The Slatest

The Best Lines of the CNN GOP Debate

The candidates arrive.

REUTERS/Mike Stone

According to a popular narrative about the GOP primary, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio haven’t been aggressive enough toward Donald Trump to knock the front-runner off his heels. Tonight’s debate—the last before Super Tuesday—may be one of their last chances to do so before he all but clinches the nomination. But they’re facing down a man who effectively insulted his way to the front of the pack from the earliest debates on. Will they—and their fellow holdouts Ben Carson and John Kasich—be able to stand up to the meanest man in politics? Or will he triumph over them through pure force of will? Either way, we’ll be keeping track of the candidates’ best (and most embarrassing and awkward) lines here.


Carson, standing on the brink of annihilation:


Americans know that our nation is heading off the abyss of destruction …

Trump on being a job creator:

I’m the only one at this stage that’s hired people. You haven’t hired anybody. 

Cruz, discussing comparative records:

When I was leading the fight against the Gang of Eight amnesty bill, where was Donald? He was firing Dennis Rodman on Celebrity Apprentice.

Trump, bullying Cruz, the kid no one will sit with:

I get along with everybody. You get along with nobody.

Kasich, offering a proposal that will probably be ignored by everyone else on stage:

I would give them a path to legalization, but not a path to citizenship. I don’t think we’re going to tear families apart. I don’t think we’re going to ride around in people’s neighborhoods and grab people out of their homes.


Rubio on Trump’s very clear plan to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico:

If he builds the wall the way he built Trump Towers, he’ll be using illegal immigrant labor to do it.

Moderator Wolf Blitzer on whether Trump is “allowed to respond” to a critique:

You’re allowed. You’ve been responding.


Rubio, describing how Trump set new legal precedent:

Oh, he lied 38 years ago. I guess there’s a statute of limitation on lies. 

Cruz on wishing on a wish on a wish:

I campaigned the same here in Houston or Dallas … telling my dad’s story of coming to America with $100 in his underwear, not speaking English, washing dishes, having hopes and dreams for the American dream.


Rubio, just full of sick burns for Trump tonight:

Here’s the guy that inherited $200 million. If he hadn’t inherited $200 million, you know where Donald Trump would be right now? Selling watches in Manhattan.


Trump, scholar of Supreme Court history:

Justice Roberts was strongly recommended and pushed by Ted. Justice Roberts gave us Obamacare. Might as well be called Robertscare!

Trump, actually kind of … reasonable?:

I’m totally against abortion having to do with Planned Parenthood, but millions and millions of women [with] cervical cancer, breast cancer, are helped by Planned Parenthood.

Kasich on whether bakers should have to make cakes for same-sex weddings:

If you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce. That’s my view. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle say a prayer for them when they leave and hope they change their behavior.


Rubio, responding to Trump’s critique of his notorious “robot” breakdown:

I saw you repeat yourself five times four seconds ago.

Kasich on the trouble with health care today:

It’s easier to interpret the Dead Sea Scrolls than to understand your hospital bill. 

Carson, running out of time:

Let me just finish, because I don’t get to talk that much.

Cruz, laying out the case against Trump’s case against Clinton:

The next Republican nominee needs to be able to make that case against Hillary. If Donald tried to do it, Hillary would turn to Donald and say, But gosh, Donald, you gave $100,000 to the Clinton foundation and I went to your wedding.

Trump on his relationship with the Clintons:


I beat her and beat her badly, and I only had one little interchange and that was four weeks ago when she said I was sexist. Believe me, they had a rough weekend that weekend …

Rubio, reviewing the art of the deal:

A deal is not a deal when you’re dealing with terrorists. 

Carson, responding to a direct question about how he would deal with North Korea:


People say I whine a lot because I don’t get time [to talk]. I’m going to whine.


Trump, proposing a pretty intense historical counterfactual:

We would be so much better off if Qaddafi were in charge right now. If these politicians went to the beach and we had Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi in charge, instead of having terrorism all over the place? At least they killed terrorists. 


Carson, wishing he had more time to talk:

Can somebody attack me please?

Cruz, trying to play mind games with Trump:

Falsely accusing someone of lying is itself a lie and [that’s] something Donald does daily. 

Trump after being told to “relax” by Cruz:

I’m relaxed. You’re the basket case. Don’t get nervous.

Rubio, on why Apple won’t help unlock that iPhone:

They don’t want to do it because they think it hurts their brand. Their brand is not superior to the security of United States of America. 

Kasich, seemingly advocating extrajudicial kidnapping:

You know what you do when you’re the president? You lock the door and you say you’re not coming out until you reach an agreement that both gives the security people what they need and [protects] the rights of Americans.


This post will be updated throughout the debate.