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Republican candidates oppose the $15 minimum wage

MILWAUKEE — Drawing a sharp contrast with Democrats, Republican presidential candidates voiced opposition to raising the federal minimum wage in Tuesday’s primary debate, casting it as an impediment to national job growth.

“If you raise the minimum, you’re going to make people more expensive than a machine,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said.

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump concurred. “We cannot do this if we’re going to compete with the rest of the world,” he said.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton has called for raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $12. Her chief rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has backed an increase to $15.

The economy-focused debate, the last for the GOP until mid-December, could help shape the course of the campaign into the winter as voters begin to pay more attention to the White House race.

Trump has led the field for months, defying standard political logic, while experienced governors and senators have struggled to break through. Another outsider, Ben Carson, the quiet retired neurosurgeon, began challenging Trump’s grip in recent weeks. As he’s risen in preference polls, however, Carson has faced a flurry of questions about his biography, which has been central to his connection with voters.

The debate could be crucial for the presidential hopes of Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who has struggled mightily. Bush sought to interject early, reminding moderators that he had limited time in the last contest two weeks ago.

“I got about four minutes in the last debate,” Bush said.