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Donald Trump tangles with Republican opponents in 2nd debate

AP , Thursday 17 Sep 2015
Republican Debate
Republican presidential candidates, from left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie take the stage during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif (Photo: AP)
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Front-running Donald Trump began the second Republican presidential debate with a bang, throwing barbs in all directions, but was quiet for long stretches as 10 fellow candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination bore down on serious issues.

Standing at center stage, Trump declared that he had a "phenomenal temperament" and a record in business that would help him on the world stage. The billionaire businessman's temperament was again up for discussion during Wednesday night's marathon debate. Trump has made a series of incendiary comments about women and Hispanic immigrants and remains a long-shot candidate for the White House.

Trump's unexpected rise and surprising durability is seen as a reflection of voters' frustration with Washington and career politicians. He drew a heavy challenge from another Washington outsider with a business background: former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, the only Republican woman in the race.

Fiorina earned praise for her debut performance in the party's main debate, commanding the three-hour event's first half — when the television audience was likely the most engaged. Trump has become increasingly critical of Fiorina as her standing has risen.

Fiorina drew the night's first loud ovation when asked about Trump's earlier denigration of her looks, which he later denied was a reference to her appearance.

"I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said," Fiorina said.

Trump retorted: "She's got a beautiful face, and she's a beautiful woman."

Trump's climb to the top of the field has unnerved Republican leaders who fear the former reality TV star is damaging the party's brand and imperiling its chances of winning back the White House after President Barack Obama's eight-year tenure ends. Trump has so far been immune to criticism for his lack of specific policy proposals, his caustic rhetoric and his uneven support of conservative principles.

And he's been unpredictable, as he was in the first moments of the debate: unprompted, Trump declared that fellow candidate Rand Paul shouldn't even be on the stage.

The clash that signified the broader battle within the party was between Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the son and brother of former presidents who more than any other candidate is seen as a representative of the Republican establishment.

Bush came into the debate facing questions about whether he had the grit to take on Trump. In the debate's early moments, Bush tried to challenge Trump directly but was repeatedly interrupted.

As Bush tried to finish an answer, Trump chimed in: "More energy tonight, I like that." Trump's jab was a reference to his frequent critique that Bush is a "low energy" candidate.

Bush said Trump needed to apologize for bringing his wife, a U.S. citizen born in Mexico, into a political debate. Trump has suggested Bush is too soft on America's immigration crisis because of his wife.

Trump refused to apologize, stood by his criticism of Bush for answering some questions on the campaign trail in Spanish and called Bush "weak on immigration." Trump said people in the United States should speak English.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio jumped in and said it's important to speak Spanish to communicate with immigrants who might become Republican voters — highlighting a priority for a party that has overwhelmingly lost the rapidly growing Hispanic vote in recent presidential elections.

Rubio reminded voters about his compelling personal story, including his parents' move to the U.S. from Cuba. He recounted his grandfather, whose English was shaky but who idolized Ronald Reagan, the namesake of the presidential library that hosted the debate.

When Trump said he was the only one on the stage to oppose the 2003 war on Iraq, Bush seized the opportunity to outline some of his foreign policy plans — and defend his brother, former President George W. Bush.

Bush stopped cold and looked directly at Trump, saying, "You know what? As it relates to my brother, he kept us safe." The line earned Bush some of his biggest applause of the event.

The first question of the debate went to Fiorina, who called Trump a "wonderful entertainer."

Fiorina was the debate's newest addition after a standout performance in a preliminary forum last month. She sharply outlined her approach to foreign policy, citing the importance of knowing the name of General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran's elite Quds Force. Trump hadn't known his name in an interview a few weeks ago, and appeared to confuse the Quds Force with the Kurds, a Middle Eastern ethnic group.

As Fiorina and Trump debated their business successes, they were interrupted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who declared Americans did not care about the candidates' resumes.

"You're both successful people. Congratulations," Christie said. "The middle class in this country who's getting plowed under by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, let's start talking about those issues tonight and stop this childish back-and-forth between the two of you."

Paul, the only candidate to directly challenge Trump in the first debate, said he worried about Trump as commander-in-chief. He cited Trump's "careless language" and attacks on people's appearances.

Both Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who had been seen as early favorites but lost ground as Trump surged, managed to offer detailed policy proposals and criticisms in limited air time.

Soft-spoken retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson entered the debate with high expectations after a recent rise in the polls that determine debate participation. But he largely faded to the background on the crowded debate stage. In a rare standout moment, the political novice said he doesn't "lick the boots of billionaires."

Other candidates included Ohio Gov. John Kasich; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; and conservative Sen. Ted Cruz. A preliminary debate featured four other candidates.

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