Inside the GOP debate strategies on 'Hannity'

Columnist Mark Steyn weighs in on 'Hannity'


This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," September 16, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Welcome to "Hannity." Tonight, 2016 GOP rivals - - they squared off in the second Republican primary debate at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

Joining us live from the spin room is campaign Carl Cameron. A lot of fireworks. Looks like they wanted to pit one against the other, Carl, and somewhat successfully.

CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, a great deal of this has been about statements that the candidates have made about one another and having them sort of relitigate it. Donald Trump has gotten by far and away the most attention. He's been slamming his opponents, and some of them have been slamming him back.

Just a moment ago, he was asked about the military. He said he's going to do it big. He says he's a very militaristic person. Of course, he went to a very prestigious military prep school, but that's about the extent of it.

And he has been arguing with Carly Fiorina very, very extensively.  Carly Fiorina and he have been sparring aggressively. Fiorina's shown her foreign policy chops and taken some shots at Trump. Asked whether or not she believed that he wasn't talking about her face but her persona, he (sic) basically said, Ask -- she basically said, Look at the American people.

Ben Carson has not gotten as many questions. He's used his soft- spoken commonsensical approach to things to try to get in some points, but it hasn't been aggressive, and he seems to have sort of been pushed a little bit to the sidelines based upon this din.

As for the other establishment candidates, we heard Chris Christie today come out strong and essentially say that Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina and the rest of the field are engaging in juvenile attacks, and the American people, particularly the average middle class worker looking for a job is tired of hearing them talk about their own experiences and want to know what they're going to do for the American people.

John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, has had a couple of moments talking about particularly his record and his accomplishments in Ohio and the fact that when he was a congressman, he was able to actually balance the federal budget for first time and the last time really in the last 60 years.

Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are both on the edges of the debate stage and have been on the edges of the actual debate -- not a lot of questions, not a lot of opportunity.

One of the consequences of 11 people on a stage in a debate that's now pushing close to three hours is that not everybody's going to get a lot of time and a lot of the issues are going to be sort of pushed to the side.

Marco Rubio just a short while ago went on a lengthy foreign policy discussion and showed that he, too, has a lot to offer in terms of international relations.

It's a long process. All these candidates came here after their first debate trying to fix the mistakes that they made there and improve on the successes that they had. The questions here were based on things that had been said in the past, not a lot of forward-looking policy proposals from these people, particularly Donald Trump.

Again, he has made a lot of statements and sort of said, as he has throughout the campaign, I will know everything I need better than you when the time comes, effectively acknowledging that on some things, he doesn't know the answers but will by the time he becomes president, saying he's going to put the best team together.

A raucous debate, many more to come, and the fallout tomorrow for a lot of these candidates could be pretty stiff.

HANNITY: All right, thanks, Campaign Carl Cameron in the spin room tonight.

Here with reaction is the author of a brand-book, "A Disgrace to the Profession," the one and only Mark Steyn. Good to see you. Welcome. Rare in studio...


HANNITY: We pulled you out of the woods of New Hampshire. We got you here.


HANNITY: I'm watching the debate. I have two issues with it. Number one, 16 people is way too many people to be on stage...

STEYN: Right. Right.

HANNITY: ... or 11 in this case...

STEYN: Right.

HANNITY: ... 16, too many candidates. And I really didn't like the style of this. You said this is about that person, I want you to say it to their face and you respond to that.

STEYN: Right. Right.

HANNITY: And it's, like, the whole debate became that.

STEYN: Yes, the whole -- the whole thing. And you know, some of those people who were so concerned to make it through to big boys' debate would actually have been better if they'd been in the kiddie table debate with Lindsey Graham and things because people like Rand Paul and even, I think to a certain extent, Marco Rubio have been invisible in this debate.  The dynamic has been Trump and the people who want to take a crack at Trump.

HANNITY: Well, isn't -- this is what it basically became. Trump said this about you, now you have a fight with Trump.

STEYN: Right.

HANNITY: Trump said this about you, now you fight with Trump.

STEYN: Right.

HANNITY: So let's start with Trump. He's the front-runner coming into this debate. What did you think of his performance?

STEYN: Well, the thing is, he breaks all the rules that the consultants you you're meant to have. He didn't have his lame, pre- scripted joke, like Rubio's about the bottle of water or Scott Walker's, We don't need an apprentice in the White House.

He gives you the impression -- you know, you look at the way the -- you're supposed to spend all the day before prepping for the debate with people standing in for your other...

HANNITY: He doesn't do that.

STEYN: No, he...

HANNITY: I don't think he prepped at all.

STEYN: No! And he's like he's been -- he was out judging Miss Universe preliminary rounds until 3:00 in the morning. And then he had a couple of hours sleep and came and did the debate.

HANNITY: I think he actually played golf.


STEYN: Yes. A lot of his -- and he's managed to make that -- he breaks all the rules and he demonstrates that the rules don't apply to him.

HANNITY: You said to me you were liking him more and more every day, the other night when we had you on. Watching this debate, does that continue?

STEYN: Yes. I think -- I think it's -- I think he's changed the rules. He's essentially blown up the system. And if you think the system -- and what he's done, I think, is he's made people who play by the rules - - you know, like, for example, Jeb Bush has these little lines about how, you know, I've got a proven conservative reform track record. You have the people with the pre-scripted jokes. You have the people who say, Oh...

HANNITY: Or apologize to my wife. That was a pretty...

STEYN: Yes. Yes.

HANNITY: ... because -- and the speaking Spanish issue, and that came up.

STEYN: Right, right. And none of that -- he basically makes all that look stilted and artificial. And the other fascinating thing about the debate, by the way, is he wouldn't actually need to get a single question because he understands that the reaction shot camera is always on him. So he's always just going...


HANNITY: That didn't work for Al Gore when he was -- or George Herbert Walker Bush...


STEYN: No, but Al Gore doing the (INAUDIBLE) That was terrible! But the -- but he's managed to make all the -- and that one time when he just responded to Jeb Bush, he goes, Wrong!

HANNITY: Will there be an impact in the poll numbers based on tonight's debate with Trump?

STEYN: Well, last time around, a lot of people thought Trump had not had a good debate and the gap between him and the rest widened. And if you recall, people like Rubio and Kasich were said to have done well.

So the -- I think -- I think it's really more for the big guys -- the other guys. Can they put themselves back and make themselves competitive with Trump? And I think from that point of view, actually, Bush and Walker had a kind of blah night, a night that will not change essentially the way their poll numbers have halved since the last time.

HANNITY: I thought they both came out strong, and then you hardly hear from them again. And it's like they go away, and then all of a sudden, Mike Huckabee -- oh, I forget he was in the debate.

STEYN: Right, right.

HANNITY: And I thought he did very well. I thought the better part of the exchanges were Trump versus Carly.

STEYN: Right.

HANNITY: How do you say those exchanges went? Any victor, a wash?

STEYN: Well, I think -- I think that's the interesting thing. She -- she's the new guy on there, on the team.

HANNITY: The new gal.

STEYN: And she was promoted, and she -- and suddenly -- the interesting dynamic when they were having that back and forth on who's been the worst CEO, and it was almost as if being senator, being governor was entirely irrelevant.

HANNITY: That's an interesting observation. What did you think of Christie coming in on the outside of that and saying, Hey, it's not about who's the best CEO here, it's about the construction worker who doesn't have a job?

STEYN: Yes, and I think that was a good -- and I would say this. Of the so-called conventional politicians, I thought Christie so far is having, like, a pretty good night.

I get the sense that he's effective, but even though he's effective, people don't necessarily want to consider him as president. But I think compared -- again, compared to Walker, compared to Bush, compared to Rubio, compared to Rand Paul, he was in the game there tonight.

HANNITY: Who had the best night, from your perspective?

STEYN: Well, I think you'd have to say of the non-Trump candidates, I think you'd have to say Carly Fiorina did. She's got -- you know, she's got some effective lines and she...

HANNITY: She's also -- because I've interviewed her. She's very well informed. I would use the word she's very precise.

STEYN: Right.

HANNITY: I would -- I would assume, I'm guessing, that she's very diligent in terms of preparation and understanding and briefing. And she does her homework.

STEYN: Yes, and I think she's actually got quite a nimble mind.


STEYN: So she doesn't retreat. She did a couple of her well rehearsed lines tonight about flying is an activity, not an accomplishment.  She did a couple of those. But she's actually very nimble at turning the question around and getting at what she wants (INAUDIBLE)

HANNITY: Do you see that translate to better poll numbers for Carly, now that she's gotten on the main debate stage?

STEYN: I think it may do. I think there's going to -- my sense is that the disappointments did not do anything -- by which I mean the Bush, Walker, Rubio -- they didn't do anything to reverse that disappointment tonight, which means that the non-Trump vote is going to have to go looking elsewhere. And I think it's possible that she'll be the beneficiary of that.

HANNITY: There were moments during the debate when Trump made me laugh out loud...

STEYN: Yes. Yes.

HANNITY: ... because he's unfiltered.


HANNITY: Did you do the same?

STEYN: Yes, because I think that's what people -- I think that's what people like about him. And I think that's where Rubio's water joke and Scott Walker's, you know, We don't need another apprentice in the White House line...

HANNITY: You think they fell flat (INAUDIBLE)

STEYN: Well, I think that because they're the sort of thing that some guy writes for you, and then you stay up late the night before practicing in front of a mirror.


STEYN: And the thing about -- what people like about Trump is there's obviously nothing he's practiced. And what they like about him is that it's -- he doesn't have consultants. He doesn't have minders.

HANNITY: When the question was put Carly, and she wouldn't give a direct answer, Does Donald have the temperament to have his finger on the nuclear button...

STEYN: Right. Right.

HANNITY: And she wouldn't answer that question.

STEYN: No, no, no. No. She said it would be for the people to decide.

HANNITY: For the people to decide. All right, that's kind of a cop- out.

STEYN: Right. Right.

STEYN: Because it was an earlier statement. Now, do you think he showed the temperament tonight for somebody to be president? I didn't see him really blow up. He's Trump. He makes -- he takes a few jabs.

STEYN: Well, look, you know, if I...

HANNITY: The depth of knowledge. Does he have the depth of knowledge, do you think?

STEYN: I think so. I don't think it matters -- you know, it doesn't -- running for president doesn't mean being able to name the deputy trade minister of the South Sandwich Islands. That's not what it's about.

It's about having a broad strategic vision of where you want to take the country. He actually, I think, is quite good on the specifics. He's quite good on things like the Bowe Bergdahl...

HANNITY: Immigration.

HANNITY: He's quite good on Putin and Ukraine. He's quite good on North Korea. But the fact of the matter is that when people say, Oh -- you know, I'd love it if Calvin Coolidge was running, but he's not running.  He's decided to sit out 2016.

And after -- after the kind of guys we've had -- and if you're telling me, Sean, that a republic after 250 years can do no better than the son and brother of the previous president versus the wife of the previous president, I'd rather George the III came back and got on the ticket because there's no point to a republic in that case.

HANNITY: It's a very powerful statement, and one I agree with. I want to get your perception -- Ben Carson, Kasich, Rubio. Ted Cruz we haven't talk about.

More with Mark Steyn coming up right after the break.

Then later tonight...


DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been challenged by so many people, and I don't frankly have time for total political correctness.  And to be honest with you, this country doesn't have time, either.


HANNITY: Donald Trump -- he stood out at the first Republican debate.  So who is the best debater in the GOP field? We'll check in with Geraldo Rivera, Rich Lowry. Charles Hurt will weigh in.

Plus, Hillary Clinton is hosting a viewing party for tonight's debate.  Oh, that must be fun. Ed Henry standing by with reaction from her Brooklyn headquarters tonight. That and more as "Hannity" continues.


HANNITY: Welcome back to "Hannity." Donald Trump has been lighting up the polls since he announced his candidacy back in June. And many believe that Trump is likely the main target of tonight's debate, and he was.

Here is a taste of the jabs thrown at Trump so far throughout the campaign. Take a look.


JEB BUSH, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump's view is that the end is near. His pessimistic view is, Let's close the borders, let's create terrorists, let's do this, let's do that, all based on negativity.

DR. BEN CARSON, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's a very big part of who I am, humility and the fear of the Lord. I don't get that impression with him.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump's not a conservative. He's a fake conservative, and eventually, I think people are going to wake up and hear that.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, R-LA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has no ideology.  He doesn't believe in anything other than Donald Trump. He's a narcissist.  He's an egomaniac. Let's not waste this opportunity. He's not for limited government. The only thing he is for is for Donald Trump.

CARLY FIORINA, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Leadership is not about how big your title is, how big your office is, how big your helicopter, your airplane or your ego is.

GOV. JOHN KASICH, R-OHIO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To make these extraordinarily ugly kind of comments is not reflective of the Republican Party. Trump is wrong on this.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER, R-WIS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, he's using the talking points of the Democrats. Those talking points haven't worked.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald's a great guy and a good person, but I just don't think he's suited to be president of the United States.


CHRISTIE: I don't think his temperament is suited for that and I don't think his experience is.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To conduct (ph) the president has to be done in a dignified way...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believer Donald Trump...

RUBIO: I don't -- I don't think that the way -- his behavior over the last few weeks is either dignified nor worthy of the office that he seeks.  We already have a president now that has no class.

MIKE HUCKABEE, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You don't worry about Donald Trump. He's a force to be reckoned with, but you don't reckon with him by dealing with it. You know, I just quit answering Donald Trump questions.


HANNITY: All right, so the attacks continue tonight. Will they work?  Will they backfire? We continue with the author of the brand-new book, "Disgrace to the Profession," Mark Steyn is with us.

We haven't talked about Ben Carson.


HANNITY: If anybody has benefited in the last two weeks in polling, it's Ben Carson. He's -- meteoric rise.

STEYN: Right. And it's funny because last time around, he barely spoke in the debate, except for that lovely answer right at the end when he was talking about the Siamese twins. And I think its a little bit like that tonight, that he was given two or three answers.

But in the end, when people are looking for an alternative to Trump...

HANNITY: They like him.

STEYN: ... they like -- they like him. And it's interesting that when they're looking for that alternative to Trump, they're really not going for the professional politicians. Carson will benefit even if he just gives, you know, one cute answer a minute before the end of the debate.

HANNITY: I think people don't understand the history of debates.  Debates aren't really about the whole debate.

STEYN: No. No.

HANNITY: This debate tonight's going to be forgotten...

STEYN: Right, right.

HANNITY: ... as soon as it's over.


HANNITY: But debates are really about moments...

STEYN: Right.

HANNITY: You know, This is my microphone.

STEYN: Right. Right.

HANNITY: There you go again.

STEYN: Right. Right.

HANNITY: Or even Carson's answer in the last debate, which I thought was a home run. And I didn't think he was having a particularly great debate up to that point.

STEYN: No, and when -- I think when people measure a debate moment by moment, which happened with Frank Luntz after the last debate, where people -- the people who watched it moment by moment thought Trump was a disaster.  And in the end, he only widened his lead after the debate.

HANNITY: You think that happens tonight?

STEYN: Well, I think -- I think, in a sense, Trump...

HANNITY: He might have topped out because in a 16-man field, 30 percent is a lot.

STEYN: Yes. Well, exactly. I mean, people keep talking about, Oh, you know, he's got a ceiling. He's got a ceiling. The ceiling keeps getting higher. They keep raising the ceiling. And the point -- if you take Trump, Carson and Fiorina, you've got 13 people mopping up 40 percent of the sort of professional politicians.

HANNITY: It's true.

STEYN: One of those guys -- I thought that's what Christie was doing tonight. I thought, in a sense, actually, Lindsey Graham in the first debate actually -- I know you're...


HANNITY: Come on! Seriously?

STEYN: No, look...


HANNITY: You just gave away my rolling of the eyes!

STEYN: I know, I know. But Lindsey -- Lindsey...

HANNITY: Lindsey Graham is not going to be president.

STEYN: No, no, but here's -- here's the point. Lindsey Graham understood what the second debate was about.

HANNITY: He did.

STEYN: And he came out, and he was passionate for his big thing. And the only person -- the only person who came -- who's come close so far to doing that in the big boys' debate, I think, has been Chris Christie.  Walker and Bush and Rubio -- this is not going to -- in the first debate...


HANNITY: Are they too scripted? Is it too planned? Are they too timid? Are they not learning the lesson of Trump's success, which is to be bold, politically incorrect, outspoken, a little flashy?

STEYN: Yes because they weren't told that was what this was about.  If you signed up to do a Broadway play and you learned your scripted lines for weeks and weeks, and you went out on stage and then suddenly, some crazy minimum-wage Equity extra staggers out from the wings and starts just responding to you with lines that come out of nowhere, you're paralyzed.  Do I stick to my scripted lines or do I try to match him? And that's what these guys are doing.

HANNITY: Let me ask you -- we haven't talked about Ted Cruz yet. Ted is one of the most brilliant guys on the stage. He's been the one guy in Washington that has continually taken on the leadership...

STEYN: Right.

HANNITY: ... and tried to hold the Republican Party to their pledge and promises on immigration, executive amnesty and other issues. And now tonight, he even mentioned Planned Parenthood. Where does he come out in all this?

STEYN: Well, I think -- I think Ted Cruz's strategy to date was to sort of sit out the Trump phenomenon and figure that when it imploded, the Trump...

HANNITY: Him and Huckabee were doing that.

STEYN: ... yes, the Trump vote would come to him. He'd be the beneficiary, which made more -- Rick Perry attacked Trumpism as a cancer, and he's gone now. And Cruz's strategy makes sense if -- if -- Trump is going to implode. But it...

HANNITY: You think he would be the next person in line to be the insurgent candidate for conservatives.

STEYN: I don't think he's going to be a Trump, but he's the nearest thing among the professional politicians to a...

HANNITY: Conservative.

STEYN: ... principled insurgent outsider. And the question -- the difficulty he has is that you can sit this out not attacking Trump, waiting for Trump to implode. But if it's the week before Iowa and New Hampshire and he hasn't imploded, that strategy isn't going to look so smart.

HANNITY: He's a smart debater. I mean, if he -- when you give him time -- he always seems to be short-changed a little bit in these debates.


HANNITY: ... of Kasich, Huckabee -- who else have I forgotten here?  I think we've pretty much covered everyone else.

STEYN: Yes. Well, Kasich I think is in danger of becoming this season's Jon Huntsman. He...

HANNITY: Why do you say that?

STEYN: Well, because I think he's -- he's someone whose conservatism seems to have wandered a little too far over to the mushy middle. And there may be a calculation to that, but as he sees it, there's a gap on the sort of -- on the kind of left of the Republican Party.

HANNITY: More establishment. You think he's going -- you think he's consciously going for the more establishment vote...

STEYN: Well, I think he's...

HANNITY: ... to maybe replace Walker or -- or Jeb.

STEYN: Well, look at it this way. If Jeb Bush is supposed to be the compassionate conservative guy who thinks illegal immigration is an act of love, and Jeb has been a low-energy disaster, then the question is, maybe that's the gap in the market, to be the kind of soft, left Republican left candidate that people will coalesce around.

HANNITY: Huckabee -- he -- obviously very -- very big base with the evangelicals. They asked him questions about Kim Davis tonight, Planned Parenthood tonight. He -- those are passionate issues for him. He's smart. He's articulate. He wanted no part of the Trump battle.

STEYN: No, and it's interesting. He had one good answer, I think, on -- you know, on the Kim Davis thing. I agree with him. I don't think -- I don't see -- again, go back...


HANNITY: ... accommodation answer.

STEYN: Yes. To go back to George III, I don't think there's any point in throwing off a guy in ermine robes and replacing him with Anthony Kennedy wearing a black robe. I don't see the differences. But he -- but that was his only moment in the debate, and it wasn't enough.

HANNITY: He didn't get a lot of time, either.

STEYN: Right.

HANNITY: I think we have too many people here.


HANNITY: You got to start winnowing -- you know, getting the field to -- some people got to get out.

STEYN: Well, it's ridiculous having Lindsey Graham and three other guys...

HANNITY: George Pataki.

STEYN: ... and they're getting, like, whatever it was, you know, 45 minutes of air time to the -- each, and then you have...

HANNITY: And then you...


HANNITY: One minute.


HANNITY: That's enough! Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!

STEYN: Yes. And again, it's like Donald Trump and his chorus boys, and maybe -- as I said, I think for Rand Paul, for Marco Rubio, they would -- they might have done better on that other (INAUDIBLE)

HANNITY: Marco's smart. Marco is, I think, a natural politician, a star. And I don't think this environment with 11 people is conducive to what I think he can offer.

STEYN: No, I think that's true, but that's -- the point is you play - - you've got to play by -- by whatever rules the game is in. And that's where Trump...

HANNITY: That's true.

STEYN: Trump doesn't care what you throw at him. He'll -- he'll make his own rules and win. And Marco Rubio needs (INAUDIBLE)

HANNITY: We'll take a break. We'll come back. More right here on "Hannity." Mark Steyn will be back at our 1:00 AM show.

And coming up next right here...


CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am not a member of the political class. I am a conservative. I can win this job.

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've gotten into this -- this mindset of fighting politically correct wars.


HANNITY: All right, those two candidates -- they benefited in the polls from strong debate performances. But who was the best debater in the GOP field? We will examine that coming up next.

Also, Hillary Clinton's staff is keeping a close eye on tonight's debate. They're actually having a party. I bet Hillary's telling jokes and being warm. Ed Henry will join us.

Plus, which Republican candidate poses the biggest threat to Hillary?  We answer that question.

Then Trump, Carson, Fiorina, Cruz -- well, what's behind the rise of the insurgent outsider candidates? That and more as "Hannity" continues.


HANNITY: All right, so who's the best debater in the GOP field?  Joining us now from The Washington Times, Charles Hurt, from The National Review, Rich Lowry, and FOX News senior correspondent Geraldo Rivera.

Who won this debate?


HANNITY: You think so.

RIVERA: I think that she's smoking. She's giving good answers.  She's standing up to Donald Trump.

HANNITY: She's smart.

RIVERA: Trump cut her down somewhat with the Hewlett-Packard business history, the woeful history of the decision she made as a CEO. But she was feisty and articulate. I thought she was (INAUDIBLE)

HANNITY: Does she have a path to the -- what, Charles, go ahead.  You're talking in my ear.

CHARLES HURT, WASHINGTON TIMES: Did you see the look, though, that she gave Donald Trump after they had that little face-off about the, you know, Look at -- you know, Take a look at that face? She shot daggers at him. And I agree with Geraldo. I think that, you know, she's been -- she's been the most successful so far at actually going after him.

HANNITY: Well, you know, it was interesting. Somebody sent this -- I'm going to look at this as soon as I get off the air. Just as I was coming down -- did she once take a shot at Barbara Boxer's hair? Does anybody know for sure...


RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: She didn't realize she was on mike.  That happens to the best of us, right, Geraldo?


LOWRY: Yes, you've made a career out of this, Geraldo. And she said something about her hair.


LOWRY: Carly, I think, made the single best general impression...

HANNITY: Of anybody.

LOWRY: ... tonight so far and had the best moment counterpunching on that comment from Donald Trump. Rubio, very good. Every single answer got applause.

HANNITY: He's a smart, sensitive guy!


RIVERA: He memorized everything. It sounds rote to me. He was...

HANNITY: No, I don't -- I don't think -- I've watched him give a speech...

RIVERA: He was OK. He was solid, but he was kind of wonky.

HANNITY: Who's going to -- who -- so do you think this translates to poll numbers in any way? Does somebody go up, somebody go down?

LOWRY: It's always hard to predict, but I'd be shocked if Carly doesn't get a big...


HANNITY: What about Trump?

LOWRY: I know this is going to pain my friend Charlie Hurt, who has "Make America great" caps for the entire...


LOWRY: ... tonight. I don't think he had any memorable moment. Now, Jeb...


HANNITY: Wait a minute.

RIVERA:  What about Ben Carson?


HANNITY: Let's be honest here. Trump had me laughing out loud. I mean, there were moments he said some things that were funny. How -- does that translate, thought, into substance, solutions that people want for the country?

LOWRY: Well, that's the thing. He has zero substance. And I think the act is going to grow a little thin. And...


LOWRY: Even prior to the debate, Sean. Even prior to the debate.

HANNITY: He's giving you substance on immigration. He's giving you substance on ISIS.

LOWRY: OK, I'll give you immigration. I'll give you immigration.

HANNITY: He even gave you substance on the economy tonight.

LOWRY: Oh, I'll give you immigration.


LOWRY: The latest New York Times poll, he's just 4 ahead of Carson.  Latest New Hampshire poll, just 4 ahead of Carson...

RIVERA:  Did Carson step onto the plate?

HANNITY: That -- well, answer your own question.

RIVERA:  I think that he's a wonderful, noble spirit and...

HANNITY: He is a wonderful guy.

RIVERA:  -- and a class act. But I'm not sure that a class act plays in this context. You need sharp elbows. You need confidence. Jeb Bush seemed to shrink when Donald Trump attacked him. I don't think -- Jeb Bush was barely there.

LOWRY: He can never land a true blow against Trump. And there was opportunity after opportunity. He was loaded with his talking points...

HANNITY: Walker had a strong beginning, then sort of faded.

LOWRY: He faded again.


RIVERA:  -- the invisible man. First of all, physically in terms of stature, he reminds me of Michael Dukakis. You know, he's this tiny little guy surrounded by giants. (INAUDIBLE) How about me? How about me?  (INAUDIBLE) Wisconsin (INAUDIBLE) Oh, sit down!


HANNITY: Oh, geez! Charlie, you've been a strong supporter of Donald Trump. How do you feel he did tonight?

CHARLES HURT, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": You know, I feel like he's sort of been Donald Trump as he always is. He never steps out of character.  But I do think Jeb Bush probably had the most energetic moment I've seen of the campaign.  

   HANNITY: By the way -- I don't mean to interrupt. But when Trump said to Jeb, "Oh, more energy tonight," I was laughing. It was funny.

HURT: It was brutal. It was devastating. And he's been winning that way all along.

   But when Jeb came back to defend his brother, I thought that that was sort of definitely the high water mark for Jeb. But I also thought it was a very risky strategy on the part of Trump to then full on go and attack George W. Bush and the war in Iraq and in a very pointed way. And I wonder if that -- I wonder how that winds up playing in the polls.

HANNITY: Is that going to be the moment that people focus on? I think it's going to be the battle with him and Carly. I think that becomes the headline tomorrow is my guess.

RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: That's the big moment. Everyone will replay it. Everyone will discuss it. I think the big losers besides Walker was one, Rand Paul is completely disappearing. Kasich has lurched to the left. The media might like it, but --

HANNITY: That surprised me, especially on taking in the refugees and immigration.


HANNITY: I don't think that's going to resonate --

LOWRY: He's going to out of his way to appeal to Geraldo. Geraldo just said something nice about him.


   RIVERA: My office right here in --


RIVERA: You guys are so far out there on the right that you don't recognize your own party.


   HANNITY: Geraldo is going to lead the picket lines if Donald Trump is elected and tries to deport people. I can see it.


HANNITY: All right, guys, we'll see you back at 1:00, by the way?  Come on, stick around.         

All right, when we come back, Hillary is now hosting a viewing party. She's probably being warm and telling jokes and acting like Chris Rock. From tonight's Republican debate at her campaign headquarters Ed Henry is standing by. We'll see how they're reacting to the debate, next.


CARLY FIORINA, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She did lie about Benghazi, she did lie about her e-mails, and she did lie about her server.

TRUMP: Would you rather have Hillary negotiating or would you rather have Trump?


HANNITY: Better be worried because the Republican presidential candidates are coming after her. Coming up next, I go one-on-one with a former Obama adviser about how another Clinton presidency would be a disaster. That's straight ahead.        


HANNITY: Welcome back to "Hannity." All right, Hillary Clinton's staff is keeping a close eye on tonight's debate. Here with a live report at their, quote, "watch party" at Hillary's campaign headquarters is our own Ed Henry. Did they let you actually in? They're not known for treating you media guys well.


ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's all right. They're treating me fairly tonight at least. They brought me in along with the rest of the press corps. Pizza and beer here in Brooklyn, what's better than that, Sean?

But in all seriousness, in a conference room, basically, her senior staff as well as the press corps watching this debate tonight. I think what the initial reaction that's interesting is that Hillary Clinton's campaign manager Robby Mook is here. He's the one who is sort of the field general trying to figure out how she'll deal with the slumping poll numbers.

And what caught his eye was Carly Fiorina. You played a bite a moment ago, Carly Fiorina really hitting Hillary Clinton hard on Benghazi. She said she was lying on that issue and lying about the e-mail server. And then went on, obviously, about Planned Parenthood. It was very graphic, very direct, very blunt in saying babies were killed. Hillary Clinton is condoning this.

Robby Mook's reaction was he felt Carly Fiorina went too harsh, went overboard, and that the bottom line here from the Clinton camp is that they felt that Donald Trump is once again as the frontrunner dominating this Republican debate, and, in their view, at least, that Donald Trump is pulling a lot of the candidates to the right on issues like Planned Parenthood, cutting off the funding, like immigration, illegal immigration, cracking down on it, that on a broad spectrum of issues now Trump is leading the way and it's sort of a race to the right. We'll see if they're right or not, but that is the view from the Clinton camp.

I think the other interesting thing is that, moving forward, Hillary Clinton tomorrow is heading to New Hampshire for three straight days of campaigning. That is a lot of campaigning in one state, more than we've seen her do before. That's because Bernie Sanders is beating her now in New Hampshire. He's leading her in Iowa as well, those critical first in the nation caucuses.

So this is a campaign, a bright spot that they saw, by the way, is in the undercard debate, the earlier one. Republican Lindsey Graham at one point said that Hillary Clinton has a list that's a mile long in terms of things she's done to help the middle class. I think Lindsey Graham's point was that Republicans can't just talk about e-mails and other issues. They have to start talking more about the middle class and battle Hillary Clinton mano-a-mano. Here at the Clinton camp they're highlighting that quote, obviously, because they're saying, yes, she has a whole list of policies to help the middle class. That's their view, anyway. Obviously some of those are going to be pushed back upon by these Republican candidates.

But I think the broader point is this campaign is hoping to get beyond the e-mail controversy and start talking about her middle-class message again. But as you know, Sean, with these sliding poll numbers and that looming FBI investigation, they've been struggling to get back to her broader message.

HANNITY: Matt Drudge has a flash poll up. In the break I took the latest numbers. Trump winning with 62 percent of that vote, Carly Fiorina -- he has over 70,000 votes. Carly is second with 16,000, and Ted Cruz in third place. Very interesting observation. That poll was right in terms of predicting the Trump rise after the first debate. We'll see if it's right this time. Anyway, Ed, thank you. Appreciate it.

HENRY: Especially because they're all outsiders.

HANNITY: True, good point.

Over the past few months we have seen a lot of disagreement and debate between the Republican candidates running for president. One issue that every 2016 GOP hopeful has that they've rallied behind is that Hillary Clinton must not be president. They've all said it. Watch this.


FIORINA: We have to have a nominee who will point out Hillary Clinton's lack of accomplishment. We're going to have to have a nominee who points out that she is not trustworthy. She did lie about Benghazi, she did lie about her e-mails, and she did lie about her server.


WALKER: Hillary Clinton would be worse. She would be worse as president than this president, and that's hard to do.

RUBIO: She's desperate, she's panicked. Her campaign is in a bad shape. I think it was tucker a few minutes ago that was talking about it. Here views are the ones that are radical.

BUSH: Hillary Clinton doesn't believe we can grow faster than two percent because she doesn't believe in your ability to rise to the challenge.

TRUMP: Hillary, who, by the way, was the worst secretary of state in the history of our country.

Would you rather have Hillary negotiating or would you rather have Trump?


HANNITY: All right, joining us with reaction, former economic adviser to the Obama administration, in other words, the people that doubled our debt, added tens of millions more Americans on food stamps and on welfare and in poverty, Austan Goolsbee helped do that. Sir, welcome back.

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER OBAMA ECONOMIC ADVISER: Thanks for having me, Sean. But are you not embarrassed? Literally the Clinton campaign is treating Ed Henry to dinner better than you treated me to dinner when I beat you in a bet.

HANNITY: I bought you a Ruth's Chris steak dinner.

GOOLSBEE: You tried to throw spending at the problem.

HANNITY: I give you liberals something for free. You should be happy. Why aren't you happy? You got free stuff.

GOOLSBEE: It actually was a delicious meal.


HANNITY: All right, let me ask this. Hillary, secretary of state, supports the Iran deal, $150 billion dollars. They spin their centrifuges.  Zero breakout time in 11 years. They get a missile defense system with Russia, they build ICBMs. They get more conventional weapons, 24-days inspection. They pick inspectors in some cases. Tel me something that America got. Give me three things.

GOOLSBEE: Well, look, I think we opened the possibility to redefine the structure in the Middle East. I think we get inspections that international --

HANNITY: But 24 days later, 24 days, 24 days later? That's like telling your kid, you think --

GOOLSBEE: I have heard that the 24-day thing is not accurate, that that's not exactly how it works.

HANNITY: Actually, it's accurate. And it's true, and non-American inspectors.

GOOLSBEE: And this is radioactive material. It has a half-life of 10,000 years, so 24 days later there's still going to be radioactive material that can be detected.  

HANNITY: But that's not necessarily all that they're looking for.

Here's my question. We didn't even get four hostages. Tell me specifically -- I named you one specific thing after another that they got.  Tell me what we got. What did we get except the hope that the --

GOOLSBEE: We shut down the plutonium.


GOOLSBEE: We shut down their plutonium production and they cannot make a plutonium bomb.

HANNITY: They still spin their centrifuges. Obama says in 11 years the outbreak time is zero

GOOLSBEE: No, not for the plutonium. And then the second is under the tough guy regime, they built 10,000 centrifuges. That was under the Bush sanctions. So you can't really say that if they --

HANNITY: OK, so we're going to give the number one state sponsor of terror --


HANNITY: The number one state sponsor of terror is getting the equivalent of $8 trillion U.S. dollar, $150 billion.

GOOLSBEE: Wait. First it was $100 million, now it's $800 trillion.  

HANNITY: Excuse me, as they were chanting "Death to America" and promising that the destruction of Israel is nonnegotiable. And you support that?

GOOLSBEE: I do not support that, obviously, I don't support that. I am highly concerned about their role as state sponsor of terrorism.

HANNITY: So it's a bad deal, say it.

GOOLSBEE: I thought what Kasich said in the debate was correct, which is if they start using it and engage in those kind of behavior, put the sanctions back on.

HANNITY: It's too late. They have $150 billion. They have enough money to spread their terror for decades.

GOOLSBEE: They did all of this under the previous regime, Sean.

HANNITY: All right. By the way, Obama doubled the debt, added millions to the poverty.


HANNITY: Obama did that. Your economic plan did that.


HANNITY: Millions more in poverty.

GOOLSBEE: We prevented a depression. We prevented a depression.

HANNITY: Own it.

GOOLSBEE: That you supported.

HANNITY: He will accumulate more debt than any every other president before him combined. Own it.

GOOLSBEE: He cut the deficit more than any other president before him.

HANNITY: Oh, my gosh. There's no hope for you. All right, good to see you.

Coming up next on "Hannity" --


TRUMP: This is going to be a campaign like I think no other. I'm not controlled by lobbyists. I'm not controlled by anybody.


HANNITY: Outsider candidates and surging candidates are now surging in the polls. What's behind the trend? We'll check in with Steve Hayes, Jedediah Bila. They're next.


HANNITY: Welcome back to "Hannity." Why are outsider GOP presidential candidate like Trump and Carson and Fiorina and Ted Cruz, why are they gaining in popularity and resonating with you, the voters? Here now is Fox News contributor Jedediah Bila, from The Weekly Standard Steve Hayes.  Steve, you've been saying over and over again you don't like this. Just looking at the drudge report, snap poll doesn't mean a lot but it kind of was an indicator after the first debate. It's 62 percent, Trump. Why is this happening?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's a good question. And will be very interesting to see if the public opinion tracks with that Drudge poll in a week or two weeks as we look at how Trump performed. I didn't think Trump had a very good night tonight. I thought he got stepped on. His exchanges, when he had exchanges, seemed to be on personality, not as much substance. He was overshadowed several times by Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio when talking about foreign policy. So it wasn't a great night for him from my perspective. But I'm willing to say, that it was a great night for Donald Trump. I don't know.

HANNITY: You definitely have a prejudice on this. So we'll go to Jedediah. She'll be the final determiner.

JEDIDIAH BILA, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think he had a great night tonight either, to be honest. And I have been very supportive of his very direct approach. But I think with these outsiders, people look at them and say, do you know what? They sound like me. That's how I feel.  When I sit at the dinner table and I talk about politics, I don't self- censor. I'm not taking talking points with some political consultant. I'm just speaking my mind.

Ben Carson has a very humble, very honest, very authentic energy.  Carly Fiorina, real life experience, tells it like it is, says it beautifully oftentimes. But she doesn't sound overly rehearsed. She sounds like a real person speaking from the heart. Donald Trump we all know no matter what we say to him, hey, Donald Trump, reign it in a little bit, he is not going to do that because that is who he is. So I think people are looking and saying, you know what, pull people off that stage who aren't conventional politicians who I can trust to go into the Washington and be the people who I am looking at right now.

HANNITY: That is interesting. What do you think about the more conventional candidates? The Jeb Bushes, Steve, the Scott Walkers, the Marcos, what do you think about them? How did they do tonight? John Kasich, maybe, add to that group.

HAYES: I don't think Jeb Bush or John Kasich had very good nights tonight. Jeb Bush had one exchange with Ted Cruz about John Roberts that I thought Bush probably got the better of Cruz but otherwise wasn't much of a factor. And if you're Jeb Bush I don't think that is a good result for you. John Kasich blended into the background too much. He didn't really stand out. Scott Walker, I think, started very strong. He inserted himself into a couple of exchanges.

HANNITY: I agree. In the beginning he had a strong start.

HAYES: Very strong start, but then he didn't get a question, I wasn't time it, but it seemed like forever and he sort of disappeared. I think the clear winners tonight were Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. Fiorina had a couple sort of made for video moments that will be leading the montages tonight and tomorrow.

HANNITY: We only have about 20 seconds. Did you agree on the Marco part?

BILA: I think he made the most of his time. I think when he spoke he resonated with voters. I also think Chris Christie had a really good night from the start, turning it off of him, saying take the camera off of me, putting it onto voters, redirecting the conversation when everybody else was bickering.

HANNITY: You're talking about the construction worker, right.

BILA: Yes, absolutely. I think he did something -- what people like about Donald Trump is that toughness and that directness. Chris Christie did that but he had more specifics. I thought he had a strong performance.

HANNITY: When we come back we have more "Hannity" right after this.


HANNITY: Welcome back to "Hannity." All right, that is all the time we have left. But let not your heart be troubled. Stay with Fox News Channel for the best post-debate coverage. Why? Because I'm going to stay up late, especially for you guys on the west coast. We'll be back at 1:00 a.m. eastern with many of the Republican presidential candidates. We'll see you then.

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