, are now fielding light-hearted questions. Jeb Bush says he would choose "Ever-Ready," "It's very high-energy, Donald," he says, referencing Trump's frequent jabs at Bush's "low energy" campaign.


Are they just doing DVD extras now?

— Jason Mojica (@elmodernisto)September 17, 2015

10:55pm: As the debate draws to a close, the only mentions of race comes in response to who the candidates would put on the $10 dollar bill. Trump, Rubio, and Cruz all say they would put Rosa Parks on the bill. Jeb Bush suggests Margaret Thatcher. Huckabee nominates his wife.

Being married to — Olivia Becker (@obecker928)September 17, 2015

10:50pm: Trump: "Autism is an epidemic. It has gotten totally out of control. I am in favor of vaccines but I want smaller doses over a long period of time."

10:50pm: Paul, the second MD on the stage, weighs in on the issue, saying he is "all for vaccines but I'm also all for freedom."

10:49pm: Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, tip-toes around vaccine question, saying that "multiple studies" show no link between autism and vaccines. On Trump's claims about vaccines and autims: "He can read about it if he wants to. I think he's an intelligent man."

10:47pm: Fact Check: Multiple studies, including this one from Harvard, show that there is a strong evidence to support the connection between higher rates of homicide when there is increased availability of firearms. In Bush's home state of Florida, which has some of the loosest gun control laws in the country, evidence shows that gun murders have risen alongside the rise in gun ownership.

10:46pm: Rubio: "I'm skeptical of the decisions the left wants us to make. They won't do a thing to lower the rise of the sea or stop the drought in California."


10:45pm: Christie agrees with Rubio on climate change: "You don't need government intervention to deal with the problem."

10:43pm: First mention of climate change during the debate. Rubio: "America is not a planet. We aren't even the largest carbon producer, China is. the bottom line is that I'm not in favor of any policy that makes america a harder place to work or live or raise their family."

10:38pm: Gun control takes center stage. Rubio says gun control is not effective because criminals will find a way to get guns regardless of gun laws.

Sorry Mom

— Jeb Bush (@JebBush)September 17, 2015

10:36pm: The candidates continue on the topic of drug legalization. Fiorina jumps in with a sobering personal anecdote about her own child dying from drug addiction, saying that marijuana is a gateway drug and "not the same that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago."

10:35pm: Paul standing up for medical marijuana, criticizes Christie for making implicit threat to send in police to separate moms from kids in cases where parents administer pot as medicine.

10:32pm: Bushsmoothly transitions from marijuana to heroin, bringing up the issue of controversial drug courts. Paul counters, calling Bush hypocritical and points out the racial disparities in drug sentencing laws. This is the first time that race has been brought up in the debate.

bush smoked weed — Colin Jones (@colinjones)September 17, 2015

10:30pm: Paul asks who smoked pot in high school. "He was talking about me," Bush pipes up.


10:30pm: Debate is more than halfway over and still no word on the environment. But moderator does ask candidates about their opinions on marijuana legalization. Paul responds, saying that the drug war has "gone too far" and has had racial implications. He calls for, "More rehabilitation and less incarceration."

Does anyone know… when will this debate finally end? — Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders)September 17, 2015

10:21pm: Cruz on supporting Bush's nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court: "That was a mistake and I regret that."

10:11pm: Fact check: Christie was not officially confirmed by the US senate until four months after 9/11, on December 20, 2001. He was sworn in as federal prosecutor the following year on January 17, 2002.

10:05pm: Candidates discussing Russia's involvement in the Syrian war. Our story: Russia Just Parked Several Tanks at a Syrian Airfield, Pentagon Says

10:04pm: Paul chimes in: "I made my career out of being opposed to the Iraq war."

10:03pm: Candidates spar on the decision to invade Iraq. Bush, Paul, Carson and Trump scramble to explain how they would handle the Middle East situation knowing now what they knew in 2003. Christie, recalling a personal anecdote from when he was inaugurated the day after September 11, 2001, says he would have made the same decision as Bush to invade Afghanistan.

10:02pm: Trump blames Bush's family for getting Obama elected and establishing a climate in which "Abraham Lincoln couldn't even get elected."


10:01pm: Trump, when asked what specific people he would appoint as military advisors, says he is "a very militaristic person" but that he was the only person on the stage opposing the Iraq invasion because it would "destabilize the Middle East."

10:00pm: Bush is questioned about his last name and being the "biggest elephant in a room full of elephants." Bush defends his family, saying that he is unique from his father and brother, and will use more caution in deploying military force. Bush calls his military doctrine "peace through strength."

9:55pm: Rubio invokes North Korea, pivots back to Iran: "We have a president who is more respectful to the Ayatollah of Iran than he is to the prime minister of Israel."

9:54pm: Trump asked about not knowing names of Islamist groups that pose a threat to the US. "You was giving me name after name after name. Arab name, Arab name. I don't think anybody anywhere would have known those names." He says he'll have the "best team" in place if he's president to help with foreign policy.

9:49pm: Asked about chances winning, Kasich says he'd prefer to talk about his economic policy and record rather than his prospects of victory. "Don't worry about me and Hillary," the Ohio governor says, adding that he's confident he can beat Clinton in his home state of Ohio. The other candidates, including Christie and Fiorina, also jump on Clinton. Fiorina says that flying to 200 countries was an "activity" not an accomplishment. Christie says a prosecutor should investigate Clinton's Benghazi scandal. No mention of the other Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders, despite surging past Clinton in recent poll numbers.


9:40pm: "It's all about America," Carson says, in response to a question about flat taxes. Paul says we should eliminate all taxes in order to grow economy. Other candidates seems to agree with Walker, who says the way to increase jobs is reduce taxes.

Huckabee: 'Look. Let's just remember what this — Mike Kalenderian (@ItsMikeKay)September 17, 2015

9:36pm: Christie jumps in: "We don't want to hear about either of your careers. You're both successful people. Congratulations."

9:34pm: Our discussion about how the US workforce is changing:

9:30pm: More than one hour into the debate and the moderators pose the first question about the economy. The two former CEOs on the stage, Trump and Fiorina, spar with over each other's lack of experience. Fiorina cites her time as an executive at Hewlitt-Packard and says Trump is not equipped to run the US economy. Trump, stuttering, says Fiorina could not "run any of his companies."

Amnesty is a dirty word in this — Olivia Becker (@obecker928)September 17, 2015

9:26pm: Our story: Ted Cruz and Immigration — from a Cuban Prison to an Iowa Parking Lot

9:25pm: Cruz, a son of a Cuban immigrants, says he would triple enforcement at the border to stop illegal immigration. Rubio cites his Latino heritage and says US needs to deal with immigration issues with a three-pronged approach, one of the first concrete policy plans mentioned by any of the candidates in the debate.


Related: The USA and its Immigration Dilemma - The Business of Life

9:23pm: GOP candidates are hotly divided on the question of immigration and Spanish-speakers in the US. Trump says "we have to have assimilation," and "this is a country where we speak English and not Spanish." Bush, a fluent Spanish-speaker strikes back and defends his immigration position. According to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, Trump's immigration plan would actually cost $100-$200 billion dollars.

None of you ladies is leaving this debate until Trump compliments EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU

— Justin Ling (@Justin_Ling)September 17, 2015

9:18pm: Dana Bash asks if Bush thinks Trump went too far when he suggested Bush's immigration policy was linked to his Mexican-American wife. Trump says he hears Bush's wife is a wonderful woman.

9:16pm: Our stories: Unauthorized Immigrants Paid $100 Billion Into Social Security Over Last Decade, and Undocumented Immigrants Pay Billions in Taxes to Fund Programs They're Banned From Using

9:14pm: Trump vastly overstates how much illegal immigration costs America, saying it costs $200 billion a year. According to a 2010 study by Center for American Progress, deporting the entire population of undocumented in the US would cost $285 billion over five years.

9:10pm: Trump fields question on immigration, defends his call to build wall on Mexico-US border, saying that "We have a country of laws." Christie says Trump's plan to deport 50,000 people a day is unrealistic with current law enforcement capabilities.


9:06pm: Tapper asks Fiorina about Trump's comments about her appearance. She says, "People in this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said," to wild applause. Trump responds, "I think she has a beautiful face," to awkward, scattered applause.

9:05pm: Trump pivots from Iran: "People better start thinking about North Korea, and perhaps a couple of other places."

It's true. Nobody ever mentions North Korea.

— Jason Mojica (@elmodernisto)September 17, 2015

9:03pm: Christie recalls the time he defunded Planned Parenthood in New Jersey and takes a jab at Hillary Clinton. "Hillary Clinton believes in the systematic murder of children in the womb."

8:59pm: The candidates turn to the subject of Planned Parenthood. Cruz says he is "proud to stand for life" and describes Planned Parenthood as a "criminal enterprise."

Questions are getting specific. Donald Trump zoning out. — Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu)September 17, 2015

8:58pm: Jason Leopold's story: Guantanamo Prisoners Get to Play Video Games in a Recliner — While Being Force-Fed

GOP candidates ignore the principle of separation of church and state when discussing Kim Davis.

— Scott Staton (@scribable)September 17, 2015

8:57pm: Huckabee complains about "accommodating" detainees in Gitmo by letting them grow beards, but not accommodating a Kentucky clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

8:54pm: Ted Cruz can name three different terrorist groups. Refers to a cartoon he likes where Ayatollah Khomeini says "Death to all Americans," and John Kerry says "We'll meet you halfway." Not much laughter from the audience.


8:53pm: Our story about how Americans view the Iran deal.

8:51pm: For the second time, moderators ask a candidate about the situation in Syria. Hugh Hewitt asks Trump what he would have done when Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad "crossed red line." Trump says Obama "somehow does not have courage," and calls for greater military intervention. Rand Paul jumps in to say that most military interventions in the Middle East have not been a success.

8:49pm: Candidates all trying to one-up each other about who hates Iran and the nuclear deal the most. Our piece: Will an end to sanctions open Iran for business?

8:47 pm: Huckabee, very quiet until now, jumps into the debate for the first time, saying Iran "threatens the very essence of Western civilization."

8:44pm: Paul, a libertarian who staunchly believes in cutting defense budget and limiting US intervention, says we don't need to be "rash or reckless" when dealing with Iran.

8:42pm: Cruz, putting acclaimed debate skills to use, says he would "rip to shreds" the "catastrophic" Iran deal. Tapper asks Kasich if he thinks Cruz is "playing to the crowd." Kasich calls upon his experience on the Defense Committee in response.

8:39pm: Half an hour into the debate and still no word from Cruz. Fiorina says she would send a couple of thousand more troops into Germany and arm the Kurds, but does not elaborate. Calls for cutting off diplomatic ties with Russia, saying we've talked to Putin "far too much."


8:37pm: More Trump: "Why are we fighting ISIS in Syria? Let them fight each other and pick up the remnants. I will get along with Putin."

8:36pm: Tapper asks what Trump would do about Syria, Russia, and Putin's involvement. Trump responds, "Syria is a mess."

8:32pm: Trump: "I'm not gonna be bought by anyone. I turned down — I could have double and triple what he's got," referring to Bush campaign contributions. "I turned down $5 million from somebody."

8:29pm: Discussion quickly narrows on issue of outsider versus insiders. Tapper asks Carson if experience in governmental leadership is actually necessary to be a government leader. Carson responds, "I don't really want to get into describing who is or isn't a politician."

8:28pm: Kasich, Walker, Bush, and Trump all itching to "get to the issues." Tapper reasures candidates. Bush grimaces while Trump shouts down Walker.

8:27pm: Rand Paul takes first jab at Trump, calling him "sophomoric," and says he doubts whether he has the temperament to be president. Trump fires back and says there is plenty he can criticize about Paul's "looks."

8:23pm: Trump's temperament called into question. He responds, "Believe me my temperament is very good and very calm… we will be respected outside of this country."

8:21pm: Lead moderator Jake Tapper poses first question to Carly Fiorina: Would she feel comfortable with Trump in charge of US nuclear weapons? Fiorina dodges question and says that "she looks forward to " a long race" and " the common sense and good judgement of Americans." Tapper responds: "You didn't answer my question."


8:20pm: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie calls on CNN to "take camera away from and turn it on the audience." Camera is still on Christie.

8:18pm: Donald Trump: "I say this not in a braggadocious way, I've made billions of dollars."

8:17pm: "Outsider" candidate Ben Carson welcomes other "outsider" newcomer Carly Fiorina in introduction.

8:16pm: Rubio pokes fun at himself and his thirsty gaffe from the 2012 State of the Union, says "I brought my own water."

8:15pm: Each candidate introduces themselves. Huckabee points out that, "none of us are self-professed socialists or under investigation by the FBI for destroying documents," in a not-so-subtle jab at Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

8:12pm: Lead moderator Jake Tapper explains rules for the debate. Each candidate gets 1 minute to answer and 30 seconds to respond. "The goal of tonight is to have a debate," says Tapper.

8:10pm: And we're off! The 11 top Republican candidates take their places behind podiums Donald Trump takes center stage, flanked by Jeb Bush and Ben Carson on either side. Fiorina is the only new candidate for this second debate. For everyone else, this is round two.

8:03pm: CNN's Wolf Blitzer calls for final places as GOP candidates take their positions on the stage.

7:55pm: The JV debate is finished and the verdict is in — Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been declared the official winner. All 15 Republican candidates are posing for a picture before the second round begins.

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