How did the candidates stack up in the second GOP debate?

Insight from the 'Special Report' All-Stars


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 17, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIATE: Your brother and your brother's administration gave us Barack Obama, because it was such a disaster those last three months that Abraham Lincoln couldn't have been elected.

FORMER GOV. JEB BUSH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIATE: Do you know what? As it relates to my brother, there's one thing I know for sure, he kept us safe.
I don't know if you remember --


TRUMP: It was a good line. I thought it was a very good line. I thought my line before it was very good, too. But because when the economy crashed, it would have been very hard for a Republican to have won. Hence the use of the great Abraham Lincoln.

CARLY FIORINA, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIATE: I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.

TRUMP: I think she's got a beautiful face and I think she's a beautiful woman.

FIORINA: It's still different for women. It's only a woman whose appearance would be talked about while running for president, never a man.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the debate and all the fallout, the candidates are out and about. We have a special panel tonight. I want to take you back to 2008 when another guy sat in this chair.


BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, the executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Jeff Birnbaum, managing editor digital of The Washington Times, and Mort Kondracke, the executive editor of Roll Call -- Fox News contributors all.


BAIER: So let's bring back our "Throwback Thursday" panel, executive editor of The Weekly Standard Fred Barnes, Fox News Radio political analyst Jeff Birnbaum, and former editor of Roll Call, Mort Kondracke.

Mort and Fred, by the way, are also the authors of a brand new book called "Jack Kemp: The Bleeding Heart Conservative Who Changed America" which comes out at the end of this month. Fred, I think you're still wearing the same tie.




BAIER: All right, let me get your thoughts on the debate overall, first.

BARNES: I thought it was fun. Not quite as fun as the Fox one, but it was trying to be as fun. Long, raucous, and some great shots were taken at the man of the hour, Donald Trump, many of which he did not recover from.

BAIER: Who won?

BARNES: Well, certainly -- well, I think there were several people who helped themselves. One was obviously Carly Fiorina. Another I thought was Chris Christie who in that format, in the debate format, he is really very good. I thought Jeb Bush helped himself a lot and had some good shots, particularly at Donald Trump. And Chris Christie, I mentioned him, he did -- he was surprisingly good.

BAIER: Jeff, you know, Donald Trump coming into the debate was so far ahead, double digits in all the polls, nationally and in the early states. And you know, he didn't have a moment that was really bad. His supporters in overnight polls at least online, say he's the big winner.

JEFF BIRNBAUM, FOX NEWS RADIO POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I guess it's the cult of Trump that we're watching here. But I think that he suffered from heightened expectations. CNN in particular had blanket coverage of Trump leading up to this debate and I think focused a lot of the questions on Trump so that he would be the target of criticism. And that was a huge set of expectations that not even the blustery Mr. Trump could satisfy I think. And so compared to those high expectations, he suffers, I think.

And that's why I agree with Fred, that Carly Fiorina I think was the winner. She was sharp. She was concise. She obviously thought through her answers and was disciplined about giving those answers in a very organized fashion. I think that it was very impressive. And I think as a result, she will probably gain in the polls and Trump may actually fall, giving some support to her.

BAIER: Mort?

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Yes, I think Trump flopped, actually. I think he was hit again and again and again. I mean, just on small things like the vaccine, he's clearly wrong on vaccinations causing autism. He was wrong on Governor Walker's record in Wisconsin. Walker does not have a deficit of $200 billion. He's got a balanced budget.

BAIER: Let me interrupt you. Let me play that exchange between Trump and Walker and take a listen. I'll let you finish up.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Trump, we don't need an apprentice in the White House. We don't need an apprentice in the White House. We have one now.

TRUMP: Excuse me. In Wisconsin you're losing $2.2 billion right now. You lost 2.2, you have right now a huge budget deficit. That's not a Democratic point. That's a point. That's a fact. And when the people of Iowa found that out, I went to number one and you went down the tubes.

WALKER: Biggest thing for us is getting back to the basics getting into Iowa and the early states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So it's Iowa or bust for you?

WALKER: I think we're putting all our eggs in the basket of Iowa. We're committed to Iowa and we think that will help us make the case all throughout the country.


BAIER: Mort, you have to concede Walker has dropped.

KONDRACKE: He has dropped, there's no question about it. But I actually thought Walker was stronger in this debate than he was before. I thought the best shot taken at Trump was the revelation that he's given $50 million to the Republican Party in order to get a gambling casino in Florida which Jeb Bush would not go for. He said totally false, totally false. Well, it's totally right, which makes Trump, it seems to me, a liar.

BAIER: I have listened to this before. I've been through this where everybody says, you know, Trump had a tough night. This is horrible. How can he say x, y, and z? This is a bad performance. Guess what? His poll numbers go up.

BARNES: Well, look, but there was something different in this one, and that is when the subject was foreign policy, Trump was at sea. You know, he was incoherent about Putin. At some point he said, don't worry, if I'm elected I'll be up to speed on this when I'm sworn in. I mean, it was pretty pathetic. He was out of his depth.

KONDRACKE: And he has no answer for how you're going to deport 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants and let back the good ones. I mean, that's crazy.

You know, the question I tried to plant this with one of the questioners.


KONDRACKE: Yes -- I think this is a killer question. Mr. Trump, can you guarantee us that everybody who tends your golf courses, everybody who builds your hotels, everybody who cleans your hotels is an American citizen? I bet he can't. And if he can't, then he's not as serious about immigration he claims he is.

BAIER: Jeff, if you look at the people who show up in Dallas, 20,000 people. If you show -- and he's going to have an event in New Hampshire tonight, and I guarantee you it will be overflow crowd. How do you explain what's happened?

BIRNBAUM: I think that Trump is a perfect American archetype in a perverse sort of way, that he tells the establishment to go jump in a lake, and then makes $1 billion despite that attitude. That kind of -- forget it, the rest of you, but still makes himself so rich that he doesn't have to answer to anybody. That is a kind of American dream that the anti- Washington voters, especially the Republicans, are yearning for. And so that's why he is able to weather all sorts of mistakes that he makes, including the ones that we pointed out.

BAIER: I want to take us down to the campaign casino because we have never had a "Throwback Thursday" Candidate Casino, and we thought we'd bring it back on Thursday and go down the row here. It's $100 in chips, who do you think would be the nominee? You can split the money however you want. All right, Fred, $100 in chip.

BARNES: Well, I'm giving $30 of them to Marco Rubio who I should have mentioned before had a great night. He was tremendous. He is everything that you should be on foreign policy that Donald Trump isn't. I think I give Trump, what five percent, 10 percent? Look, he's not going to be the nominee. But he is a candidate who is obviously going to last and winds up with great crowds even when he acts like a fool. It works. And he is fun.
I mean, there's no question about that. He's fun to listen to.

But there were really only about three or four candidates who I think have a real chance. Obviously one is Rubio. One is Bush who I think had a very good debate. And he's going to be around. No question about that.
When the field shrinks, he'll still be there and his numbers will be better.

BAIER: OK, $100 in chips, go ahead, Jeff.

BIRNBAUM: Well, this -- my $100 layout here will prove I'm not very much of a gambler.


BIRNBAUM: But I think that the people who have a chance are Bush and Rubio, that Christie did well and reintroduced himself last night. I think that Kasich did -- was nervous but he should do fairly well. And I can't dismiss Trump and Fiorina as outsiders completely, but I think that their acts will fade over time. But most of my money is being saved until I have a better idea of where this is actually going.

BAIER: A 401(k). OK, Mort, $100.

KONDRACKE: So look, the history of Republican nominating processes is that they wander all through the wilderness -- Michelle Bachmann, Pat Buchanan -- and they eventually wind back to the most electable candidate. I think there are only three of these people who can be elected, maybe four. So -- because of immigration and the Hispanic vote. So I give Bush what did I say there, $40. I give Kasich $35 and I give Rubio $25. And I guess maybe I'll take a little bit of that money out and give it to Carly Fiorina, although I think she's -- I would bet a lot of money on her being vice president.

BAIER: I didn't ask Twitter, but I guarantee you they would say you are all establishment hacks. And they have put $100 on Trump or maybe some Ben Carson, maybe some Fiorina.

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