Update 10:15 p.m.: Carly Fiorina took on Donald Trump and won loud applause, remaking the GOP debate dynamic the second time around Wednesday night.
She pounced at times and showed restraint at others, occupying nearly as much air time with the top-runners.
“Every American’s life must be filled with the possibilities that come from their god-given gifts,” she said in her closing statement.
Donald Trump, the front-runner who was on the defensive at times, was still the focal point. Jeb Bush brought more energy than he did in the first debate — he said his Secret Service code name would be Energizer.
With the first voting slightly more than four months away, the candidates have little time to make a move to challenge Trump.
Update 9:52 p.m.: Donald Trump, rejecting a medical opinion from his opponent former brain surgeon Ben Carson, called autism an epidemic and said to address it, childhood vaccines should be curtailed.
“We have extremely well documented proof that there’s no link between autism and vaccinations,” Carson said, but refused to attack Trump. Instead Carson agreed that vaccines could be spaced out more than they are typically.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, also a physician, said parents should be able to chose when their children receive vaccines.
Update 9:43 p.m.: Donald Trump said Wednesday night at the GOP debate that he would consider making Social Security a voluntary program, and that wealthy people like him don’t need it.
“I would be willing to check it off and not get Social Security,” Trump said. “The fact is there truly are people who don’t need it.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said such a voluntary program wouldn’t save Social Security and that some people shouldn’t receive it so that it is available for people who rely on it.
Update 9:36 p.m.: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush admitted to smoking marijuana “40 years ago” at the GOP debate Wednesday night and said that his mother won’t be happy he said that.
In a discussion about legalization of marijuana, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul accused Bush of being against use of medical marijuana laws, and said that federal drug laws unfairly send poor, mostly black and Latinos, to jail while letting privileged people, like Bush, see little consequence.
Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina defended laws against marijuana use.
Update 9:25 p.m.: With less than a half hour to go, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has failed to gain the limelight in the second GOP debate Wednesday night.
Other candidates — Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush — have grabbed more airtime than Cruz.
The tea party-backed junior senator from Texas was a debate champion at Princeton and was expected to shine in the debates. But in this debate, and in the first last month, he has struggled to gain an edge.
Cruz has notably taken sides with Trump during the campaign and so stood on the sidelines as other candidates took on the billionaire front runner Wednesday, often to applause.
Cruz, who is seeking the evangelical vote, influential in early voting states, has failed to move the needle beyond mid-single digits in national polls.
Update 9:06 p.m.: Donald Trump said Wednesday night that George W. Bush was such a bad president that even Abraham Lincoln would have struggled to win in 2008.
“My brother kept us safe,” Jeb Bush said to applause.
Update 9:01 p.m.: Donald Trump defended his foreign policy chops at the GOP debate Wednesday night, saying few Americans would know the difference between the Iranian al-Quds force and the Kurds, which he had confused in a radio interview.
“I will know more about the problems in this world by the time I sit (in the White House),” Trump said.
Update 8:43 p.m.: Donald Trump criticized Carly Fiorina’s tenure as CEO of Hewlitt-Packard at the GOP debate Wednesday night.
“She can’t run any of my companies, I’ll tell you that,” Trump said, saying the company still hasn’t recovered from her poor leadership, citing a report that the company was poised to lay off thousands more employees.
Fiorina, who defended her business acumen, shot back at Trump, saying the billionaire businessman “ran up mountains of debt,” filing for bankruptcy four times.
“Why should we trust you to run the finances of this nation any different than you run the finances of your companies?” Fiorina told Trump, to applause.
“I got out of Atlantic City at the right time,” Trump said, blaming the failure of casinos there on the declining popularity of the city as a gambling destination.
Not to be left out, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, said: “Stop this childish back and forth between the two of you.”
Update 8:24 p.m.: Jeb Bush asked Donald Trump to apologize for saying that the former Florida governor has a “soft spot” for Mexican immigrants because his wife is Mexican.
“I hope you apologize for that Donald,” Bush said at the GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Wednesday night, for bringing his wife into a “raucous” campaign.
“I hear your wife is a lovely person,” Trump said.
Bush cut him off and again asked for an apology.
“I won’t apologize because I did nothing wrong,” Trump said. “He’s weak on immigration.”
Later, Trump was asked about his previous comments criticizing Bush for speaking in Spanish on the campaign trail.
“This is a country where we speak English not Spanish,” Trump said.
Bush, who is fluent in Spanish, said he had spoken in Spanish answering a student’s question in Spanish “out of respect.”
Update 8:10 p.m.: Former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has drawn the two longest applause lines so far in the GOP presidential debate Wednesday night.
She made an emotional appeal to defund Planned Parenthood, saying if congressional Republicans don’t do so, “shame on us.”
She was then asked to respond to Donald Trump’s comment in a Rolling Stone article degrading her “face.”
Trump later said he was misinterpreted.
“I think women in this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Fiorina said Wednesday night.
Trump responded: “I think she’s got a beautiful face and I think she’s a beautiful woman.”
Update 8:03 p.m.: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said religious freedom should be protected for county clerks who don’t wish to marry gay couple and that Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who refuses to marry same-sex couples, was jailed for the “criminalization of her faith.”
CNN moderator Jake Tapper sought to pit former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush against Huckabee, saying that Bush had said previously that Davis swore to uphold the law and should follow it.
Bush, though, said Wednesday night he agreed with Huckabee that Davis should not be forced to issue a license to gays as long as someone in her office does so.
“You can’t just say, ‘gays can’t get married now,'” Bush said.
Update 7:52 p.m.: Donald Trump, receiving a foreign policy question in the Wednesday GOP debate, said the three senators on stage with him bore some responsibility for the Syrian refugee crisis because they voted against U.S. military action in Syria.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said if the U.S. had targeted the Syrian regime after evidence showed it used chemical weapons, “ISIS would be in Damascus now.”
Update 7:41 p.m.: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, standing next to Donald Trump in the GOP main debate Wednesday night, suggested he was cozy with several Democratic leaders and said Trump had failed in bringing a casino to Florida.
Trump said that wasn’t true, that if he wanted a casino in Florida, he would have gotten one.
“More energy tonight. I like that,” Trump said of Bush.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a half hour into the debate spoke for the first time, saying on his first day in office he will “rip to shreds” the nuclear deal with Iran.
Updated 7:30 p.m.: Early in the main GOP presidential debate Wednesday night, Donald Trump took the best shots from a few candidates lagging in the polls.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said Trump used “careless language” and had a “sophomoric quality,” better suited to entertaining than governing. He also said Trump has at times had a “visceral” reaction to people’s looks.
Trump retorted: “I’ve never attacked him on his looks, and believe me, there’s a lot of material there.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said, “We don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We have one right now. … You’re using the talking points of the Democrats.”
Several candidates were asked whether Trump could be trusted with his finger on the nuclear button. Former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said it was up to the voters.
Update 6:53 p.m.: Four Republican candidates for president lagging in the polls offered a rousing warm-up this evening to what promises to be a lively main event, as the top 11 candidates are poised to take the debate stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library at 7 p.m.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina sparred effectively with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, highlighting his foreign policy experience and pragmatism.
Graham also showed some humor, after invoking Ronald Reagan’s regular meeting with Democratic House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill over drinks, saying if he’s elected, “we’re going to drink more.”
The debate opened with questions about billionaire businessman Donald Trump, the front-runner who has confounded the Republican establishment with his widening margin in the polls. All candidates took swipes at Trump, perhaps foreshadowing direct sparring with Trump in the main card.
CNN moderators have said they want to encourage direct debating, and it worked in many instances in the first debate.
Earlier: Follow along live with the 2016 Republican presidential debates at the Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday, Sept. 16, as American-Statesman reporters and other political writers and pundits tweet through the night. Among the candidates participating in the prime-time event are U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Austin-born businesswoman Carly Fiorina, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and, of course, Donald Trump.
There are actually two debates.
The first, at 5 p.m., is for those candidates lagging in the polls. There are four: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former New York Gov. George Pataki and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Three candidates who were in the under card debate last month on Fox will be missing. Former Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race last week. Former Gov. Jim Gilmore of Virginia was not invited because he didn’t meet the minimum 1 percent average in recent polls. And Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, graduated to the main debate stage thanks to an impressive performance at the last debate.
The main event – scheduled to run about two hours and 45 minutes – begins at 7 p.m.
In addition to Fiorina, that debate will feature all 10 candidates who participated in the last debate. They are: Trump, Bush, Cruz, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.