GOP candidates face off in N. Charleston before SC primary

GOP candidates face off in N. Charleston before SC primary

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WMBF) - With just over a month away from the presidential primary elections in South Carolina, Republican candidates had their chance to sway voters on Thursday night.

Everyone from Donald Trump to Mike Huckabee came to North Charleston for the first debate of the year, and the last before voters in the state choose who they want to run for each party.

The debate started on the topic of jobs, but went on to hit a wide range of topics important to people who will be voting in the primaries next month.
Of all those topics, the most time was spent on national security, guns, Hillary Clinton, and Senator Ted Cruz's citizenship.

When it came to national security, ISIS was the focus - candidates criticized how president Obama handled the situation, and claimed Hillary Clinton would do no better.

With the topic of guns, candidates were asked about Dylan Roof and passing a background check. Marco Rubio called it a failure of the FBI, but says that doesn't mean we should take away the Second Amendment.

Like other debates, candidates spent time criticizing their opponent Hillary Clinton, all while taking shots at each other.  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush told the crowd, if Clinton is elected, she'll spend just as much time in a court house as the White House.

One of the more memorable moments of the night, was the back-and-forth between Trump and Senator Cruz over questions around Cruz's natural-born citizenship.

"I'll tell you what, if this all works out, I'm happy to consider naming you as VP," Sen. Cruz said. "So if you happen to be right, you can get the top job at the end of the day."

"No, I think if it doesn't - no, no. I like that, I like it. I'd consider, but I think I'll go back to building buildings if it doesn't work out. I have a feeling it's going to work out actually," Trump retorted.

Before the mainstage event, the so-called "undercard debate" took place. Four candidates were invited – three showed up, and all had a chip on their shoulder for missing out on the big stage.

In the debate before the debate, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee duked it out, trying to win over voters just over a month before the presidential primaries.

Each weighed in on issues like national security and the economy on the stage, but off the stage, all three addressed another thing bothering them: how they weren't allowed to join the main debate.

"Neither one of those interests serve the voters in this," Carly Fiorina said. "Last time I looked, not a single vote has been cast, not in Iowa, not in New Hampshire, not in South Carolina, not in Nevada, not anywhere else in this nation."

"I think that kind of manipulation by the media and the RNC is injurious to the process and breeds even more contempt," Rick Santorum said.

In the spin room following the debate, each hit on other issues they didn't on stage. For Mike Huckabee, it was religion, and Senator Ted Cruz's citizenship.

"The only thing I can absolutely tell you, is that I was for sure born in Hope, Arkansas, and we've already established that you can be born in Hope, Arkansas and be President of the United States," Huckabee said. "That much we know."

When given her chance, Carly Fiorina weighed in on student loans, immigration, and how confident she is in her campaign.

Former senator Rick Santorum hit the same notes, focusing extra time on national security.

"Two months ago we were talking Paris, then it was Paris and San Bernardino," Santorum said. "Then it was Paris, San Bernardino, and Philadelphia. Now it's Paris, San Bernardino and Istanbul. And it keeps going on, and it's gonna go on."

Senator Rand Paul was the fourth candidate invited to be a part of the debate; he chose not to take part.

Most of the candidates from at Thursday's debate will be in Myrtle Beach this weekend for the Tea Party Coalition Convention.

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