The latest: Republican presidential candidates battle in South Carolina

GREENVILLE, S.C. — The Latest on the 2016 presidential race, with the focus turning to South Carolina and the Republican debate on Saturday night (all times local):

10:58 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says South Carolina has “a critical choice to make” when it votes in its state primary in one week because “our country literally hangs in the balance.”

Offering his closing argument at Saturday’s debate, Cruz took subtle aim at his chief rival: businessman Donald Trump.

Cruz asked the crowd, “Do you want another Washington deal-maker who’ll do business as usual, cut deals with the Democrats, grow government, grow debt and give up our fundamental liberties.”

Earlier in the debate, he attacked Trump’s record on conservatism.

Trump used his closing argument to note that “politicians are all talk and no action” and says that he’s different because he isn’t controlled by special interest and lobby groups.

He said: “I’m working for you, and I’m not working for anybody else.”

10:55 p.m.

Jeb Bush is using his closing argument at Saturday’s Republican debate to echo what he says South Carolina Republicans want from a president.

It’s a slight twist on his usual argument. Often, the former governor points to his specific conservative accomplishments in Florida. But the presidency, he says, is often about the “unforeseen challenge.”

Marco Rubio is reprising his promise of “a new American century” that he says will be better than today’s “difficult time in our country.” The Florida senator said in his closing debate argument Saturday that South Carolina Republicans can make 2016 “our turning point.”

He also referenced his socially conservative stance on abortion and same-sex marriage, issues that could resonate with conservative Christians in South Carolina.

10:50 p.m.

John Kasich and Ben Carson agree the spirit of America needs to be restored.

Kasich, in his closing remarks, says it’s up to Americans to help their neighbors and contribute to their local schools because the “spirit of America doesnt’ come from the top down.”

Carson, meanwhile, says he’s the candidate who will be “accountable to everyone and beholden to no one.” He says its up to “we the people” to stop the decline of America and restore the country’s spiritual life, patriotism and morality.

10:48 p.m.

Donald Trump is bristling at Jeb Bush’s suggestions that the reality TV star-turned-presidential candidate went bankrupt in his past business ventures.

Trump said during Saturday’s Republican debate that he never personally went bankrupt, and instead, suggested that he only used bankruptcy proceedings and tax laws to protect struggling businesses.

Trump then went on the offensive against Bush, Florida’s former governor, saying he wasn’t a good governor.

Trump said Bush ran up so much state debt that “as soon as he got out of office, Florida crashed.” It was an accusation that made some in the crowd boo in disbelief.

Bush denied the charge and said that Trump’s past bankruptcy filings meant those who did business with him didn’t get paid for past services.

10:45 p.m.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is defending his bombastic temperament and frequent use of profanity in public.

He said at Saturday’s Republican presidential debate that criticism against him “is very unfair,” adding that he will not make vulgar remarks again on the campaign trail. Trump says “not using profanity is very easy.”

Trump has used profanity when describing how he would bomb Islamic State outposts in the Middle East. At a New Hampshire rally earlier this week, Trump repeated a supporter’s vulgar insult of Sen. Ted Cruz.

Trump also tells CBS News moderator John Dickerson that he is capable of keeping advisers who tell him when he acts inappropriately. Asked who could fill that role, the billionaire real estate mogul named his wife, Melania Trump.

10:40 p.m.

Forget the Republican primary — John Kasich is already courting Democrats for the general election.

Kasich says the Democratic party is losing blue collar voters with talk of socialism, a reference to self-described “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders.

Kasich said at Saturday’s GOP debate that he’s a “uniter” who will get working class Democrats to come out and vote for him next fall, “I promise you that.”

Conservative South Carolina is not natural turf for Kasich, a candidate who supports expanding Medicaid and doesn’t believe in deporting people living in the country illegally. He’s visited Democratic areas while campaigning in the state and has been openly appealing to Democratic voters on the trail.

10:30 p.m.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson says that Democrats shouldn’t blame the rich for the country’s economic woes.

Carson warned at Saturday’s Republican debate: “We’re on the verge of economic collapse.”

He says that proposals like free college are unrealistic because of the country’s already large debt, which he says “causes the Fed to change their policy. It causes the central bank to keep their rates low.”

He says that hurts “Mr. Average, who used to go to the bank every Friday and put part of his check in the bank” to grow a nest egg.

He blamed the government for failing the people, not the wealthy.

10:25 p.m.

Jeb Bush is bringing his brother, Former President George W. Bush, to campaign in South Carolina on Monday ahead of the Feb. 20 Republican presidential primary.

But under attack from Donald Trump at Saturday’s Republican debate, Bush is admitting that he disagrees with his brother on eminent domain.

At issue: The Arlington, Texas, baseball stadium where the Texas Rangers professional baseball club plays.

Before he was Texas governor and then president, George W. Bush was part of the ownership group that owned the Rangers and benefited from the park that was built by the city of Arlington, Texas.

The city used eminent domain to gain control of the land and then used taxpayer money to build the stadium, effectively subsidizing George W. Bush and his fellow owners.

Trump mocked the deal. Jeb Bush replied that “you should not use eminent domain” for a baseball stadium that benefits a privately owned franchise.

10:15 p.m.

Donald Trump says he feels like a conservative.

“I also feel I’m a common-sense conservative,” Trump said in Saturday’s Republican debate.

That’s not a good enough answer for Ted Cruz, who says Trump has been “very, very liberal” for most of his career. Cruz is warning that Trump would nominate liberal Supreme Court justices if elected president, a claim with more weight following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Cruz says Trump is an “amazing entertainer,” but adds “you shouldn’t be flexible or core principles.”

In a heated exchange — the first major sparring match between the two candidates — Trump hit back, calling Cruz a “nasty guy” who will say anything. Cruz, meanwhile, tells Trump that adults should know not to interrupt each other.

10:10 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz says conservative economic policies are the best way to lift millions of Americans out of poverty.

The Texas senator says “big government” and “massive taxation” have driven more people into poverty, and he praises Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan for urging GOP politicians to talk more directly about poverty and ways to ease it.

Cruz used his father, once a Cuban immigrant, to personalize the pitch.

The senator says he thinks about “how these policies would affect my father” when he was a young man working as a dishwasher after first arriving in the United States.

10:08 p.m.

Marco Rubio is hitting presidential rival and fellow Cuban-American Ted Cruz on his inability to speak Spanish.

Cruz responded in Spanish — although his comments were halting and heavily accented.

During a heated exchange about immigration at Saturday’s GOP debate, Cruz chastised Rubio for past comments on the Spanish-language network Univision. Rubio responded that Cruz couldn’t have known what he said on Univision “because he doesn’t speak Spanish” drawing a raucous response from the crowd.

Cruz promptly offered a brief response in Spanish. His answer was off-camera and heavily accented, however, making it hard to understand — even for bilingual listeners.

Rubio speaks fluent Spanish, while Cruz has for years freely admitted that his Spanish is “lousy.”

10:05 p.m.

Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are once again clashing over illegal immigration, with each accusing the other of being the weak on the issue.

Cruz says there’s a “sharp difference” between the pair when it comes to immigration and is once again pointing to Rubio’s role in the “Gang of Eight” legislation that would have provided a path to legalization.

Cruz slams the bill as “the Rubio-Schumer amnesty plan,” earning boos from the crowd.

But Rubio brings up the fact that Cruz proposed an amendment that would have included a path to legalization.

Rubio says that he’s never supported amnesty “without consequence,” adding that in order to make progress on illegal immigration, the country must first bring illegal immigration under control

10:00 p.m.

Two of the top Republican presidential candidates are mixing it up with the crowd more than each other at the Republican presidential debate.

Donald Trump drew boos and sustained catcalls early on, when he suggested that “I get along with everybody” trying to explain his ability to make business deals.

Trump responded that his campaign was self-funded, which only led to more boos.

Later, Ted Cruz sparked hoots and boos when he claimed responsibility for helping defeat an immigration overhaul that Marco Rubio helped carry in the Senate.

Cruz got visibly testy, saying that the “donor class” didn’t like his immigration stance. He was suggesting that the crowd in Greenville, South Carolina, was packed with top donors — a charge he’s made a previous debates.

The crowd, predictably, reacted by booing with more gusto.

9:55 p.m.

John Kasich is on the defensive over his decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio, a move widely rejected by Republican governors in South Carolina and other Southern states that vote March 1.

Kasich says his expansion of Medicaid is a good deal because it is keeping people suffering from mental illness and drug addictions out of prisons.

But Jeb Bush pounced on what he sees as a liability at Saturday’s debate, accusing Kasich of participating in “Obamacare” rather than fighting it. He says expanding Medicaid is “creating further debt on the backs of our children and our grandchildren.”

Kasich notes that Ronald Reagan expanded Medicaid multiple times during his presidency. He says he opposes the health care overhaul law, but expanding Medicaid is a chance to “get people on their feet.”

9:50 p.m.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are defending their competing tax policy proposals in the Republican presidential debate in South Carolina.

Cruz defends his business flat tax proposal for a 16 percent corporate tax rate, instead of the current 35 percent, as a way to spur economic growth.

Rubio defends his proposed 25 percent corporate tax rate — which is not as much of a tax cut as many of his rivals are pitching. Rubio says his idea would leave enough revenue in the federal budget to triple the child tax credit for working families with children.

The Florida senator notes that businesses get to write off investments in new equipment. So, he says, families should get bigger tax breaks to boost investments in their children.

Rubio drew big applause when he framed his approach as a “a tax plan that is pro-family.”

9:45 p.m.

Donald Trump is insisting that his economic plan, including no proposed changes to current Social Security payouts, won’t add billions to the deficit, as some have claimed.

Trump says, “I’m the only one going to save social security, believe me.”

Asked how he’ll pay for that, Trump points to a trio of causes.

“You have tremendous waste, fraud and abuse. That we’re taking care of,” he says.

He adds: “We’re not going to hurt the people who’ve been paying into social security their whole life and then all of a sudden they’re supposed to get less.”

9:40 p.m.

Marco Rubio and Donald Trump are engaging in a fiery back and forth over whether former President George W. Bush kept the nation safe.

Trump says the world trade center “came down during the reign of George W. Bush,” drawing boos from the crowd.

Trump’s forceful remarks came after Rubio said he thanks God “that it was George W. Bush in the White House on 9/11 and not Al Gore.” He immediately pushed back on Trump’s comments, declaring it’s Bill Clinton, not Bush, who is to blame for not killing Osama Bin Laden in the 1990s.

Trump is slamming the former president, brother of candidate Jeb Bush, as the debate focuses on foreign policy and the decision to invade Iraq. He’s alone among the six candidates on stage in criticizing Bush.

9:30 p.m.

Donald Trump is calling the war in Iraq “a big fat mistake,” turning it into an attack against rival Jeb Bush.

Trump said the war costed the United States trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. He said it destabilized the Middle East while empowering Iran in the region.

Jeb Bush fired back that he was tired of Trump being up on his family. He said that while Trump was “building a TV show, my brother was building a security apparatus” to keep the nation safe.

Trump invoked Sept. 11, shooting back that the “Twin Towers came down.” Bush said he was proud of what his brother did as president.

9:28 p.m.

Ted Cruz refuses to rule out using U.S. ground troops in the Middle East to fight the Islamic State group.

But the Texas senator said in Saturday’s Republican presidential debate that he doesn’t think it’s necessary.

Cruz says he believes he would instead use “overwhelming air power” and provide U.S. arms to Kurdish forces.

He adds that he believes “a nuclear Iran”

9:23 p.m.

Donald Trump and Jeb Bush are tangling over Vladimir Putin’s role in the Syrian civil war.

Bush says it’s “absolutely ludicrous to suggest that Russia could be a positive partner in this,” as Trump has suggested.

But Trump, who has praised Putin in the past, says he has no problem with Russia’s intervention or the man himself.

He says he has no problem with Russia helping to defeat Islamic State militants and says Jeb is “so wrong,” provoking boos from the crowd.

“You know who that is? That’s Jeb’s special interests and lobbyists talking,” Trump responds.

Bush derides Trump’s response as “ridiculous.”

9:20 p.m.

John Kasich says the United States needs to build a “coalition of civilized people” to take out the Islamic State group and restore American leadership around the globe.

Kasich says the world is “desperate” for American leadership in knocking out terrorist organizations and stopping Russian aggression.

He also says if elected president he would arm Ukrainian rebels fighting against Russia and make it clear to Russia that an attack on any NATO countries is an attack on the United States.

9:15 p.m.

Donald Trump says that if he is elected president, his first national security decision he would make would be on how to attack the Islamic State, because “we are going to have to hit very, very hard.”

Trump also called the group “animals” and decried the war in Iraq and the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Sen. Marco Rubio named three foreign policy priorities: dealing with North Korea and China, limiting Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East and rebuilding NATO in Europe.

9:10 p.m.

Ted Cruz is using the latest Republican presidential debate in South Carolina to assure voters that he is the best candidate to pick a Supreme Court successor to Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday, hours before the debate.

A former Supreme Court clerk, Cruz argues he has the “background” and “judgment” and “resolve” to “nominated and confirm principled constitutionalists.”

Cruz and his fellow senator, Marco Rubio, agree that the Senate should not confirm whomever President Barack Obama nominates to succeed Scalia.

Cruz avoided a direct question about whether he would pledge as president not to try to fill judicial vacancies late in his term.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is deviating from some of his rivals. He says he wants “a strong executive” who is willing to make court nominations. But Bush says he doubts Obama will offer a “consensus” nominee the Senate would accept.

9:05 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he fully expects President Obama to try to nominate a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But he says it’s up to Congress to “delay, delay, delay.”

Trump says, “If I were president now I would certainly want to try and nominate a justice.”

But he says it’s up the senate to stop it.

Rival John Kasich is also advising the president to hold off on selecting a successor because he says it would further divide the country.

He says, “I really wish the president would think about not nominating somebody,” he says. “I would like the president to just for once here, put the country first.”

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson says, “I fully agree that we should not allow a judge to be appointed in his time.”

9:00 p.m.

The latest Republican presidential debate is beginning in South Carolina against the backdrop of news that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly Saturday.

The candidates and audience observed a brief moment of silence before the debate got under way.

8:00 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is praising Justice Antonin Scalia as a “dedicated public servant,” even as she notes she does not share his conservative views.

She says Republicans calling on the seat to remain vacant until the next president enters office “dishonor our Constitution.”

The Senate has a responsibility to confirm a new justice she says and “cannot abdicate for partisan political reasons.”

Clinton is in the midst of a weekend campaign swing through Nevada.

3:45 p.m.

John Kasich is proud of efforts he made while in Congress to trim what he believed to be wasteful defense.

But allies of Jeb Bush — one of Kasich’s Republican presidential rivals — see a potential vulnerability for Kasich in military-minded South Carolina. They’re trying to slow the Ohio governor’s momentum after a strong showing in New Hampshire.

An outside group backing Bush has begun airing a television ad ahead of South Carolina’s Republican primary on Feb. 20 — using Kasich’s own words.

Kasich and others are denouncing the broadside, but it’s clear that the rivalry between Kasich and Bush is intensifying. Bush’s team sees defense spending as a key area to draw distinctions.

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