Preparing for the second GOP debate: Carson, Fiorina, Paul and Rubio talk strategy on 'The Kelly File'

GOP presidential candidate reacts on 'The Kelly File' to becoming a clear frontrunner


This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," September 15, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST, “THE KELLY FILE”: Breaking tonight, less than 24 hours to go before the next presidential debate and we have a huge show for you.

Big news from the latest poll just out. Four of the top presidential contenders join us with a preview of their debate strategy and new comments just coming in from Donald Trump.

Welcome to “The Kelly File,” everyone. I'm Megyn Kelly. We start with a live look at the USS Iowa in California where Mr. Trump is due to speak momentarily about international challenges and veterans issues, giving him the chance to strengthen his standing with the military community.

We will be streaming this live at and we will bring you the news as it happens.

But one of the big political stories today is the new polling, showing a statistical dead heat now for the top spot in the Republican race for the White House. Look at this. Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson are now effectively tied for first in the latest "CBS News/New York Times" national poll.

Mr. Trump at 27 percent, Dr. Carson 23 percent, which is well within the margin of error.

And when you take a closer look at where the candidates stood just about a month ago, the numbers are even more stunning. Donald Trump has gained support up 3 points since early August prior to the Fox News debate. But look at Dr. Ben Carson. His numbers have nearly quadrupled from six percent in early August to 23 percent now.

Tonight, we will be joined by four presidential candidates, which may be a first for “The Kelly File” or for any show for that matter.

Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. Plus, we'll have analysis tonight from Brit Hume. And we'll speak to the group at the center of a new dispute with Donald Trump. They have unleashed a pair of attack ads on him and, whoa, has he fired back.

But we begin tonight with a man who has shaken up the polls surging right to the top, retired Pediatric Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson.

Dr. Carson, good to see you tonight. So how do you see --



KELLY: -- your strategy for tomorrow night's debate given the help you gave yourself in the last presidential debate?

CARSON: Well, I don't think that my strategy is going to change at all. It's going to be to tell the truth and to talk about, you know, my vision for America which I think is something that a lot of people resonate with.

You know, the polls are not particularly surprising, given the fact that I'm out there amongst the people a lot. And I have been seeing the level of enthusiasm and the size of the crowds for quite some time. It hasn't really been reported on, but we have seen it so this is not very surprising.

KELLY: You talk about your vision. And this is something that you have written an op-ed on in The Journal. And you come out and say in this piece "America needs a new paradigm. A paradigm that emphasizes that strength comes from within each of us. That to change our country, we must embrace old-fashioned values such as respect, compassion, and responsibility."

What do you mean by that?

CARSON: Well, I mean, you know, America is an incredible country. By far the greatest country the world has ever known. Before we came along, people did things the same way for thousands of years. Within 200 years of the advent of America, men were walking on the moon. And we reached a pinnacle much faster than anybody else and a much higher pinnacle. And that was because of the values that we manifested.

You know, there are a lot of people who like to look at us and they say yes, but you guys had slavery and you hurt the Native Americans and you had Japanese internment camps. I don't deny that those things occurred but we learned from them.

We have people inhabiting this country and any time you have people inhabit it, you are going to have imperfections, but you are able to get beyond those things to learn from those things and move on. And that's what we did. And as a result, we have a country that had the highest standards of living and was the one who really created a higher standard for the rest of the world.

KELLY: Your emphasis on compassion is something your colleagues, your former colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, tells us has been part of your character for a while. This comes from blurb offered on your book, from the president of John Hopkins University Steven Mueller at the time. "What makes Dr. Carson extraordinary is his compassion, modesty and sensitivity. He serves as a splendid example for young people."

Compassion in some conservative circles raises alarm bells of he is going to be a big spender. Is that -- how do you mean it?

CARSON: I mean it in terms of us being willing to invest in our fellow man. You know, America has always been an extraordinarily compassionate nation. You know, we were the impetus for socialism because the Europeans looked over here and they saw the Carnegies and the Mellons, and the Fords and the Kellogg's and the Vanderbilts and, you know, they said those people have too much money. We need to have an overarching government.

But what they didn't realize about those names and many others is that instead of just hoarding money, they built the infrastructure of this nation, the transcontinental railroads, the sea ports, the textile mills, the factories, providing the mechanism for the most powerful and dynamic middle-class the world has ever seen, which rapidly propelled us to the pinnacle. And they also built libraries and museums and charitable.


KELLY: But you know how people feel now.

CARSON: .organizations.

KELLY: They feel -- so many feel resentful of the rich. And they -- you know, they feel they are the haves and the have-nots. And I know you have been focused in particular on many folks who live in have-not communities. One of the things you write in your piece is the family unit. That that's what we need to be focused on right now, the family unit. That most crucial inculcator of values has disintegrated and you write, "I'm afraid we are on the front end of a lost generation."

How does the 2016 presidential race factor in to addressing that?

CARSON: Well, I, for one, will be talking about it very substantially about the things that impact the family structure in a negative way. Many of those things are considered politically incorrect because every family structure is supposed to be of equal value than the PC world.

But evidence demonstrates that it is not the case. And we need to be looking at what is driving some of the things that Bernie Sanders likes to talk about, like the big income gap. It is not because wealthy people are wealthy. It is -- one of the reasons is because we have so many regulations. And every regulation cost in terms of goods and services, but who gets disproportionately hit by that? The poor people and the middle class. Nobody is really talking about that and that is a very substantial problem.

KELLY: Somebody is calling so I have got to let him go. It may be Barbara Walters. She also gave you a nice blurb for your book.

Dr. Carson, it's great to see you. We will be watching tomorrow night.

CARSON: All right. Thank you, Megyn.

KELLY: All the best.

Well, we are only getting started tonight with Carly Fiorina and Senator Marco Rubio up next on their strategies for tomorrow. And then Senator Rand Paul talks about his plan for taking on Trump.

Plus, Brit Hume is here to talk about who faces the highest stakes on the big stage tomorrow night.

And then we will speak with a conservative group now spending a million bucks to go after Donald Trump in the State of Iowa. That group's message and Trump's response just ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump wants us to think he is Mr. Tell-It-Like-It- Is, but he has a record, and it's very liberal. He is really just playing us for chumps. Trump, just another politician.



KELLY: Breaking tonight, Donald Trump launches a new attack in his back and forth battle with Carly Fiorina. It comes right before the two face off on tomorrow night's debate stage. And that's also the first time they will be together since Trump took a shot at Fiorina's looks in Rolling Stone magazine.

Saying, quote "Look at that face? Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that? The face of our next president?"

Carly then responded with this ad.




This is the face of the 61-year-old woman. I am proud of every year and every wrinkle.



KELLY: Then, last night in Dallas, Trump seemed to suggest that he is the victim here.


TRUMP: You know, it's incredible. I make like statements because, you know, Carly is giving me a little bit of a hard time even though her poll numbers are horrible. She is the one, she was another one, she is surging, Ben is -- everybody is surging but me.


KELLY: The former Hewlett-Packard CEO and presidential candidate Carly Fiorina joins me now.

Carly, great to see you tonight. So, do you believe that he is playing the victim here, acting like you are coming after him, after he insulted your face?

FIORINA: Well, I don't know. You know, honestly Donald Trump says all kinds of things. I don't really worry much about what Donald Trump says, honestly. I'm out there talking with voters every day. This isn't entertainment, although, it's obviously very entertaining to many people. But these are actually serious times.

Voters don't ask me about Donald Trump or his comments. They ask me about their healthcare or their kids' education? Or how are we going to defeat ISIS, or how are we going to get debt under control. They thank me for answering their questions in terms they can understand. We are at a pivotal point and I think most people know it.

KELLY: But the one thing, the reason it's relevant is not because, you know, is Carly Fiorina a victim. I don't think anybody looks at you and thinks victim. But it's relevant because character matters, does it not? If he is a sexist? Is it important to know that?

FIORINA: Of course, character matters. You know, when you think about leadership, and certainly the Oval Office requires leadership. It is about strength, it is about courage, it is about judgment, it is about temperament, it is most definitely about character. And character requires humility and empathy as well as confidence.

And one of the things that I believe is that character is revealed over time and under pressure. And so I think all of our characters are being revealed over time and under pressure, including Mr. Trump's.

KELLY: Uh-huh. How do you -- you made a comment to a reporter the other day talking about how, you know, half the questions you get ask are about him. And, you know, I confess we have presidential candidates on the show all the time. We talk a lot about him because he is leading in the polls by a lot, because he is compelling to watch on television.

How do you get oxygen in the midst of a race like this, given the presence of a celebrity billionaire, presidential frontrunner like Donald Trump?

FIORINA: Well, you know, with all due respect to pollsters and media people, neither one of them decide elections. Voters do. And so, when I'm on the ground, it turns out that even though I continue to have the lowest name I.D. in the field and tomorrow night's debate is another great opportunity for me to introduce myself to the American people, I'm still in the top five in every single state poll.

In other words, the people who decide elections are voters. And if you go back in every presidential election, the polls, the pundits, the money, the media, all said that Ronald Reagan couldn't win and Jimmy Carter couldn't win and Bill Clinton couldn't win and Barack Obama couldn't win and they all won. And they won because voters decided they should win.

KELLY: What's -- tomorrow night, there is going to be a lot of focus on you. A lot of focus on you, because you weren't on the sort of main stage last time around.

Do you feel that pressure and do you have any sort of a debate ritual that you go through prior to going out there?

FIORINA: Well, you know, I certainly know that this is a big opportunity. It's a big opportunity as I say for me to introduce myself to the almost 50 percent of the nation and Republican primary voters who don't know my name and don't know I'm running for president. So it's a big opportunity and it's a big platform.

In terms of the debate ritual, I really don't, but here is what I think about a lot. Of course, I read up on current issues to make sure I understand what's going on. And I think very carefully, I guess, about what I want to convey in 30 second chunks or a minute chunks. Because the thing about a debate that's a little bit different than campaigning out there every day is you have a very prescribed timeframe.

KELLY: Right.

FIORINA: One of the things that voters say to me all the time is thank you so much for answering my question. Thank you so much for talking in common sense terms that I can understand.

And I want to continue to answer people's questions and speak in common sense terms and I need to do it in 30 seconds or a minute chunks.

KELLY: I read that you play a little solitaire on your phone, too. Is that true?

FIORINA: I do. Yes, I do. I play solitaire on my phone and then the last thing I do, you know, my husband and I have a quiet moment together. And then I spend some time in solitude, in prayer, before it's time to actually go out on that stage.

KELLY: It can't hurt. Carly Fiorina, great to see you.

FIORINA: Nice to see you, Megyn. Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Also, breaking tonight with candidates finalizing their plans of attack ahead of the Republican debate, the challenge for most will be finding an opportunity to break out.

And one of those looking to improve his profile is Florida senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio.

Senator, great to see you tonight.


KELLY: So I don't know if you are looking for a breakout moment or not, but it's always helpful for somebody running for president to find one. Do you have that strategy or any other conscious strategy going into this second debate tomorrow?

RUBIO: I always use these debates as an opportunity to tell people who I am and what I will do if they give me the chance to serve as president. And that's what I try to do in every debate moving forward. It's a chance to speak to a lot of Americans, millions of Americans who are trying to make up their minds.

And I honestly think that despite our challenges, we have very significant challenges. We have a chance to usher in the greatest era in America's history. But, to do that, we need a government that's in touch with our people. We don't have that right now. We are on the road to decline right now, but we can fix this. So that's what I want to talk about tomorrow.

KELLY: So let's talk about it because last time, the last debate you actually were praised in most corners. I didn't see any articles really ripping on you for your debate performance. Most people thought you did a very solid job.

And Ben Carson didn't say too much. But at the end, he had this great answer that got a lot of pickup. And, man, he surged up. And a lot of people say, even he said to me, I think it was because of my debate performance. Do you look for a moment like that? Is it worth trying one moment? One funny moment, one big moment with the audience?

RUBIO: You know, I don't know other people may want to do that I'm just going to continue to try to do well in terms of explaining who I am and what I want to do. And I do think overtime, it has a cumulative effect as voters get ready to make up their minds.

In the end, this is not a game show. It's not a production. And it is, in fact, deciding the most important political office in the world and a very unique one at that.

You are deciding the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military and the leader of the most powerful country on the planet and that's a serious endeavor. That's how we take it. That's how we prepare for it.

KELLY: Yesterday, Donald Trump was on TV talking about his surging poll numbers everywhere and he pointed out Florida, and bragged to the audience that he is ahead of you and Jeb Bush in your home State of Florida. And indeed there is a Quinnipiac Poll putting him at 21 percent and Jeb at 17, and you and Carson tied at 11 percent.

Why is he beating you in your home state?

RUBIO: Well, look, again, he has tapped into a vein in this country. People are really frustrated and angry. I'm not sure there has ever been a time in our history where the political class in Washington has been more out of touch with the lives of our people than it is now and he has tapped into that.

But I think it's not just enough to be frustrated. I'm frustrated. It's the reason why I'm leaving the U.S. Senate after just four years and running for president.

We have to be frustrated, but we also have to allow that to lead us to solutions. And the good news is that everything that's wrong with this country we can fix. Not if we keep electing the same people with the same ideas but if we can elect a new generation of leadership with ideas that are relevant to the challenges before us now. So I think that's the challenge in the months to come is to outline to the American people how we are going to turn this frustration into action and that action into the greatest era in American history.

KELLY: All right. Now, I don't follow football but my football friends tell me that you committed a sin. They say it was a big one. That you made a comment about Florida State and you shouldn't have done that.

RUBIO: I did.

KELLY: You went to the University of Florida. There is a rivalry. And here's what you said.


RUBIO: I don't have anything against Florida State. I think there has to be a school where people that can't get into Florida can go to college. And that's why we have Florida State.


KELLY: And now, apparently, some are saying that's it. He can kiss Florida goodbye and you say?

RUBIO: I say I'm a college football fan. I'm a proud Gator. And there has got to be room in life despite all the serious issues we face for a little college football trash talk. Look, it's great to be a Florida Gator. We look forward. We beat them six out of the last 10 times and we look forward to doing it again on the Saturday after Thanksgiving this year.

KELLY: That's fine. I'll just pretend I understood everything you said and we will move on.

Senator, always great to see you.

RUBIO: Thank you.

KELLY: All the best. Well, we still have Brit Hume just ahead. He has been watching all of this. He will give you his guide on what to watch for tomorrow.

Plus, Senator Rand Paul is next on how he hopes to prove that he is the real conservative on stage and what he is planning for Donald Trump.


SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: News flash, the Republican Party has been fighting against the single pair system for a decade. So I think you are on the wrong side of this if you are still arguing for a single payer system.

DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think you heard me. You are having a hard time tonight.



KELLY: Breaking tonight, Rand Paul coming out swinging with just 24 hours to go until tomorrow night's G.O.P. debate. The senator has released a new ad in which he touts himself as quote, "A real conservative."

A message, we are told, that is not only an effort to separate himself from the pack, but from one candidate in particular.

Joining me now Senator Rand Paul.

Great to see you tonight, senator. And so you said in an interview that, quote, "I'm not going to sit quietly by and let the disaster that is Donald Trump become the nominee. Do you want someone who appears to still be in grade school to be in charge of the nuclear arsenal? Someone has to bring him down."

How do you plan to do that?

PAUL: Well, you know, I think electioneering, running for office is combat. It's an intellectual combat. And you have to differentiate yourself from others. I think he is running as a conservative. But the Tea Party movement, we were very wary of fake conservatives. Republicans who said they were conservative, but were actually for big government programs.

Donald Trump was for President Obama's stimulus plan. Government stimulus plan. No conservative in America was for it. He was for President Obama's Obamacare. No conservative in America was for that either. But the biggest thing that I think really shows who Donald Trump is, is that when you look at private property rights, sort of the fundamental building blocks of our country, he is for taking property from individual small property owner and giving it to big corporations like his and there are no conservatives in America who are for that. So really I do think he is a fake conservative.

KELLY: He -- you know, these issues about, you know, his prior liberal positions have been raised repeatedly. They don't touch him in the polls. He continues to surge.


PAUL: Well, not yet. They will eventually. Ultimately people are going to have to decide who they want to run the country. And I do mean this very seriously. That someone who is calling another candidate ugly, stupid, fat, all the things he has been saying about other people, is that really the kind of person that's going to have diplomacy with the Soviet Union or with China?

Is that really the kind of person that you want to have in charge of your nuclear arsenal? So I think that sort of unrestrained, uncontrolled narcissism is the best way to put it, is the probably not someone you want to have in charge of your nuclear arsenal.

So I think that ultimately, right now, two thirds of the voters are undecided. Ultimately when they become voters who are actually going to have to make a decision, I think they will think more seriously about whether or not this celebrity that makes them laugh or cringe is really what they want as commander-in-chief.

KELLY: How about you? Your poll numbers have not been good lately. An "ABC News" poll on September 10th puts you at 5 percent, number 6 in the pack. Today, CBS has you at 2.7 percent, number 8 in the pack. Obviously, his numbers are way above yours. Carson is urging.

What has happened? Why have your numbers gone down instead of up?

PAUL: I think right now the race is being influenced by celebrity. I think also, you know, two thirds of the people in each of the polls are undecided. And the pollster says oh, no, really, give us who you are kind of leaning towards. So this is a leaner poll of undecided voters who may or may not be voters. So, we're not disheartened. In fact, we are working even harder. We've now organized 300 schools across the country, 300 colleges. We have 15 colleges in Iowa that we have organized. We had 600 college students at a rally at Iowa State.


KELLY: Lots of ground game going?

PAUL: Yes. We are trying very hard with the ground game. And I think things will shift. I think he has reached his crest. And I really think, ironically, Governor Perry leaving the race was the wakeup call to everybody that my goodness, we are losing candidates that were three and four term governors of large Republican states and yet a reality TV star who is most famous for insulting people is somehow leading the pack.

I think people are going to walk up and say oh, my goodness, this guy could actually be the commander-in-chief and I think they are going to think twice about that.

KELLY: In a word, and I'm out of time, what can we expect from Rand Paul tomorrow night?

PAUL: I'm going to mix it up because I like to rumble and I like to make sure people know the differences between the candidates.

KELLY: Rumble. All right, senator. We will see you. Thank you for being here.

PAUL: Thanks, Megyn.

KELLY: And we have exciting news for you about tomorrow night. Tune in to "Fox News" at 11:00 p.m. for a complete G.O.P. debate analysis. "O'Reilly" starts it off right after the debate ends. It's over on another channel, but you're going to want to come here for fair and balanced analysis after it’s over. Right?

Then we'll be on live for a special late edition of “The Kelly File” at midnight. Ben Carson will be back with us. Plus, we have a Frank Luntz focus group. Marc Thiessen and Chris Stirewalt and much more. Then stick around, live, have a coffee and join "Hannity" at 1:00 a.m.

All three of your Fox News primetime hosts are going to be here with you after that debate is over. Keep it right here on FNC.

Well, Brit Hume is up next with a report card on what we are hearing from the candidates tonight. Plus, his guide on what to watch for tomorrow.

And then, we'll speak with a conservative group that just took out a- million-dollar ad buy in Iowa and ask them why they are spending so much to go after Trump.

Plus, I had a chance to sit down with an extraordinary woman -- Ashley Smith. She's the woman taken hostage by a killer who just murdered four people and she tells us how faith saved her life in a new movie that tells her story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ashley, have you heard of this book? "The Purpose Driven Life?"


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It can help. It helped me.




KELLY: Breaking tonight. Donald Trump has just wrapped up a speech that had been billed as a, quote, "Major national security address aboard the USS Iowa."

It round up being about 10 minutes long. Hundreds of supporters were on the battleship to listen while groups of protesters were picketing outside the event.

Mr. Trump spent part of time talking about the president's deal with Iran and promised the crowd that he would do a better job on veteran's issues especially when it comes to healthcare.


TRUMP: I will say this, I am with the veterans 100 percent.


TRUMP: They are our greatest people. They are being treated terribly. The -- not only the number of deaths, which are obviously that's tantamount. That's what's going on is incredible.

But, as of two weeks ago on Wednesday, the vets had the longest wait in the history of the veteran's administration. You go in and see a doctor, you wait for days, for days, and it's not going to happen. Not going to happen. If I win, believe me, it's not going to happen.


KELLY: Joining us now, Brit Hume, our Fox News senior political analyst. Brit, good to see you. So, this was an interesting event because Trump had earlier said that he didn't want to lay out his military strategy because, quote, "You don't want to let people know what you're going to do with respect to certain things that happened."

So, we were wondering whether he would do it tonight. It sounds like he talked mostly about veterans' health. You know, does any of this matter at this point in the race so early in September?

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that remains to be seen, Megyn. Historically, you know, people have been on top of the polls at this time and ended up flaming out. But it's not clear that that's going to happen this time.

What is clear is that it kind of doesn't matter to the people who are now backing Donald Trump what he does. He can announce a speech on a certain subject and get up and say he's going to talk about it at length and get up and talk briefly about something else. That's not going to matter.

He can say that he's not going to take the pledge to support whoever gets nominated and then reverse himself a few weeks later. They are going to be with him whichever ways he goes. And that is...


KELLY: Yes. The core supporters seem to be firmly in his corner. And the CBS News poll that just came out confirms that. That if you're in his corner you're pretty strongly in his corner you're not really wavering right now.

HUME: Right.

KELLY: Although two thirds of the GOP voters still say it's still too early to decide. However, what do you (AUDIO GAP) So, Trump needs to appeal now to more than the core supporters.

And what the numbers showed in that same CBS News poll is that he and Ben Carson are now effectively tied if you count in the margin of error, which is 6 percent here in the national race.

HUME: Well, we can talk about the margin of error and that is certainly true that it is plus or minus six. But even with plus or minus six, I'd rather be at 27 then be at 23.

KELLY: Darn too many (ph).

HUME: I think that, you know, if you look at all the other polls Trump is leading. There is no getting around it.

KELLY: By a lot.


HUME: Trump is winning at the moment.

KELLY: There is nothing that the ABC News poll that ended on September 10th that he had a significant lead.

HUME: That's right. That's right. Certainly, Ben Carson has made up a lot of ground, but it doesn't appear that Ben Carson is taking supporters from Donald Trump. It appears that Ben Carson is taking supporters from the other candidates.

Many of some of whom were sinking to astonishing low levels. And they are all, I think, you know, looking, wondering, what can be done to change the drift of this election.

KELLY: Well, what are the -- you hear Rand Paul talking about he is going to come out swinging, he did that the last time.

HUME: Well, he tried. Remember, he did come out. And he tried the last time. Remember, he interrupted very early on and you guys, you know, properly closed him down because he was, you know, it wasn't his turn. And we didn't hear that much more from him as the debate war on.

He got into it with Chris Christie instead. He may try gain and maybe it will work. But the truth of the matter is, Megyn, is it the people who are trying to get a handle on this guy and figure out how to bring him down or take him down a peg at least don't know what to do.

I mean, they are trying various things. He said the club for growth you are going to speak with later. They have got an ad out. Maybe that will make a difference. But nobody really knows what to do because nobody has ever seen anything like this before.


KELLY: In the end, they attack...

HUME: And I can tell you I never have either.

KELLY: They attack him at their own peril. Because, you know, his supporters really love him and for, you know, all sorts of reasons they fervently support him and get very angry when they feel like he is being attacked. So, there is real risk.

HUME: They sure do.

KELLY: Baked into attacking him by the other candidates.

HUME: Well, there is. And, you know, it's sort of an axiom of politics in a multicandidate race that you have to be careful if you attack another candidate. While you may do that candidate some harm, you may not yourself look very good of doing it and the benefit of it may go to some other candidate. So, that's always a risk.

KELLY: So, given that tomorrow, who could really stand out? Whose big opportunity is this?

HUME: Well, I think it's -- another way to look at it if you don't mind, Megyn, who really needs to stand out.

KELLY: Sure.

HUME: And I would say at this point it's pretty clear that Scott Walker who has had a precipitous drop in the polling down to where he has fallen almost out of sight, he needs to find a way to rally himself and win back some of the following that he had, not so many weeks ago.

Certainly, you know, I was listening to Marco Rubio tonight. He sounded like Marco Rubio sounds. He's articulate, he's pleasant. He is youthful. He has got an interesting record. He is certainly conservative. He's all kinds of things you would think would qualify him in a republican field, and yet, his poll numbers are pretty bleak as well.

And he is, you know, it would be great for him to have a great night. But I think a lot of us thought he had a great night last time and look at all the good it did him.

So, nobody knows what the formula is here except for the moment at least, Donald Trump is, you know, goes around and blustering and bragging and claiming how great it's all going to be and never really quite explaining how he is going to do all these things.

And for some reason the republican voters who said to be angry and tired of politicians are buying his promises. Who knew?

KELLY: It's going to be exciting to watch. Brit, great to see you.

HUME: I have to think so. Thank you, Megyn.

KELLY: Coming up, two stories of faith with two incredibly different outcomes. We'll introduce you to the woman who credits her faith with literally saving her life after being kidnapped.

And we'll bring you an update on the woman whose faith landed her behind bars.

But, next, Donald Trump fires back after a conservative group with very deep pockets mounts a big challenge to the republican frontrunner in Iowa.


UNIDENTIFED MALE: Trump supports eminent domain abuse because he can make millions, while we lose our property rights. Trump, the worst kind of politician.



KELLY: Breaking tonight. A deep pocket of conservative group with a long list of republican donors unleashing a $1 million ad campaign attacking Donald Trump.

The organization, Club for Growth taking aim at the republican frontrunner in two new ads airing in Iowa. Attacking Trump for his stance on taxes and accusing him of supporting liberal policies in the past. Watch.


TRUMP: In many cases I probably identify more as a democrat.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Trump wants us to think he's Mr. Tell it like it is, but he has a record. And it's very liberal. He's really just playing us for Trump's trump. Just another politician.


KELLY: Today, Trump fired back calling the club's ads an act of revenge after Trump declined to donate money to the group.

Joining us now Club for Growth president, David McIntosh. David, good to see you.


KELLY: So, this is Donald Trump came out and said, "Little respected Club for Growth asked me from $1 million, I said no, now they're spending lobbyists and special interest money on ads." He is saying this is sour grapes on your part because he wouldn't give you a million bucks.

MCINTOSH: That's classic Donald Trump. He's the worst kind of politician who won't address the issues. He won't own up to the fact that he's the most liberal guy running but says he is a conservative. And that's what our ad says.

KELLY: This is -- the Club for Growth people should know is a conservative group that tries to get true conservatives elected to powerful positions. And they don't like so-called rhinos or moderates.

MCINTOSH: No. That's right.

KELLY: You backed people like Senator Mike Lee.


KELLY: Even Senator Marco Rubio, and so, you try to find people who you believe won't raise taxes, and so on. He -- in your ads you charge that Trump will raise taxes that he's for single payer that he was for government run healthcare. Those are old positions he says.

And right now he says the only people he wants to tax are hedge fund guys like seriously rich dudes. This is what he said on O'Reilly earlier tonight.


TRUMP: I'm actually lowering taxes and especially for the middle class. The hedge fund guys are going to have to pay because they pay practically nothing, peanuts. But I am lowering taxes, overall lowering for corporations. And by the way, Club for Growth is a phony outfit.


MCINTOSH: Well, Megyn, we've done this for years. We've got a very good B.S. detector and we can tell when a candidate says what we want to hear, says what voters want to hear. But we look at his record.

And in this case, Donald Trump's record is he's for taxes. He has been for taxes for decades. He still is. He's going to tax everybody's Ford when they come over. Put a huge tax on goods coming from China so that if you're buying a new Apple phone you're going to pay 35 percent more.

Those are tax increases that hit the middle class. And recently, just in the last month, he has been for raising taxes. We're going to tell the truth.

KELLY: He says he's just focused just on the rich. And he says those -- if you make $10 million more a year, you can afford a tax increase, the middle class cannot.

Let me ask you this. Somebody from the Club for Growth said there is going to be more. It's not just he says one million. Is it true?

MCINTOSH: We will continue to pursue this so that we can tell the voters the truth about Donald Trump. And we'll take it all the way through to the primaries. It will come in different places and at different times but the club is committed to getting the word out about Donald.

The worst part is that he's just a politician. He's portraying himself as an outsider, a crusader who will represent middle America. But, he's playing people for Trumps.

KELLY: How is he a politician?

MCINTOSH: Well, the worst kind of politician tells you whatever you want to hear, and then when they get in office they don't keep their promises. Donald has told everybody I'm a conservative even though just a few years ago he said, well, I'm really more comfortable as a democrat.

KELLY: Well, he points out that Ronald Reagan had -- he evolved on many of these issues as well, and says he has as well.

MCINTOSH: You know, Ronald Reagan said, I didn't changed. The democratic Party change and left me. Trump changed because he saw an opportunity.

KELLY: Well, some people get older and they get more conservative. It's not that in the pot really.

MCINTOSH: Yes. It's true to me.

KELLY: I got to go. Great to see you.

MCINTOSH: Great to see you.

KELLY: All the best. Coming up, the incredible story of how one woman's faith literally saved her life after the quadruple murderer at the center of massive manhunt back in 2005 turned up on her doorstep.

She explained while she is certain. A higher power was in control that day and how she manages to use her faith to escape after being held hostage in her own home for some seven hours.

So many people think that the story is about the book. That, this story is about the book. What do you think this story is about?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police are looking for this man.

The murder suspect Brian Nichol.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: It has in the sky. All choppers up now. Let's let Nichols out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Ashley and I'm a mother.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: I don't trust you, Ashley. Scream again and I will have to kill you.


KELLY: Oh, that was a clip from the upcoming movie, "Captive," a film based on the incredible true story of a woman named Ashley Smith.

In March 2005, a man who had just murdered four people, including two in open court showed up at her door. That man, Brian Nichols, held Ashley hostage for some seven hours. Incredibly, she managed to survive bonding with her captor by reading him passages from a popular self-help book by Pastor Rick Warren.

Despite chances to escape, Ashley says her faith told her that a higher power would intervene.

There was another opportunity where he convinced you to help him hide the getaway car. He had stolen a car and killed -- I think that was the law enforcement officer's car.


KELLY: And he got you out of the apartment to help him hide it. Why didn't you run in those moments? What was it? Did you -- were you motivated by fear or was it some knowledge that I'm going to get out of this?

SMITH: I think looking back on it even times when I read the book or watch the movie, even myself, I'm like, go, girl, you need to get out of there. You got a chance. But I think several things went through my mind at that point in time.

Number one, my car was not -- it wasn't a very good car. It had been breaking down on a very irregular basis. And I think I feared that if I tried to get away, that it would immediately break down and I would get stuck.

KELLY: It's too risk. And it's too risky.

SMITH: Also, you know, I really believed that God, once I chose not to do the drugs, god took control and He began to lead that night. And for me, I think I just kept saying eventually he will let me go.

If I let him get in the car and go back to my apartment, then he's not going to have a getaway car. He's going to be at my house all by himself at one point and he'll be surrounded.

And so, I think those things were just going through my head.

KELLY: The Ashley Smith who was there before that encounter, is she still with us?

SMITH: I'm not -- I'm not in a spiritual warfare any more. I'm not fighting that any more. You know, the person that was there that night was still a human being.

I think she is still here because that person was a sinner saved by God's grace. Today, I'm still just a sinner saved by God's grace. You know, that night I laid down my brokenness to God and I gave it to Him. That's what changed.

KELLY: For Ashley, her faith was the key to saving her life. Compare that today with the saga of defiant Kentucky clerk, Kim Davis, whose beliefs actually landed her behind bars.

And while Davis is now back at work and with her family, her attorneys say that this case threatens the core of our country's founding principles.

Mat Staver is an attorney for Kim Davis and the founder and chairman of Liberty Council. Mat, good to see tonight.


KELLY: Of course, it was Kim Davis' actions based on her faith that landed her in jail. But you handle a lot of these cases. Do you see a noticeably erosion of respect for people following their genuinely held religious beliefs in this country?

STAVER: I certainly do. Especially in this case. I think it was very evident that there was a divide in the country and that divide may even get worse. And sometimes it's governed by political ideology rather than principle.

And if you're in favor of the issue that's at hand that the religious conviction is colliding with, then you're not in favor of the religious accommodation.

And if you're opposed to it then you're in favor of the accommodation. The fact to the matter is it shouldn't be whether we're opposed or against to the issue that is confronting the person of faith. It should be, are we tolerant enough, big enough and respectful enough to protect, and at least try to accommodate a person's deeply held religious convictions.

KELLY: There was an ABC News poll out today that shows 74 percent of Americans believe equality under the law should trump religious beliefs.

However, those polls come down in large part to how the question is asked.


KELLY: And there's a way for providing an accommodation for religious objectors that still honors the law.

I just want to ask you this Mat, people painted her as a monster. We heard somebody literally call her a monster.


KELLY: Why don't you tell the audience what Kim Davis has been doing since she's been back to work and what she did with the protesters who were protesting her.

STAVER: Well, one of the -- when she was there before she went to jail for six days during the hot Kentucky sun, she took water out to the protesters that were protesting against her to express her genuine concern for them.

And when she came back, one of the first things that she did is she went to the deputy clerk that did issue the marriage licenses and that indicated that he would do so when she did return, and she went to him, hugged him and said, you don't know how much I love you.

And that's Kim Davis. She is someone who loves people. Because four and half years ago, like for the person that you just featured and it's an amazing story how her faith got through this, four and a half years ago, everything changed for Kim.

And that's where her faith began when she turned her life over to Jesus. And consequently, that just flows through her.


KELLY: She's been loving it.

STAVER: To know Kim Davis is to know a wonderful human being that I think everyone in this country should get a chance to know.

KELLY: Mat Staver, thank you.

STAVER: Thank you.

KELLY: Well, there's more to Ashley Smith's story than we had time to tell you tonight. Tomorrow my exclusive full interview with her, 9 p.m. Eastern.


KELLY: Tomorrow night after the GOP debate, tune in to Fox News for complete debate analysis. O'Reilly is live at 11. Kelly is live at midnight, Hannity at 1 a.m. We'll have Ben Carson, Frank Luntz, pieces stir (ph) wall, much, much more.

Fair and balance coverage here.

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