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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Debate Analysis

Aired September 16, 2015 - 23:15   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[23:15:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hot up there. A lot of sweating. Three hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was. It was a gauntlet they ran up there. I would say one thing is that Carly Fiorina had a great opportunity tonight. I think she took full advantage of it. she's going to move up in the polls as a result of this.

Chris Christie was on the verge of falling off the stage, had a very strong night, very strong performance tonight.

Let's listen in to Donald Trump. Chris, go ahead.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us after speaking to your family. What did they say to you about how you were tonight?

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They were very proud and very happy and it was a beautiful time. I had an amazing time. Three hours is probably a record-setting long debate. But I guess you're selling a lot of commercials during that. Because they increased it, I guess, it was supposed to be two, but they were very professional the way they handled it. CNN did a very good job.

CUOMO: Correct. We agree about that. It seems like it was well run. It was lot to talk about. Who do you think came out on top with the best ideas for the American people?

TRUMP: Well, I think everybody did well. There was - nobody did poorly. And I would think really everybody did very well. I was very impressed.

CUOMO: Anybody more than anybody else?

TRUMP: I don't want to say that. I think certain people did really well. I would never say that of course.

CUOMO: Carly Fiorina is getting good buzz coming out of the debate.

TRUMP: Really, well, I think she's a very nice person. I think that really I think everybody did very well, Chris.

CUOMO: Do you feel that you did something differently tonight than you did in the first debate?

TRUMP: No, I think probably the first debate went very well for me also. They both went very well. They're saying very nice things. And I just heard a couple of people come over and say, wow, that was great. So I think I'm very happy with both performances actually.

CUOMO: There seemed to have been more discussion among the candidates during the breaks and afterwards here in this debate than in the first one.

TRUMP: I think that's true. Well, we're getting to know each other a little bit. Even though it is quite tough and sometimes a little bit nasty, we're getting to know each other and, you know, you develop relationships. I have a lot of respect for a lot of people on the stage.

CUOMO: What have you learned after tonight?

TRUMP: Well, I've learned that I have no trouble standing for three hours. And, you know, that's - I mean, literally it must be a record. I hope that the audience is OK. Because I actually think it is a little bit too long. But I learned that we have a lot of talent in the republican party and I think we'll do very well come election day.

CUOMO: When you look to your left and look to your right tonight, did you still feel you stand above those who else would want the job?

TRUMP: Well, I never say that. I would never say that I do. I think I'll do a great job. I think I'll be the greatest jobs producer that there ever has been in this country. I know exactly what to do. That's what I do do. CNN did a poll. I was the number one in terms of leadership, number one in terms of the economy and jobs. And I don't mean number one by a little bit. You know the poll very well, by many times and I think I would certainly do an unbelievable job of putting the country back to work and literally I think people would be extremely happy and extremely proud of our country.

CUOMO: Can you point to anything that you heard tonight where you listened and thought, you know what, I like that idea? I think I'm going to use that?

TRUMP: Well, I think I heard a lot of things. We'll discuss it on your show at length. Because I have a whole family over here.

CUOMO: You have to process. What do you do next? What do you do now?

TRUMP: Well, I'm getting on the plane, we'll go back to New York and then I'm going up to New Hampshire tomorrow afternoon and going to Iowa. I'm going all over the place. We're having a lot of fun. The polls have been amazing. Just amazing. The receptivity has been so incredible. You know, in Dallas we sold out the Mavericks arena. I mean, we were in Alabama, Mobile, Alabama. We had 31,000 people. The response has been incredible. They like what I'm saying. They agree with what I'm saying.

CUOMO: What does it mean to have your family in the crowd, your daughter, your son? TRUMP: Well, it is great. Here they are. I mean, it's just great to

have them. And they seem to be so receptive today. They liked - I could see they were giving me high five and a high sign.

CUOMO: Ivanka must have liked it when you said she should be on the $10 bill.

TRUMP: She sat for a long time tonight. But we had a great good time. And I was very impressed with everybody.

CUOMO: So if tomorrow after the pundits discuss and the polls come out and they say Trump is on top, will you be surprised?

TRUMP: No, I wouldn't be. I think I did very well. I think everybody did well. But I think I did very well.

CUOMO: Gave enough meat on the bones?

TRUMP: I think so, yes.

CUOMO: Mr. Trump, thank you for talking to us. Good luck going forward.

TRUMP: Thank you.

CUOMO: Anderson, there you have it. Mr. Trump, everybody is working the room up here. There has been a lot more discussion among them than we have seen in the past.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And that, David Axelrod, was the question. Could Donald Trump handle more discussion between the candidates?

DAVID AXELROD: Yes. Well, first of all, let me say for a guy who says he's not a politician, he sure reads a lot of polls. He quotes a lot of polls. But in terms of I don't think he was particularly specific tonight. But what he did do is bang the drum again on the issues that are driving his base on immigration in particular, on some tax issues that are driving his base.

I think he did what he wanted to do. I also think he was a little bit more subdued than he's been in the past. He started the debate kind of inexplicably slapping Rand Paul gratuitously who wasn't even in the discussion. But then he calmed down and it seemed over the course of the three hours that he settled into a rhythm. I actually thought he did what he had to do.

[23:20:00] COOPER: Amanda Carpenter, you're formally a former spokesperson for Ted Cruz, how do you think he did? And who else stood out to you?

AMANDA CARPENTER: I think Senator Cruz used his time very effectively. If you look at the debates going into the senate in September, particularly, Iran, and planned parenthood. He spent a lot of time on those issues because he has a very effective platform to fight on them, show them he can be effective and show that he's fighting in a way that other people can't and won't. So that was a good use of his time.

But as for Donald Trump, I think it is very interesting, tonight was an endurance test. And as Carly Fiorina said with time and pressure her character is revealed. And I noticed throughout the debate as the discussion became more substantive, he faded away. And I think he recognized that. You can see him being a little bit - a glimmer of humility tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think as the discussion got more substantive on foreign policy, Marco Rubio really was quite forceful. I think he distinguished himself. I think Chris Christie also managed to get into the discussion very forcefully. And Scott Walker actually did himself some good tonight.

COOPER: And I think speaking of Scott Walker, does Chris have Scott Walker? Well, let's - as soon as he does, let me know. John King, for you, what were the moments.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Trump was much less of a dominating presence that he was in the Fox debate. He was a presence tonight. He didn't make any mistakes. To David's point, he made key points with his constituency. One of the interesting conversations among conservatives, remember this is a republican primary first in general election around the country if you look at the Twitter feeds, reaching out to conservatives in key states, there is a debate about whether he hurt himself by going after George W. Bush. Now, rare that George W. Bush comes up in a positive way even in a republican primary, but when he have the exchange with Jeb Bush about George W. Bush kept us safe. Scott Walker comes in some other republican jump in, there is a conversation about that, as to whether that could have possibly hurt Donald Trump. The buzz about Carly Fiorina is very strong. A lot of people think she may have taken some of Ben Carson's votes tonight because he was less of a presence. Marco Rubio getting a lot of points out there among conservatives. He seems to be among a lot of conservatives the fallback guy as the race shakes out. And one last point, among conservatives who said Scott Walker better show up tonight, they're not saying he won the debate, but they are saying he was much more of a presence tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll tell you...

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. We're going to hear more from Jeffrey Lord in terms of support. Also Ana Navarro, Jeb Bush supporter, also a friend of Marco Rubio, we'll continue the conversation throughout the next two hours. Next moderator, Jake Tapper, along with Dana Bash. Hugh Hewitt on their experience down there in the fray. We'll be right back.

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. Candidates continue to make their way from the debate hall, coming into the spin room. We're going to hear from more throughout the next 90 minutes or so, Rand Paul, you see Dr. Ben Carson already in the spin room. Meanwhile, let's bring in our Wolf Blitzer. Wolf? WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, thank you. If anyone

other than the candidates themselves knows just what it was like to be on that stage for nearly three hours, whether the debaters did a good job answering very tough questions, it is our three people who are with me now, on the stage asking those questions. The conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, our own Dana Bash, and the debate moderator Jake Tapper. Actually, you were on the stage for a lot longer. Because you had an earlier piece as well. How do you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Depleted.

BLITZER: Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ditto.

BLITZER: Ernie Banks, let's play two.

ERNIE BANKS: Play two more?

BLITZER: You guys did an excellent job. Let's talk about the substance. What did you think? Who came away impressive, somebody who is going to maybe break out of the 15-member pack?

JAKE TAPPER: I think it is, first of all, I think we all agree, it is very difficult to do punditry while trying to balance and herd the cats as we were this evening. I think you know, we tried to be as even with the time as we could. You know, I certainly think that people got to hear a lot more of Ben Carson this evening than they had in previous outings because he has risen to the second spot. And I heard very forceful, you know, approaches from, you know, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina certainly made her presence felt.

BLITZER: Did some come over to you and complain they were getting enough time?

TAPPER: The daughter of one did but I won't name names because, you know...

BLITZER: It happens.

TAPPER: It is her dad.

BLITZER: Yes. What did you think, Dana? What struck you as really important?

BASH: They all came to play. I mean, they really did. And, you know, you could really feel it, I'm sure you can see it so much on camera, but you could feel it on the stage. Everybody was kind of trying to get Jake's eye, trying to get our eye, trying to get in, which was evident that they all - they want - they understood that they needed to make a mark, some of them I think maybe did more than others. But that was definitely the dynamic and I totally agree with you about Carly Fiorina.

The one thing that struck me because I was sitting there thinking what is my takeaway towards the end, all of a sudden Chris Christie is this conservative. Where does that come from? I mean, I'm not saying wasn't conservative before, but he was thought of as more mainstream in the republican movement. And he - every question you asked, I asked, you asked, he fell over himself to try to move to the right.

TAPPER: I'll tell you one thing, we all signaled in our interviews and everything that we wanted them to debate. That we wanted them to have exchanges with each other and disagree and, you know, we obviously honed our questions accordingly to bring out differences between, for instance, Chris Christie and Rand Paul on marijuana and recognizing state laws or not. And for the most part, I think most of the candidates except for the ones who are naturally against insulting or attacking, most of them did that.

BASH: But even those who didn't want to do so personally, which is completely fine, I actually thought that, I mean, you especially, Jake, you were able to get them going and debating on the issues that the republican voters are going to go to the polls.

BLITZER: The research was terrific. Because you had all the evidence, where they disagree on substance and this, Hugh, after all, was a debate. Wasn't simply some sort of Q&A. It was a debate.

HUGH HEWITT: I'm a conservative. I'm happy. And I don't think any one of them could complain about the time or the question selection. I think they'll all be very satisfied they had an opportunity to make a statement, and I think you're going to see unfortunately for people who want a smaller stage, I don't think anyone is going to fall off.

[23:30:00] I think everyone had moments. I think there was a great deal of energy at our end of the line. That might be physics because we're closer to governor Christie, Carly Fiorina. Maybe at the other end, less energy, Marco Rubio bloomed a few times.

BLITZER: Let me play one exchange you had and we'll discuss. Listen to this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: : And I'll ask you about this. 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 when you think about his persona.

CARLY FIORINA, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, it is interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.

TRUMP: I think she's got a beautiful face. And I think she's a beautiful woman.

BLITZER: All right. That was a moment, shall we say, wasn't it?

TAPPER: Yes. I mean, we all wondered was she going to take the quote and express offense. What was she going to do with it? And she chose to do less is more. She did the same after - pardon me, the water went down the wrong pipe.

BLITZER: Dana, you weigh in. You're a woman you heard what he has to say. You heard Donald Trump's reaction. What did you think of Donald?

BASH: Thank you for clarifying that, both of you. And you're a man. I think that just for women out there, they got it. Just like you were trying to say, less is more, from her perspective. You don't need to go too far to make your point and she did it with an economy of words. I think it was inconsiderably powerful.

BLITZER: Hugh?

HEWITT: Brevity is sometimes very powerful and that was useful, very powerful use of brevity. It is tricky in a debate setting to get time back to the court. Sometimes you get punished for it. There I think she'll be rewarded because it was clearly a harpoon and it stuck.

BASH: And the one thing I will say just on the other candidate that we're all watching for specifically was Jeb Bush who has been sinking in the polls. Was he going to bring it? Was he going to have energy? You know, he did. I mean, I think he had as much as he could. And I thought at the end, your question about what your secret service code name was, the fact he came up with the name of a battery and he said, you know, Eveready. And I don't know if you could see on camera, but he and Donald Trump high fived on that.

TAPPER: I think it was interesting. I think a lot of them came here determined, pardon me. To step up their game. You saw that with Scott Walker. You saw with Carly Fiorina. You saw that with Jeb Bush. Rand Paul and Chris Christie kind of already have been there, already been in the position of wanting to enter the fray. But those three, I think did up their game.

BLITZER: I think they all came ready. They were prepared. They showed what they wanted to do but ready to exchange different ideas with their rivals.

HEWITT: CNN telegraphed they were going to have Jake and Dana and I set it up so they could talk to each other and they were ready to do that and they did not hesitate to do that and it was wonderful. From the perspective of a republican primary voter to see them interact that way, not back and forth between the panelists and the candidates. The candidates got into it. And I think that serves the party and conservatives very well across a broad spectrum of issues.

TAPPER: I would like to say one thing. We had a lot of questions we didn't get to ask.

BLITZER: Really?

TAPPER: Yes, because some of the exchanges went on long. And I just - there were two subjects in particular that I really - I wish - I mean, it is hard to argue that the debate should have been longer, but I wish we had gotten to and one of the reasons we didn't really - one of the reasons they were among the first to fall where they weren't - they didn't bring out a lot of conflict between the candidates, and one of them is the VA and how to treat veterans. And what can be done about it. And the truth is there really isn't a lot of policy difference between them. You can have one of them criticize Dr. Carson's plan to fold the VA into the Pentagon but didn't seem like an area where there would be a lot of friction. But I do regret of bringing that up and the other one is Black lives matter. Again, there isn't really a lot of difference on the stage when it comes to that. But those are two issues that - in a way that I wish we would have had time, but it is hard to argue that any of the good exchanges we had should have been cut.

BLITZER: There will be several more republican debates. Presumably these issues will come up.

HEWITT: The world is on fire. Iran and Syria, it got the appropriate amount of time tonight, lengthy, detailed, energetic, and I think serves the purpose here.

BASH: They grabbed those moments.

[23:35:00] BLITZER: Stand by. I want to go back to Anderson. He has more on what's going on.

COOPER: Wolf, thank you very much. Tonight Ohio Governor John Kasich was not playing to a hometown audience like at the last debate in Cleveland. A Monmouth University poll put him in third place in New Hampshire with 11 percent behind Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, nationally his numbers have edged up a bit since the first debate. But he's still below single digit. Governor Kasich joins me now.

Governor, first of all, how did you feel tonight about your own debate performance and also just standing out there for three hours, how did it feel out there?

JOHN KASICH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIATE: Look, I just wanted to be myself. I got up on the stage. I really didn't have any nerves at all, anything bothering me and, you know, you always wish you could get a little bit more time. Few more things you would like to say. But all and all, I think it was a good experience and it certainly was a lot of fun and memorable.

COOPER: When you look at the field, particularly Donald Trump who obviously has a lead in the polls, do you think any numbers or anybody standing really changed tonight? Somebody going up or somebody going down?

KASICH: Well, you know, I'm not a prognosticator, Anderson. Look, the bottom line is, in the early states, you have to be on the ground. You take New Hampshire, you have to do town hall meetings, people want to see you, they want to question you, and it is very, very grassroots oriented.

So in terms of national polls or all of that, that's not the way we elect the president. We do it state by state, early states, and I'm building and doing those things in those states, and, you know, the one thing I wanted to stress tonight was my record. I mean, I really know how to land the plane.

And get the passengers on the ground because there is a lot of promises, a lot of things that don't happen. I've done these things like balancing a federal budget and balancing the budget in Ohio and driving real change. That was one thing I wanted to get across. And I hope I did.

COOPER: A lot of people believe you appeal to the same voters perhaps as Jeb Bush, establishment conservative, how did you think he did, as compared to you?

KASICH: I thought he did fine. You know, it is really hard when you're on the stage because you try to concentrate, but, you know, I'll give everybody an A, how 's that? Is that politically correct? I thought everybody did fine.

COOPER: You had strong disagreements tonight with Senator Cruz, specifically on the issues of Iran and planned parenthood, obviously. Did you feel you were able to explain your stance on these issues?

KASICH: Well, I hope so. I mean, look, I don't want to fund planned parenthood. But I think shutting the government down when you have a president that says I'm not going to put up with it is not the right way to go. We ought to send this some bills. And if he wants a veto, that's fine. That's different than shutting the government down.

In terms of Iran, all I tried to say is that we need to watch this agreement, we need to hold these folks accountable in Iran. If they violate anything, sanctions go back on, and we can make the case to our allies. If we think they're developing a nuclear weapon, get that information, if I were president, military action would clearly be on the table.

COOPER: Governor Kasich, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

Just ahead, reaction from voters to what they saw tonight and more of the most important moments from tonight's three-hour long GOP debate.

[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. Randi Kaye is in Des Moines, Iowa, tonight at Drake University where she watched the debate with a group of undecided voters. She joins us now, what are you hearing from them?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we're hearing a lot of feedback. There was some cheers, some boos during the debate. 32 undecided voters here at Cole's library at Drake University. So let's talk to a couple of them. First of all, Angela Glasco, you had pretty much written off Chris Christie, but tonight you were impressed.

ANGELA GLASCO: I was impressed. But to go from written off to probably a two or a three. So...

KAYE: Why do you think he did a good job? GLASCO: I think he brought a lot of specifics. I was impressed with

some of the facts, you know, we're looking for facts, not just thoughts hour high level ideas and I think he did bring some facts to the table. You know, so he moved up a little. But...

KAYE: The group wants specifics, for sure. Anderson, I have to tell you, a lot of the people here think that Carly Fiorina was a big standout, including Susan Mercero here. Why do you think Carly did such a good job?

SUSAN MERCERO: I think she took on Donald Trump. He did not impress me as much as he has in the past. But Carly was there. She was steadfast. She was intelligent. She was - she just really came across as someone that thought things through more than, you know, spoke off the cuff. She's an outsider. I think that we have in the last election cycle handed the republicans a pretty big majority and they have done nothing with it. So I'm looking at an outsider.

KAYE: How do you think, Mike Hammon, Donald Trump did tonight and Ben Carson since they're neck and neck?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Donald Trump, the non-traditional candidate. I'm not a supporter of them. And I don't think they did themselves any favors. Ben Carson is a nice guy, well informed, but doesn't have the background and experience. And Donald is Donald.

KAYE: One thing, Anderson, the entire group here, 100 percent think the country is going in the wrong direction. So I'm going to hand it off to Bob there quickly in the back. Can you tell us why you think along with this group that the country is just headed in the wrong direction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the federal government is taking us in the wrong direction. I think they think short-term as opposed to long- term. Short-term is the next election. The next fund-raiser. Let's get elected. Let's get somebody to agree with us. This is a tough business to run the government.

KAYE: Absolutely. Thanks to all of you here. That's just a small sampling of the various opinions here at our focus group at Drake University, Anderson.

[23:45:00] COOPER: All right. Randi, thank you very much for that. And thank everybody for participating there. Back now with David Axelrod, John King, Jeffrey Lord, Ana Navarro. Ana, you're obviously a supporter of Jeb Bush. You're also a friend of Marco Rubio, how do you think Bush did? He's trailing in the polls with single digits. There's a lot of money in the bank. His Pac will start to spend a lot of money. He did break out tonight?

NAVARRO: I think he had a very good debate. He had solid answers. His answers get - they're going to prove out to be true. He had some memorable moments. He showed a sense of humor, and actually worked. He apologized to his mom for having smoked pot. I think we're going to remember that. He had that exchange with Donald Trump where they wound up high fiving

each other. When it was about what the secret service code name was going to be. I also think he did a strong defense of his wife, strong defense of his brother. I thought Jeb brought it, he was much better than in Cleveland, that's, I think what people are going to measure him for.

COOPER: Let's play...

NAVARRO: Marco was I thought exceptional thinking about policy.

COOPER: Marco Rubio. Let's play an exchange where Jeb Bush tried to take on Donald Trump and particularly the one you referenced where he talked about his wife because the question was about some comments that Donald Trump tweeted about, including Jeb Bush's wife in that. Let's play that exchange.

BASH: Governor Bush, Mr. Trump has suggested that your views on immigration are influenced by your Mexican-born wife. He said that, quote, if my wife were from Mexico, I think I would have a soft spot for people from Mexico. Did Mr. Trump go too far in invoking your wife?

JEB BUSH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He did, he did. You're proud of your family, just as I am. To subject my wife into the middle of a raucous political conversation was completely inappropriate and I hope you apologize for that, Donald.

TRUMP: Well, I have to tell you, I hear phenomenal things. I hear your wife is lovely.

BUSH: She is fantastic. She is the love of my life and you should apologize to her right now.

TRUMP: They come into our country as an act of love. With all of the problems that we have in so many instances, we have wonderful people coming in. But with all of the problems, this is not an act of love. He's weak on immigration. By the way, in favor of common core, which is also a disaster. But weak on immigration. He doesn't get my vote.

COOPER: Jeffrey Lord, did Jeb Bush, Ana Navarro said he had a good debate, did he do enough?

LORD: I'm not sure he did. One of the problems this Bush has, this is something that John was just saying a few minutes ago, about the controversy over George W. Bush and Donald Trump, et cetera, there is what I call the Reagan/Bush divide. If you notice the other day, Jeb Bush unbuttoned his shirt and had a Reagan/Bush '84 shirt. I was in that campaign. And there was always this little subject of attention there, a first cousin to the outsider, insider debate. You got a lot of conservatives out there who are upset with George W. Bush, not just over Iraq, but they're upset about domestic spending. Upset about domestic policies here. That is a real problem here. And I think when you see Jeb sort of deal with this kind of thing, this is all about my wife, it is really about much more than that. And, you know... COOPER: Amanda?

CARPENTER: Yes. I think the most interesting subtext with Jeb Bush in this debate is his new found willingness to defend his family. His best moment of the debate, I think, is when he came out and reminded everyone that his brother kept America safe. On the same hand, I think that will haunt him long-term because tying himself to his brother's legacy is bad in the long run. For this performance, that was an important moment.

COOPER: Let's play that moment and talk to this side.

TRUMP: Your brother and your brother's administration gave us Barack Obama because it was such a disaster those last three months that Abraham Lincoln couldn't have been elected.

BUSH: You know what, as it relates to my brother, there is one thing I know for sure, he kept us safe. I don't know if you remember. You remember the - you remember the rubble? You remember the firefighter, with his arms around it? He sent a clear signal that the United States would be strong and fight Islamic terrorism and he did keep us safe.

COOPER: Des Jeb Bush get out of single digits?

CARPENTER: Well, we don't know. I think he was stronger tonight than he has been in the past. I think the other republican candidates, by the way, defended W when it came to national security saying, well, it was Barack Obama who gave us - gave us the rise of ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As did the audience.

[23:50:00] CARPENTER: It was a republican audience. The person I think who didn't do himself any favors here tonight was Dr. Carson. You didn't hear a lot substantive from him. He's with kind of quiet as we have seen. And I thought that he and Trump might engage each other a little bit more. And I think there was kind of a mutual detente.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Carson, he questioned Trump's faith he walked it back and apologized. David, you think that perhaps the GOP in focusing so extensively on legal immigrations...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The party did a retrospective on the campaign and said we have to do better in Hispanics, to women, to young people. This is not the debate the party wants to have going into this election. I think it is problematic spending all that time on planned parenthood, which has great support among the broader electorate, particularly among women, spending all that time on immigration and competing with each other to get to the right of each other.

This is a repeat of what we saw in 2012. One of the reasons why Reince Priebus was so eager to limit the number of debates and try and control them. But I think plainly he hasn't been successful. However, the fact of the matter is they're competing in a republican primary. We are four months from the Iowa Caucuses, which has a very conservative evangelical dominated electorate. To David's point, we'll see how this plays out when we get to the general election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Mitt Romney...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talk too much about government...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney will attest to the fact when he talked about it in the primary it lived to haunt him in the general. It lived to haunt him in the general.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That haunted Mitt Romney because it was the nominee who said it. It if Trump doesn't end up being the nominee, I don't think the things that Trump has been saying are going to haunt Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Bush legacy, did he keep - did George W. keep us safe? Yes. On the other hand, he left the presidency according to "The New York Times"/CBS poll, there is the problem, right there.

COOPER: And so you have these candidate trying to establish their lanes tonight. I think that most of the buzz seems to be that Fiorina did the best. Trump did OK. Carson was a little missing. I thought what was fascinating was the back and forth with Governor Kasich, Governor Bush, Governor Christie, the guys saying, look, it is great what you're saying but someone has to put their hand on the bible and govern on day one. Reach deals to get anything done. Watching them trying to establish their face. One of them will still be standing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They weren't fighting with each other.

COOPER: But trying to convince their slice of the electorate. They're trying to - Jeb Bush's philosophy and John Kasich believes the same thing, Christie to a lesser degree, the republican party has moments of Pat Buchanan comes along, they still believe in the end the party will come back to the establishment guy and this is all...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is interesting to me is when they introduced themselves, Rand Paul introduced himself as an eye doctor from Kentucky. You don't have to have 20/20 vision to know he's a senator as well. Washington was a big loser in this debate for sure.

COOPER: How big a mistake was it for Donald Trump to come back to Carly Fiorina and say, you have a beautiful face.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Terrible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First rule of law, stop digging. It was so patronizing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought it was brilliant because he - he surprised us with his answer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he didn't apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he shut it down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think he did. COOPER: We have to take a break. Fact checking the candidates

tonight. Ben Carson joins us ahead at the top of the hour. We'll be right back.

[23:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're approaching the top of the hour at the Reagan library. 11 candidates, one stage, three hours. It was an extraordinary evening. The candidates had plenty of time to challenge their opponents, face to face, on the issues, and they certainly did repeatedly. Three hours of claims, counterclaims, and more than one competing versions of some of them have said and done in the past. I'm joined right now by Dr. Ben Carson.

First of all, I was going to say three hours must have been grueling. You're a surgeon, you spend 20 hours on your feet. So how was it?

BEN CARSON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it went by pretty fast, actually. I was surprised. And, you know, we would all like to have a little more time to explain our positions, but, you know, considering there are 11 people on the stage, I think it went reasonably well. There were times when the moderators seemed to lose control of what was going on, but...

COOPER: On the campaign trail, several days ago, you were asked by reporters and you talked to - made critical comments about - or some beliefs about Donald Trump's faith, you later apologized for that. There were opportunities where you could have attacked Donald Trump had you wanted to. You did not choose to do that. Is that something you thought about a lot going into the debate?

CARSON: I'm not generally someone who attacks other people, out of general principle. I would much rather talk about what the problems are and what the solutions are. That's the way I've been for decades now. I'm probably never going to be the guy you want when you want a big fight.

COOPER: Was there - was there a moment that stood out to you in the debate, whether it was something you said or something you heard elsewhere on that stage?

CARSON: I really wanted to get included in the discussion about Putin. And what we should be doing. I was looking for an opportunity to talk about, you know, our electric grid, and cyber security.