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What Went Down In The Second GOP Debate
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12:16 AM
Where Does Carly Fiorina Go From Here?

It can be dangerous to predict how the polls will move in response to debates. On the one hand, journalists and political pundits don’t have so much in common with the Republican voters who are watching the debates at home. On the other hand, the post-debate narratives and “spin” sometimes matter more than what happened on the debate stage itself.

But for what it’s worth, a lot of media types in my Twitter feed seem to think Carly Fiorina did really well, and my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight agree. I asked our team to grade each candidate from A to F on the basis of how much they helped their chances of winning the nomination or otherwise running a “successful” campaign. The grades were sent to me individually so we didn’t have the opportunity to crib off one another (not that we’re immune from other types of groupthink). Twelve people responded, including me.

Fiorina A A+ A-
Rubio B A C
Bush B A- C
Christie B- B+ D
Carson B- B+ D
Cruz C+ B D
Trump C+ B+ D
Kasich C+ B+ D
Paul C+ B C-
Walker C+ B- D
Huckabee C B D

Everyone gave Fiorina an A-, A or A+. No one else was really that close, with Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush averaging a B. Donald Trump averaged a C+ in our straw poll, although with a wide range of responses including one “WTF.”

If Fiorina gets a further boost in the polls, it will be interesting to see where her support comes from. Fiorina doesn’t have traditional credentials for a nominee, having never held elected office before (she lost to the Democrat Barbara Boxer in the California senate race in 2010). But Fiorina’s policy positions are fairly conventional, mirroring those of the Republican establishment, and her ability to claim “outsider” status could be a boon given the mood of the GOP electorate. So check to see how Fiorina does in the polls — but also whether she picks up any endorsements or other signs of support from the Republican establishment.

11:38 PM
Who Spoke The Most?

Donald Trump dominated the debate, and he had the help of the moderators to do it. They asked him more questions than any other candidate (and only one fewer than they asked Huckabee, Kasich, Rubio and Walker combined). Bush was the second-most-frequent speaker, relying on the favor of the moderators and the other candidates’ propensity to attack him (and thus give him the chance to reply). Fiorina pushed her way into the top three with her frequent interruptions.

This analysis excludes the opening statements and the final, lighthearted questions posed to everyone.

11:28 PM

11:22 PM

Here’s what the moderators thought was most important for the candidates to cover. We tallied all the topics that got at least two questions (excluding the silly session at the end).

11:13 PM

Trump and Carson both said we give too many vaccines, too close together. The Institute of Medicine took a look at whether the immunization schedule is safe and found that there was no evidence of safety concerns. But it went further, saying “rather than exposing children to harm, following the complete childhood immunization schedule is strongly associated with reducing vaccine-preventable diseases.”

11:12 PM
Reagan Led Carter Through Much Of The 1980 Campaign

Scott Walker just said that Ronald Reagan trailed just before the 1980 election. That’s not true. As this Monkey Cage blog post details, Reagan led consistently over Jimmy Carter in an aggregate of polls from June 1980 through the election.

11:10 PM
Finally, Someone Talks About The Economy

We’re down to the final minutes of the debate, and finally someone is talking about the economy. Jeb Bush correctly notes that poverty is up under Obama and incomes and workforce participation are down. Whether his policies will reverse those trends is another question. Bush has pledged to deliver 4 percent economic growth, something most experts believe will be difficult at a time when baby boomers are retiring. Still, it’s good to hear someone talking about serious economic problems in this debate — even if it’s likely come long after most people have tuned out.

11:05 PM

Huckabee asked: “Why doesn’t this country focus on cures rather than treatment?” Nixon declared a war on cancer in 1971. This year the National Institutes of Health will spend $5.4 billion on cancer research. We still have no cure. 10:57 PM 10:50 PM Trump’s brain, like all of ours, is primed to reach false conclusions. 10:48 PM Yes, Trump should stop saying vaccines cause autism. There is no link between vaccines and autism. 10:47 PM Yeah, if I’m Clinton, I’m happy I don’t have to stand on a stage for three hours. 10:46 PM If I’m Hillary Clinton, Micah, then I want Donald Trump to be a factor in the Republican race for as long as possible, and I don’t think Trump has had a particularly good night. But we’ll see — it’s not very easy to predict how the polls move in immediate response to a debate. The one thing I feel fairly confident about is that Fiorina is going to get some kind of bounce. 10:45 PM Nate and Harry, If you’re Hillary Clinton watching this debate (though apparently Clinton isn’t watching), are you happy with how it’s going? 10:45 PM We had a brief respite from Trump, but he’s still gotten at least twice as many questions from the moderator (12) as anyone but Bush (nine). Walker and Huckabee bring up the rear with three each. 10:44 PM Chris Christie just spoke about his Social Security plan, which includes eliminating benefits for those making more than$200,000 a year. As I noted when Christie first proposed overhauling Social Security, polling indicates that Christie will not benefit electorally from his stance.

10:42 PM

The data on Christie’s claim that marijuana is a gateway drug: 111 million Americans have tried marijuana in their lifetime; 4.6 million people have tried heroin. Marijuana “does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse,” according to the federal Institute of Medicine.

10:42 PM

10:36 PM
Rand Paul Sounds Social Justice Message On Pot

Ending mass incarceration was once a predominantly liberal issue, but it’s increasingly drawing bipartisan support. Conservatives worry about the high cost of locking up millions; libertarians worry about state overreach; and progressives worry about the impact on minority communities.

One thing that was interesting about Rand Paul’s answer, though, was that he justified his position on explicitly social justice grounds. The data backs him up: The people locked up for drug crimes are disproportionately poor men of color. As my colleague Oliver Roeder has written, however, ending mass incarceration will require far more than releasing nonviolent drug offenders.

10:34 PM

10:33 PM

If you believe the polls, most Republicans haven’t lit up a joint. According to a recent Gallup survey, only 31 percent of Republicans say they’ve done the doobie. Moreover, only 36 percent of Republicans in an April 2015 Fox News poll were in favor of legalizing marijuana.

10:26 PM

10:22 PM

Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush are going at each other over the Supreme Court nomination of John Roberts. As I pointed out during the first debate, no Republican senator voted against the Roberts nomination, and the vast majority of Republicans nationwide were for it.

10:18 PM

There’s an advantage in being attacked. A quarter of candidates’ chances to speak have come when they’re mentioned by opponents and get a right of reply. Trump and Bush have gotten to do this the most. Bush’s opponents have given him half of his chances to speak.

10:16 PM
I'm The Only …

## Cruz

If you’re fed up with Washington and looking for somebody to stand up to career politicians, I’m the only one on this stage that’s done that over and over again.

I am the only candidate on this stage who has never supported amnesty.

## Christie

I’m the only person on the stage who spent seven years as the United States attorney after Sept. 11.

## Kasich

I am the only person on this stage and one of the few people in this country that led the effort as the chief architect of the last time we balanced the federal budget.

## Walker

I’m the only one on the stage that has a plan introduced to repeal Obamacare on day one.

## Trump

I’m the only person up here that fought against going into Iraq.

10:05 PM

Trump is going after George W. Bush; that’s dangerous if not executed correctly. According to a May 2015 CNN/ORC survey, 89 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of him.

10:01 PM

Nearly half of the times Fiorina has spoken, it’s been because she has interrupted others.

10:00 PM

I think Walker has been better than in the previous debate. The problem is that Rubio and Bush have each been sharper and had more memorable lines than Walker, and they’re the ones who Walker’s competing against most directly for the establishment’s support.

9:59 PM

It’s September 2015. The Iowa caucus is scheduled for Feb. 1, 2016. Unless Walker is running out of money, it’s not that dire.

9:57 PM

A lot of people were talking about this debate as do or die for Scott Walker, and he hasn’t exactly stood out so far — are things really that dire for the Walker campaign?

9:50 PM

Ben Carson was incorrectly written off by the media as having a poor performance during the first Republican debate. In fact, however, Google search traffic suggested that a lot of people were looking him up during the debate. It turned out that he was rewarded with a bounce in the polls.

But this time around? Carson’s well behind in Google search traffic versus Trump, Fiorina and Jeb Bush. And — relatedly — he hasn’t had that much airtime, or made much of what he’s had. Voters can appreciate Carson’s quiet demeanor. But it’s one thing to be low-key, and another to be low-energy.

9:48 PM

I should note again that most Republicans are opposed to raising the national minimum wage. The majority of Republicans (56 percent) are against raising it, according to an August 2015 Marist survey. That’s very different from the majority of Americans (68 percent), who are in favor of raising it.

9:46 PM
Christie Stands Alone On The Economy

Before tonight’s debate began (we were all younger then), I wondered whether the Republican candidates would seize on stagnant incomes to criticize President Obama’s stewardship of the economy. For the first 90 minutes, they had few opportunities. Now they’ve been given one, and they’re mostly choosing to focus on taxes and Carly Fiorina’s business record.

The one exception is Chris Christie. Right out of the gate tonight, he spoke about Americans’ general sense of stagnation. And as soon as the subject turned to the economy, he addressed the lack of income growth. I’m surprised no one else is jumping on the issue.

9:45 PM

The Trump bankruptcy saga is confusing because he repeatedly claims, accurately, that he never filed for bankruptcy. But he means only personal bankruptcy. He is quite familiar with corporate bankruptcy, because four Trump properties in Atlantic City went through Chapter 11. Forbes tells the story in detail here.

9:43 PM

It’s always difficult to know how Americans will feel about a changing of our complex tax structure after a vigorous debate. In theory, though, most Republicans (59 percent) were in favor of a flat tax in a May 2015 YouGov survey. Most Americans (61 percent), however, are either opposed to or hold no opinion of the flat tax.

9:41 PM

Trump has had more questions directed at him (nine) than Carson, Rubio, Huckabee and Walker combined (two for everyone but Walker, who has one).

9:39 PM
Fiorina ‘Doubled’ Size Of HP – By Buying Another Company

Trump is right about one thing: Fiorina doubled the size of Hewlett-Packard mostly by buying Compaq, not by attracting more customers. That merger is now widely seen as a failure. Perhaps the definitive account of Fiorina’s time as CEO of HP — written while she was still there — is Carol Loomis’s 2005 profile in Fortune.

9:34 PM

An hour and a half in (and yet not halfway), we’ve got our first question on the economy. It goes to Trump, just as nearly a quarter of questions have (9 of 39 and counting).

9:30 PM

A quarter of all the talking is now coming via interruptions, and the moderators are still sticking with “please … please” to try to take back the mic.

9:27 PM

Trump says we speak English in the U.S., but we also speak Spanish: 35.8 million people speak Spanish, including 21 million U.S.-born Latinos who speak at least some Spanish at home, according to the Pew Research Center.

9:26 PM

If you feel like you haven’t seen Huckabee or Walker in a while, that’s because they’re the two candidates to get only one question directed at them so far.

9:26 PM

Based on tonight’s debate, we’re likely to hear a lot about whether the ability to speak English should be required to become an American citizen. According to a June 2015 Public Religion Research Institute survey, the vast majority (89 percent) of Americans believe that speaking English is an important part of being an American. That’s a far greater percentage than said the same about believing in God (69 percent), being born in America (58 percent) or being Christian (53 percent).

9:24 PM

I wrote earlier about the challenge of sustaining momentum when you’re only getting to speak once every 20 minutes or so. Some of the candidates seem to be overcompensating by resorting to stunts or gimmicks, like a motivational speaker who’s trying to keep the interest of a bored audience. Christie’s had a little bit of that, for instance — it seemed overly theatrical when, in his opening statement, he asked the camera to turn to the audience. Huckabee and Cruz can both be a little gimmicky. One thing that helps Fiorina, by contrast, is that she’s using her time wisely, being forceful and direct without resorting to stunts.

9:23 PM
The Trouble With ‘Build A Wall’

CNN’s Jake Tapper’s question to Trump was a smart one: How would you deport 11 million people? Trump gave a non-answer: Build a wall.

The problem with that answer is that the undocumented population has been basically flat in recent years and is down from its mid-2000s peak. The number of undocumented immigrants is still near an all-time high, but it isn’t growing much. Moreover, as many as half of undocumented immigrants didn’t cross the border illegally; they came legally and overstayed their visas.

9:20 PM

9:18 PM

I’m not sure we should be comparing Fiorina to Gingrich in terms of a potential surge, though. She’s an odd case in that while she doesn’t have traditional credentials — never been elected to public office — her policy positions are straight up the Republican fairway and pretty establishment-friendly.

9:16 PM

Jeb Bush says if Planned Parenthood is defunded, there are thousands of health clinics that can provide women’s health services. That’s not entirely true according to the Congressional Budget Office, which estimated on Tuesday that 5 percent to 25 percent of Planned Parenthood’s patients, 130,000 to 650,000 women, would face reduced access to care if the organization’s funding were cut.

9:14 PM

Donald Trump wants to build a wall along the Mexican border. Most Republicans are in favor of this. According to a poll out from Monmouth this month, 73 percent of Republicans want the wall to be built. Less than half of Americans (48 percent) are in favor of the wall, however.

9:12 PM

Sure. Of course Fiorina could surge again. It doesn’t take that much to have a surge. If you’re polling at 10 percent, you’re in third place, and at 20 percent, you’re in second place. At 25 percent, you might be in first place, if you can take some of that support from Trump. Fiorina is having an excellent debate, she has pretty good favorable ratings and she has room to grow.

9:10 PM

Yes. Newt Gingrich did in the 2012 cycle.

9:10 PM

Could Fiorina really have a second surge in her?

9:08 PM

9:02 PM

The moderators are ceding much of the debate to the candidates. They aren’t cutting people off when they interrupt or keep talking, and, as a result, only 60 percent of comments in the first hour have been in response to questions. Twenty percent have been interjections, and 20 percent are the replies candidates get to make when mentioned.

8:59 PM

Republicans are with John Kasich when it comes to defunding Planned Parenthood. According to a Quinnipiac poll out this month, the majority of Republicans (66 percent) are for cutting off federal funding to Planned Parenthood. The majority (53 percent) are also opposed to shutting down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood.

8:58 PM
Who Are Reagan’s Ideological Heirs?

This debate is taking place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, so according to the (admittedly imperfect) statistical ratings, which candidates are closest to Reagan ideologically? Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee.

8:56 PM

First question for Huckabee! And it’s also the first domestic policy question of the night (it’s been all foreign policy and campaign details so far). Only Trump (4), Bush (3), and Fiorina, Paul and Cruz (2), have had more than one question addressed to them so far.

8:50 PM

Repeating a thought from last time: Even if you’re giving them three hours total, it’s really hard in a field of 11 candidates to sustain any momentum if you’re only answering a question once every 20 minutes or so.

8:50 PM

Huckabee still hasn’t technically gotten a question; he pre-empted the moderator to just talk. Trump just got his fourth.

8:49 PM

Q: Has there ever been any studies on whether speaking over time or interrupting other candidates has a negative/positive impact on voters’ opinions? — Brian Roney

A: I found this in the paper “Politeness Strategies in the 1992 Vice Presidential and Presidential Debates” by Edward Hinck and Shelly Hinck: “The debate between Perot and Gore over NAFTA on ‘Larry King Live’ revealed that a candidate’s willingness to be interrupted politely, as well as an opponent’s ability to interrupt politely, might play an important role in presenting a desirable image of leadership.”

8:46 PM

Based on Google search traffic, Lindsey Graham led the JV debate for the majority of the program.

8:44 PM

Huckabee is the only person who still hasn’t spoken since the introduction.

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8:43 PM

I’m not quite so confident, Harry, that Trump’s temperament is a non-issue. Because how it comes across when he’s giving a stump speech, or in an interview, is different than when he’s on a debate stage, where there’s more of a level playing field and he has the potential to come across as more of a bully. The one little downtick Trump has had in the polls was after the last debate, in fact.

8:40 PM

8:40 PM
Earth to Donald Trump: Most Countries Like Obama

It should again be pointed out that most people in the international community actually like us. According to the Pew Research Center, “across the 40 countries polled [in 2015], a median of 65% [of residents] say they have confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs.” Moreover, “Obama remains much more popular globally than his predecessor, but opinions vary significantly across nations and regions.”

8:38 PM

Of course, in the unlikely event that Trump wins the Republican nomination, he will have to accept other people’s money in the general election to fight the Democratic nominee.

8:36 PM
8:29 PM

Let’s put it this way, Micah: Trump’s favorability ratings have been climbing, as have his horse-race poll numbers. If GOP voters were that concerned with his temperament, he would either be stalling or falling. That’s not happening. Let’s see if it becomes an issue in the weeks and months ahead.

8:28 PM

Harry, there’s a lot of talk about Trump’s temperament, and whether it would be dangerous in the White House, but don’t we have enough evidence that GOP voters like his temperament?

8:26 PM
About That Balanced Budget Claim

Just a reminder: Don’t listen when governors like Scott Walker brag that they balanced their state budgets. They’re required to by law.

8:24 PM

Chris Christie knew what he was doing when he asked the audience members whether they were confident in the future of this country thanks to President Obama. Most Americans (69 percent) in a May George Washington Battleground poll said they don’t believe that the next generation will be better off economically. That includes 78 percent of Republicans.

8:18 PM

The candidate I’m most interested in watching tonight — after Trump and Carson, anyway — is Marco Rubio. We’ve been fairly bullish about his chances for a long time here at FiveThirtyEight. His favorability ratings are strong among Republicans, and he seems to have avoided some of the negative media attention that other establishment candidates like Walker and Bush have had recently. And yet, there’s not been a lot of movement toward him in the polls, and he’s received very few endorsements so far.

8:16 PM

8:15 PM

8:12 PM

8:10 PM

8:09 PM

8:08 PM
A Look At the Google Search Interest During the JV Debate

Despite not being in the first debate of the night, Donald Trump led all four debating candidates in Google search traffic until the end of the debate. Lindsey Graham and Bobby Jindal were the only others who really stood out.

8:04 PM

8:03 PM

8:02 PM
Will The Candidates Talk About The Economy?

If any of the Republican candidates were looking for any last-minute talking points for tonight’s debate, they could have done worse than to look up the government’s annual income and poverty report, released earlier today. In the first six years of Obama’s presidency, household income fell and poverty rose. I dug into the numbers in more depth earlier today, but the main takeaway is that more than five years after the recession, many Americans have yet to see any recovery at all.

I’ll be interested to see whether any of the numbers from today’s report make it onto the debate stage tonight. Economic stagnation is a major theme, at least implicitly, in several of the candidates’ campaigns. Jeb Bush recently rolled out a tax plan he says will help boost economic growth. (I’m skeptical.) Marco Rubio has his own economic plan. And Donald Trump has tapped into a deep well of economic unease on the part of many voters.

Yet economic issues were strangely absent from the first debate. They got a bit more attention in the “JV” debate earlier tonight, from Rick Santorum’s discussion of immigrants’ impact on wages to Bobby Jindal’s claim that “the idea of America is slipping away.” I’ll be watching to see if those themes carry over into the main debate tonight.

7:58 PM

7:56 PM
Trump's Biggest Issue Is That He's Not Really A Republican

Micah, to Connor McGuire’s “what’s up with Trump?” question:

Our basic theory of the race is outlined in our “Donald Trump’s Six Stages of Doom” article. It’s not that there’s any one barrier that’s necessarily insurmountable for Trump. It’s not that he’s necessarily going to go up in a poof of smoke. He could even retain some support through Iowa and New Hampshire. But there’s a long, long road between now and the nomination, and there are a number of hurdles along the road that are difficult for a candidate like Trump to overcome. He’s liable to trip on one of them. The most important one is probably the sixth hurdle, which is that Trump is not really a Republican, and that it’s the Republican Party’s nomination to bestow. Even if you believe that the influence of party elites has weakened, Trump is exactly the sort of candidate who the GOP establishment would fight to its dying clutches to avoid nominating.

Not much has changed from when we wrote that article six weeks ago; the polls don’t magically go from being meaningless in August to meaningful in September. Maybe after Thanksgiving or so, when voters are thinking about who they might actually vote for instead of checking out the showroom, you can read a little bit more into them. But not now.

7:49 PM

7:48 PM

Graham and Jindal’s exchange over whether to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding illustrates the fundamental split within the Republican Party between pragmatists and ideologues. There are only a few legislative days left before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, and a substantial group of House members seem willing to go to the brink to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding. Most Republican leaders in the House and Senate are trying to prevent that from happening. On Wednesday, a conservative Republican from California, Tom McClintock, resigned from the House Freedom Caucus over the group’s willingness to shut down the government over the issue, which he said would once again damage the party’s reputation. He said it would “alienate the public from the pro-life cause at precisely the time when undercover videos of Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practices are turning public opinion in our favor.”

7:46 PM
The Potential Impact Of A Flat Tax

A: How much revenue a flat tax would raise depends, of course, on where you set the tax rate. But at the levels discussed by most flat-tax proponents, the government would raise far less revenue than it does now.

A flat tax is basically an extreme version of the common Republican claim that if we eliminated loopholes, we could lower overall tax rates. That’s true, but only up to a point. The problem is that under our current, progressive tax system, the wealthy pay a disproportionate share of total taxes. That’s true even after they take advantage of various loopholes and deductions. A flat tax, then, would either have to raise taxes on the middle class or generate far less total revenue (or, quite likely, both).

As to your specific question, yes, there have been various independent estimates of the impact of a flat tax. A good place to start is the Tax Policy Center, which has concluded in the past that the only way for a flat tax to be revenue-neutral would be for it to raise taxes significantly on the middle class.

7:44 PM

I can’t answer for Nate, Micah, but it comes down to a few important points for me. First, Donald Trump has yet to receive support from the party actors. There’s a reason FiveThirtyEight keeps track of endorsements from governors, members of the House and senators: They are fairly predictive of the outcome. No, you don’t need to lead in endorsements to win, but you should be on the board. Trump hasn’t gained any support so far. Second, it’s unlikely that Trump will gain much — if any — support from party actors. No one has been nominated in the modern primary era (since 1972) without holding elected office. Third, at some point, you have to figure that Trump’s recent liberal statements will eventually come back to haunt him.

7:37 PM
Obama Is Respected Internationally

Republicans are going after Obama and how he is viewed internationally. While there are different ways to measure how effective Obama’s foreign policy has been, a 2015 Pew Research Center survey found that “a median of 65% [of residents of different countries] say they have confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs.” Pew goes on to note that “overall, Obama remains much more popular globally than his predecessor.”

7:34 PM

Harry and Nate, it’s been a while since we’ve talked about Trump, and we got a question from Connor McGuire on Facebook: “Why does Trump only have a ‘5% chance’ of winning the primary, according to you guys?”

7:31 PM
Santorum On The Minimum Wage

Rick Santorum, along with Ben Carson, is one of the few Republican candidates who support raising the federal minimum wage — though only to $8.75 an hour over three years, far below the$10.10 proposed by President Obama, let alone the \$15 supported by labor activists. “How are we going to win if 90 percent of Americans don’t believe we care about them?” Santorum asked.

Interestingly, though, in 2012 Santorum opposed Mitt Romney’s proposal to index the minimum wage to inflation. At the time, he said he supported raising the wage when it fell “below a certain level,” but he argued that automatic wage increases would drive up inflation.

7:25 PM

7:24 PM

Rick Santorum is the only Republican in favor of raising the national minimum wage, and there’s a good reason for that. In a late July Marist College poll, only 37 percent of Republicans were in favor of raising the minimum wage. Santorum, however, is in agreement with most Americans (68 percent), who want the national minimum wage to be increased.

7:23 PM

Well, Micah, the only candidate who really has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the nomination is Jindal. It’s not much more than a snowball’s chance, but it’s a better chance than what Pataki, Santorum or Graham has, and it would start with a very strong performance in Iowa. So are Iowa Republicans liking what they’re hearing from Jindal? Or does he convey the impression that he’s trying a little too hard? I don’t know. Jindal does seem to be getting decent Google search traffic from Iowa, but that’s undoubtedly a small and very noisy sample.

7:22 PM

Nate, anything stand out to you so far?

7:19 PM
Pataki Targets Hedge Fund Loophole

Pataki joins Trump and Bush in calling for an end to the carried-interest loophole, which primarily benefits investment managers. And like many Republicans, he wants to eliminate deductions in order to bring down overall tax rates. That’s an idea many economists could get behind — deductions tend to go primarily to the wealthy, and they create distortions in the economy.

That said, it’s pretty much impossible to close enough loopholes to bring the top tax rates down as much as Pataki and other candidates propose. To make the numbers work, you either need to keep rates higher or you have to raise trillions less in taxes.

7:12 PM

Bobby Jindal is going after his fellow Republicans for confirming John Roberts to the Supreme Court. When Roberts was confirmed in 2005, not a single Republican senator voted against Roberts’ confirmation. And it wasn’t just an establishment vote, either. In a Pew Research Center poll from September 2005, 68 percent of Republicans nationwide were for confirming Roberts. Just 8 percent were against it.

7:11 PM

Graham just won the debate.

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7:08 PM

7:07 PM
Republicans Agree With Pataki

George Pataki may seem like a liberal when he says Kim Davis should have issued those same-sex marriage licenses. The ABC/Washington Post poll found that a majority of Republicans, 51 percent, believed that the “county clerk should” have issued the marriage licenses, however.

7:05 PM
Which Candidates Are Generating Interest?

Unlike the previous JV debate, when Carly Fiorina was drawing far more Google search interest than other Republicans, there isn’t much of a front-runner this time around:

Graham is drawing a bit more traffic than Jindal, and Jindal a bit more than the other two. But Trump is being searched for far more than all of them despite not even being on the stage!

7:01 PM

Even George Pataki, who tried to come up with a practical alternative to ending birthright citizenship, didn’t mention that the concept happens to be in the Constitution. (Specifically, the 14th Amendment.) It’s still not clear how the many Republicans who want to end this form of citizenship would do so. A constitutional amendment is unlikely to get through Congress, where Republicans do not have two-thirds control, or past 38 states. (Republicans currently control only 31 state legislatures.) Donald Trump has spoken vaguely about how some lawyers believe there is another path to ending birthright citizenship, but only a few legal scholars support the notion. At the moment, it’s a popular talking point on the GOP circuit that has little chance of happening.

6:59 PM

With talk of Syrian refugees in the Republican debate, it’s important to remember that most Republicans are not in the mood to accept more of them. In a YouGov poll out this week, 52 percent of Republicans said the refugees are Europe’s problem, and 69 percent of Republicans oppose the United States taking in more refugees.

6:59 PM

I don’t think so, Micah. The economy is the No. 1 issue for Republicans in poll after poll. In a late July Quinnipiac poll, 32 percent of Republicans said foreign policy topics (such as terrorism) were the most important issue in the presidential election. For 65 percent of voters, non-foreign-policy issues were most important.

6:53 PM

Harry, you pointed out how Graham basically only talks about foreign policy, but does that issue resonate enough with GOP voters to fuel a candidacy?

6:52 PM

CNN said before this debate started that they wanted the candidates to engage with each other. The network is getting its wish. Where are the fault lines in the GOP field? Twitter holds some clues:

6:51 PM
Immigration And The Labor Force

One more note on immigration and the economy: Lindsey Graham is right that with the aging of the baby-boom generation, the U.S. will become increasingly dependent on immigrants to help boost the labor force. Indeed, immigration — combined with our comparatively high birth rate — has helped the U.S. avoid the “demographic cliff” that is hurting economies in Japan and Europe.

It’s worth noting, though, that most Latinos in the U.S. labor force are native-born, not immigrants.

6:49 PM
Securing The Border Is Paramount For Republicans

During this debate on illegal immigration, pretty much all of the Republicans are saying that securing the border is the No. 1 issue. Many of them are probably looking at the polls. A majority of Republicans (55 percent) in the most recent CNN/ORC poll said that “a plan to stop immigrants from entering the U.S. illegally” was more important than developing “a plan to allow those in the U.S. illegally who have jobs to become legal residents” or “deporting immigrants already in the U.S. illegally.”

6:47 PM

To your earlier question, Micah, I agree with Jindal on this — with the caveat that it’s a little hard to pin down what Trump believes. I’d think about the question like this: What if Donald Trump had decided to run in the Democratic primary instead? It’s not that much of a stretch. Some statements he’s made in the past — a wealth tax! single-payer health care! the undue influence of the Club for Growth — would fit right in with the left of the Democratic Party. He’d explain away his flip-flopping on abortion by saying that it was a distraction. Immigration would be a tougher fit — but there are still some Blue Dog Democrats who aren’t so liberal on immigration. If Donald Trump could almost run as a Democrat, he’s not much of a Republican.

6:45 PM
Is Santorum Right On Immigration?

Rick Santorum says immigration hurts American workers. Economic research suggests that isn’t true in the aggregate — immigrants create more jobs than they destroy. But there are losers from immigration. Some research has found that immigration pushes down wages for less-skilled workers — a group that has already been buffeted by technology, trade and other forces.

Santorum is definitely right about a different point: U.S. incomes are stagnant. New data out today showed that median household income remains far below pre-recession levels and has seen minimal if any improvement in recent decades.

6:42 PM
Trump Gives Lindsey Graham A Reason For Being

Lindsey Graham has focused almost exclusively on foreign policy in the debate so far and throughout his campaign. When I wrote about Graham’s chances back in June, I noted that Graham may have already won because most of the Republican candidates adopted his positions on foreign policy. With the emergence of Trump and his previous non-hawkish statements on foreign policy, Graham’s candidacy may have gained relevancy.

6:34 PM

Bobby Jindal just said that nominating Donald Trump would be “gift wrapping” the general election for Hillary Clinton. Maybe that will end up being the case, but keep in mind that Trump is actually polling at about the same level as the other Republicans are against Clinton in a general election matchup.

6:33 PM
Bobby Jindal has been going after Trump since Thursday

Bobby Jindal has tweeted 94 tweets since last Thursday: 66 of those were attacking other candidates, and 62 of those were attacks directed at Donald Trump.

6:28 PM

Nate, is Jindal right? Is Donald Trump not a Republican ideologically?

6:28 PM

A: I don’t think there’s a correct answer to this necessarily, but a bad early debate moment can definitely hurt a candidate. I think Rick Perry hurt his chances tremendously by not taking a hard-line stand against illegal immigration in the September 2011 debates. I think Tim Pawlenty hurt himself when he didn’t go after Mitt Romney in June 2011. Would these candidates have won if not for these moments? We cannot say, but they certainly didn’t help.

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6:12 PM

Can I answer your question, Micah? If I were someone who could be an alpha dog on a stage with four people, but I wasn’t the most interesting story on a stage with Trump, Carson, etc., I might prefer the JV debate. Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee, in particular, have enough rhetorical skill that they could run circles around the JV field. They might get lost on the big stage.

6:11 PM

I don’t know if there is a right answer here, Micah. There were three candidates who saw a real bounce coming out of the first set of debates: Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. The first and third on that list were on the outer edge of the varsity Fox debate. The middle (Fiorina) was part of the junior varsity debate.

Carson was able to hold on to and expand that bounce coming out of the first debate, but there is no guarantee that will happen this time. With even fewer candidates in the JV debate tonight, one of the four may have a better chance of standing out.

6:04 PM

Hey Harry (and readers), if you were a Republican presidential candidate, would you rather be: 1. on this JV debate stage and sharing the stage with just three other candidates, or 2. on the outer fringe of the varsity debate and contending with 10 other spotlight-seekers?

5:59 PM

5:57 PM

Some recommended reading before tonight’s festivities: Our friend John Sides at the Monkey Cage wrote an excellent piece about how media coverage can influence voter perceptions in the primaries. Here’s my favorite snippet:

But at other times, you can see reporters discussing the campaign “narrative” as if it came from angels who floated down to earth on gossamer wings, clutching a sacred scroll that, once unfurled, told us The Narrative.

In fact, the news media collectively write the narrative. In so doing, they make many, many choices about how much to cover events and candidates during a campaign, and how to cover them.

In other words: It’s important to watch how the media watch the debate — and what narratives they unfurl from it — in addition to how the candidates are performing.

One small addendum to John’s piece. I’d wager that the tenor of media coverage becomes less important the further you go in the race. That’s for several reasons: Voters will become better informed; paid advertising will play a larger role; and there will be fewer candidates, which reduces the potential for tactical voting based on who’s having a media-driven surge.

But for now? Voters are still just tuning in to the race, and the choices the media make in how they cover the race can have a huge impact on the polls.

5:49 PM
RIP

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5:35 PM
The Endorsement Race Looks Very Different From The Polls

There’s been a lot of buzz about outsider candidates in the Republican field like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, and Trump and Carson are currently No. 1 and No. 2 in national primary polls. But historically, polls this early in the campaign haven’t been as meaningful as endorsements from party bigwigs. While most U.S. representatives, U.S. senators and governors have not yet endorsed a candidate for president, those who have endorsed have come out in support mostly of establishment candidates. In fact, Trump and Carson (as well as Fiorina) have yet to receive a single endorsement.

5:13 PM
Fiorina May Have Gotten Very Lucky

CNN changed the rules for tonight’s Republican debates, and as a result Carly Fiorina will be on stage for the varsity debate instead of the warmup round. CNN tweaked its criteria after a number of Republicans, including Ben Carson, complained that Fiorina was set to fall short of the main stage even though she was surging in the polls after a stellar performance in Fox News’ Aug. 6 debate. The funny thing is that Fiorina’s post-debate surge may have been nothing more than a momentary bounce. Check out this Huffington Post Pollster chart of Fiorina’s support in national Republican primary polls:

She reached her zenith (5.1 percent) on Aug. 13, stayed steady through Aug. 22, and has been falling ever since. As of this writing, she is down to 2.3 percent. That’s not quite as low as where Fiorina stood before the Fox News debate (1.2 percent), but she’s lost most of the bounce.

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4:59 PM
Welcome!

Some things haven’t changed in the month-plus since the first Republican debate: The reliably bombastic Donald Trump still sits atop the polls. But some things have changed: Ben Carson has surged into second place, Scott Walker has faded out of the top tier and Rick Perry straight dropped out.

What will the second GOP debate change? Watch it with us here.

1:19 PM
Live Coverage of the Second Republican Debate

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