GOP Candidates Face Off in CNBC 'Your Money, Your Vote' Debate

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Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ben Carson, center, speaks as businessman Donald Trump, left, and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina listen at the 2016 U.S. Republican debate held by CNBC in Boulder, Colorado, on Wednesday. Rick Wilking/Reuters

On Wednesday evening, the 2016 Republican presidential candidates gathered for their third debate of the election season, this time in Boulder, Colorado. As with previous debates, an earlier "undercard" debate featured candidates polling at less than three percent, while the campaign's remaining top contenders took to the main stage at 8 p.m. EST. Those candidates included Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Rand Paul.

Unlike previous debates, Wednesday night's event was meant to focus on business and the economy, though candidates also fielded questions on everything from immigration to climate change.

Check out our coverage of the GOP "undercard" debate.

Chart: Tracking Topics Discussed at the Republican vs. Democratic Debates

10:12 p.m. The candidates are invited to give closing statements. Paul says, "I want a government so small I can barely see it." Christie tells Americans that if they are serious about this election, he is serious and wants to change the culture, which he says he did in New Jersey. Cruz says he has led the fight to take on Washington and stand up to Democrats and leaders in the Republican party. Fiorina says, "I might not be your dream candidate just yet, but I can assure you I am Hillary Clinton's worst nightmare."

Carson thanks his colleagues on the stage for being civil and audience for listening closely and responding; Trump says that America is losing in trade, against the Islamic state and on the Iran nuclear deal. "Our country doesn't win anymore," Trump says. Rubio and Bush both says the current political leadership is hurting rather than helping. "Imagine a country where people are lifted out of poverty again," he says. "I know we can do this because we are still the most extraordinary country on the face of the Earth."

"I do not want to walk my five grandkids through the charred remains of America," and hand them a load of debt, Hucakbee says. Kasich goes grander: "If you've saved one life, you've changed the world," he says.

10:12 p.m. The candidates are asked about health care and Medicaid. "We don't have a health care crisis in America," Huckabee says. "We have a health crisis...You want to fix Medicare? Focus on the diseases." Trump mentions bringing jobs back to America and Kasich and Bush both say it's impossible to fix entitlement problems just by growing the economy.

"You can't do nothing and that's what I hear from some people," Pauls says. Carson says there are a lot of available private-sector solutions. "How do we utilize our intellect rather than allowing the government to use its 'intellect' in order to help us lead better and healthier lives," he says. Christie echoes that sentiment and Rubio says his mother uses Medicaid and he's "against anything that's bad for my mother."

10:01 p.m. The next question is for Paul: Reagan hated Medicare—was he right? "The question always is what works better, the crowded marketplace or government?" he replies. "It always seems to be the private marketplace does a better job."

9:58 p.m. While Wall Street reform has yet to earn a question, the moderators ask about fantasy sports, and whether they should be regarded as (and regulated as) gambling. "I'm 7-0 in my fantasy football league," Bush says, laughing, before going on to say that he doesn't think the federal government should be involved in regulating fantasy sports. Christie seconds that sentiment with typical New Jersey flare: "Are we really talking about getting the government involved in fantasy football?!"

9:56 p.m. Kasich is asked about for-profit colleges (which he has expressed support for) and student loan debt, and is quick to tout his experience addressing this issue in Ohio, where he is governor. "Universities will not be paid one dime unless the student graduates or completes a course," Kasich says.

Bush chimes in, saying that we don't need government involved in higher education. in Florida, we have the lowest in state tuition of every state...Let the states do this...It's always the solution of the left to create more government."

9:53 p.m. Fiorina is asked about company-supplied 401k plans, which aren't available to the majority of Americans. She says the government shouldn't get involved in trying to bridge that gap. "Companies should [have 401ks] if they want to attract the best workers," she says. "We have 400,000 small businesses forming every year in this country. The bad news is we have 470,000 [businesses] going out of business every year. And why? They saw Obamacare."

9:51 p.m. In a move that earns further ire from the candidates, the moderators ask Huckabee (a minister) if Trump is the right moral authority for the country. "I love Donald Trump," Huckabee says. "He is a good man. I am wearing a Trump tie tonight, get over that one." Huckabee says Trump would be a better president every day of the week and twice on Sunday than Hillary Clinton. The response gets big applause, and Trump thanks Huckabee after calling the question "nasty."

9:49 p.m. Trump is asked about guns, and specicifically whether he would like his employees to bring guns to work. "Yes, I might feel more comfortable," Trump says, before suggesting that would-be shooters intentionally seek out gun-free zones for shooting attacks. "I have a permit, which is very unusual in New York," Trump says. "I do carry on occasion."

9:47 p.m. The conversation turns back to immigration. Trump says, "If we need people, it's fine, [but] they have to come into this country legally. We have a country of borders, we have a country of laws. We have to obey the laws."

9:45 p.m.

9:43 p.m. CNBC lights up the first pot question of the night. We are "sending mixed signals to kids" on legalized marijuana, Kasich says, before pivoting to tax policy.

9:37 p.m. The debate turns to taxes, and Bush is asked about the difference between his capital gains tax and Reagan's—the latter is higher. "The simple fact is that my plan gives the middle class the biggest break," Bush says. "The government has tried it their way under the Barack Obama....We need to take a new approach of reforming how we tax and reforming the regulations in our country before it's too late." Paul says his plan is unique because it gets rid of the payroll tax as well. Cruz says Paul's plan is a good plan.

9:33 p.m. The candidates turn to the economy. Cruz criticizes the Federal Reserve and Wall Street for "doing great" while average Americans are suffering financially, and Paul says we "should examine how the Fed has really been part of the problem." On oil subsidies, Carson says he was wrong in the past and would now call for a removal of all government subsidies. "Every single regulation costs in terms of goods and services," he says. "That cost gets passed onto the people...Bernie Sanders will tell them it's because of the rich."

9:29 p.m. In an amusing back-and-forth, Becky Quick asks Trump about his past criticism of Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, and his claim that Rubio is Zuckerberg's "personal senator." Trump denies the claim (it later emerged that the quote appears directly on Trump's website) and adds that he is "all in favor of keeping these talented people here so they can go to work in Silicon Valley."

9:26 p.m. Rubio is asked why tech companies should get high-tech visas and says that companies caught abusing the visa program should be prohibited from using it ever again. "Before you hire anyone from abroad, you should have to advertize that job for 180 days," Rubio says. "Here's the best solution of all: we need to get back to training people in this country....The ideal scenario is to train Americans to do the work so we don't have to go abroad."

9:24 p.m. Carson is asked whether Costco's reputation as a gay-friendly company is at odds with his position on same-sex marriage (Carson is on Costco's board). "I believe that our Constitution protects everybody; I also believe that marriage is between one man and one woman," Carson says, adding that his views on marriage don't inherently mean he's homophobic. Moderator Carl Quintanilla follows up with a question about Carson's affiliation with a nutrition supplement company that made (actual) snakeoil. Carson says the nature of that relationship has been misreported by the press, and adds that he only did speeches for them. :This is what happens in our society, total propaganda," he says, brushing off a moderator's note that he appeared on the company's website.

9:19 p.m. The debate turns to the wage gap. "We've got to turn the economy around for people who are struggling," Cruz says. "There are a lot of single moms in my family...When you see Dems talking about wanting to address the plight of working women, not a one of them [acknowledges] that under Barack Obama the the median wage for women has dropped $733."

Fiorina chimes in, saying that 92 percent of jobs lost under Obama's first term belonged to women. She seconds Cruz's claim that 3 million women have fallen into poverty under Obama's administration (for what it's worth, the 92 percent figure is very suspect). "I know our values and our principles and our policies need to lift everyone up, men and women," Fiorina says.

9:12 p.m. Rubio is asked a probing question about his personal finance history, and whether it reflects poorly on his potential ability to manage a $17 trillion budget. In a much-repeated claim of the night, Rubio says the moderators have their facts wrong, but adds that his credibility comes from his humble upbringing. "I didn't inherit any money," Rubio says. "I'm not worried about my finances; I'm worried about the finances of everyday Americans....This debate needs to be about the men and women who are struggling on a daily basis." (Fun fact: Carson actually grew up the poorest of anyone on stage. Rubio and Kasich had middle-class upbringings. So did Huckabee. Trump and Bush grew up wealthy, and the Pauls were quite comfortable.)

He adds that he used the money from his controversial boat sale to pay off student loans.

9:07 p.m. Bush is asked whether he would still vote for a budget deal that promised spending cuts in exchange for tax increases. "You find me a Democrat that will cut spending $10," he says. "Find me a Republican who will cut spending $10. I'll give them a warm kiss."

9:03 p.m. Carson is asked about high drug prices, a nod to Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical CEO who jacked up the price of a decades-old drug used to treat a parasitic infection by more than 5,400 percent. "There's no question that some people go overboard when it comes to trying to make profits and they don't take into consideration the American people," Carson says, but adds that he doesn't think increased government regulation is the answer. "Government is not supposed to be in every aspect of our lives, and that's what has been the problem," he says.

9:01 p.m. Trump is asked about his record in Atlantic City, and the fact that his experience with bankruptcies isn't seen as the best financial track record. "Before this I was a very successful person as a businessman," Trump replies. "Atlantic City has gone bad." He adds that he's "never filed for bankruptcy," but also says he's "good at solving debt problems. No one can solve it like me."

8:52 p.m. Huckabee is asked about Social Security as well. "This is a matter not of math this is a matter of morality," he replies. "If this country does not keep its promise to seniors, then what promise can this country hope to be trusted to keep? And the fact is none of it." Huckabee also references Bernie Madoff, who he says is in prison for less than what the governmant has done.

To date, Huckabee and Santorum have been the biggest defenders of Social Security, vowing to fight cuts to the program. Their view could have some traction in a GOP that's more working-class and more pro-entitlements.

8:50 p.m. Paul is asked whether he opposes the budget deal because it doesn't cut entitlements enough. "They're taking money from Social Security and they're going to spend it on the military and they're going to spend it on domestic spending," he says. "I frankly don't think there will be much change [in the House with Paul Ryan]," he adds. Meanwhile, Christie says Hillary Clinton wants to raise Social Security taxes. "Let me be honest with the people who are watching at home," he says. "The government has lied to you and they have stolen from you."

8:47 p.m. Cruz takes a moment to lambaste CNBC's moderators. "The questions that have been asked so far in the debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media," he says. "This is not a cage match....How about talking about the substantive issues people care about?" His rant gets big applause from the audience.

8:45 p.m. Fiorina is questioned about her run as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, which performed poorly under her leadership. "The NASDAQ dropped 80 percent and it took 15 years for the NASDAQ to recover," she replies. "HP was a company that had grown into a bureaucracy. As an outsider, I tackled problems head-on....I will run on my record all day long."

8:40 p.m. Rubio responds to an editorial that appeared in the Sun Sentinel this week, suggesting he should resign his position if he's goign to continue missing so many Senate votes. Bush tells Rubio he should resign and Rubio turns it back on Jeb: "I don't remember you ever complaining about John McCain's vote record," he says. "The only reason you're doing it now is that we are running for the same position."

8:36 p.m. Fiorina jumps in, repeating her frequent talking point about the "73,000-page" tax code. "We have been talking about [tax reform] for decades," she says. "There are loads of great ideas, great conservative ideas from wonderful think tanks of how to reform the tax codes. The problem is we never get it done...we need a leader in Washington who understands how to get something done." She says the tax code should be three pages long to "level the playing field" for regular Americans.

8:33 p.m. Trump snipes at Kasich for being a managing partner at Lehman Brothers when it tanked. "But then his poll numbers tanked, that's why he's on the end, and he got nasty," Trump says. "So you know what? You can have him." Kasich notes he wasn't on the board of Lehman Brothers (he was a managing director).

8:29 p.m. Moderator Becky Quick says that Carson's tax plan, which she says includes a flat tax of 10 percent, will bring in less than half of the revenues the U.S. brings in now, and asks him how it's going to work. "The rate is going to be much closer to 15 percent," Carson replies. "You also have to get rid of all the deductions and all of the loopholes...Everybody who tells me we need every penny in every one of those is in a fantasy world."

8:27 p.m. Trump is asked if this is a comic book version of a presidential campaign. "It's not a very nicely asked question the way you say that," he retorts. On immigration, he says: "We're going to build a wall. We're going to create a border. We're going to let people in, but they're going to come in legally."

8:25 p.m. As in a job interview, the candidates are asked to share their biggest weakness. John Kasich begins by not answering and discusses his record instead. Mike Huckabee says he has no weaknesses, while joking that his wife (who is in the audience) might say differently. Jeb Bush says patience is a virture, but says he can't face anger. "I want to fix the things to help [America] rise up," he says. Marco Rubio says, "It's not a weakness that I'm an optimist" and Trump says his greatest weakness is that he's too trusting. "When people let me down...I never forgive," he says. Ben Carson says that when it comes to the presidency, his weakness is "not really seeing myself in that position until hundreds of thousands of people began to tell me I need to do it." Carly Fiorina pointed to a poll showing that 75 percent of the American people believe the federal government is corrupt. "I think that these are very serious times," he says, referencing critiques in the last GOP debate that she wasn't smiling enough. Ted Cruz says his biggest weakness is being "a fighter. I am passionate about what I believe....If you want somebody to grab a beer with, I might not be that guy, but if you want someone to drive you home, I am that guy." Chris Christie says that he doesn't see weaknesses on the stage, but rather in Democrats, and Rand Paul says he will stand firm on the debt: "I ask everyone in America to call Congress and say enough is enough, no more debt."

GOP Candidates Face Off in CNBC 'Your Money, Your Vote' Debate | U.S.