RNC chair blasts CNBC's 'crap sandwich' debate; Bush, Kasich call out GOP rivals

On 'Hannity,' Chairman Reince Preibus calls CNBC debate a 'crap sandwich'


This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," October 29, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And welcome to "Hannity" as we come to you tonight from Los Angeles. Now, tonight, major backlash over CNBC's handling of the third GOP debate. Now, we'll have reaction to the moderators' biased, unfair questions in just a few minutes.

But first, there were some big moments last night in Boulder, Colorado, including this exchange between Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio. Take a look.


JEB BUSH, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But Marco, when you signed up for this, this is a six-year term, and you should be showing up to work. I mean, literally, the Senate -- what is it, like, a French work week, you get, like, three days where you have to show up?

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BUSH: You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... that you're modelling your campaign after John McCain, that you're going to launch a furious comeback the way he did by fighting hard in New Hampshire and places like that...

BUSH: Well...

RUBIO: ... carrying your own bag at the airport. You know how many votes John McCain missed when he was carrying out that furious comeback that you're now modeling after?

BUSH: He wasn't my...

RUBIO: Now, Jeb, I don't remember...


RUBIO: Well, let me tell you, I don't remember you ever complaining about John McCain's vote record. The only reason you're doing it now is because we're running for the same position and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you!


HANNITY: All right, that back-and-forth may have turned some heads, but Senator Rubio is downplaying what happened on the debate stage last night. He was a guest on my radio program earlier today, and here's what he told me about that exchange.


RUBIO: Someone's obviously convinced him that if he attacks me, it's going to help him in his campaign. It isn't true.

What I'm not -- I can't control other people's campaigns. If they decide that's what they want to do with their time and money, they certainly have a right to do it. I'm not going to change who I am. I'm not going to change why I'm running. I'm not running against any of those people on the stage. I'm running for president, and I'm running because we can't afford another four years like the last eight years.


HANNITY: All right, here with reaction, 2016 GOP presidential candidate, former Florida governor Jeb Bush. Governor, welcome back. Good to see you, sir.

BUSH: Thank you, Sean. I agree with Marco that we can't afford another four years like the last eight years that we've had under Obama, for sure. That we concur on. I think we need someone with proven executive leadership to be able to make that case to the American people.

HANNITY: Listen, I totally agree. I worry about the future of this country for our kids and grandkids and America not being on the world stage and that vacuum being filled by the likes of Vladimir Putin.

I'll be honest, though, that exchange last night absolutely startled me. Now, in the course of one week, you compared Marco Rubio to Barack Obama, which is probably like the greatest insult any Republican could make about another, and then the French work week and, Maybe you should resign.  I didn't expect that. Where is all this coming from?

BUSH: I just think people, when they get elected, they ought to serve. They ought to do their jobs. And what we have in Washington is total gridlock. Look, Marco is a gifted politician. He is incredibly gifted. And he needs to be able to do his job. He's going to be a great candidate, for sure. But I think -- he's a United States senator. He ought to show up.

Look, we've got -- as you pointed out, we have huge national security issues in this country, and the United States Senate ought to be pushing President Obama towards the proper policies that right now are a complete disaster based on his policies.

There should be full engagement to protect our country from a grave threat, which is the weakest foreign policy since Jimmy Carter.

HANNITY: He's not the only senator, though, or sitting congressman or sitting governor that's run for office that is trying to do two jobs at once. Were you similarly critical of John McCain and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, for example, or others who might have done that?

BUSH: Well, look, I've been critical of Hillary Clinton and Obama, for sure. But John McCain had a proven record as a senator. He also ran for president. But he got a lot of stuff done while he was a United States senator and still does.

Marco -- look, he had the worst attendance record prior to being a president -- a candidate for president. And he's -- he's just made it clear that this is something that's not as interesting as it once was.

The bigger issue isn't his attendance record. It's can he solve these problems? Does he have a proven record to fix the big, complex things that our country has? He's a great guy. Don't get me wrong. And I -- you know, I -- I voted for him. I supported him in every way.

And I believe that I have the executive experience and the ideas and the proven record to fix things. And that was the point I was trying to make before I got cut off.

HANNITY: What is...

BUSH: The debate made it really tough to have an actual conversation about anything.

HANNITY: Yes. Well, that's my next question. I mean, I thought the media was disgraceful!

BUSH: It was crazy.

HANNITY: And we'll discuss that with Reince Priebus. What were your thoughts?

BUSH: I thought they couldn't -- they didn't control the debate. I got asked fewer questions. I was trying to interject myself into conversations I thought were important, like health care and others. They asked me about fantasy football? Really? I mean, we've got -- we have workforce participation rates in this country the lowest they've been since 1977, declining income for the middle class, and we're talking about fantasy football. Wow.

HANNITY: You know, I know we still have a long way to go, but I also would assume that your poll numbers are not where you want them to be. I know you've made comments in recent weeks -- you said, well, there's a lot of other really cool things that you could be doing, and if you want that, elect Donald Trump.

Where is that coming from...


HANNITY: Go ahead.

BUSH: It was -- it was -- Sean, that was taken completely out of context. What I said was, If you want gridlock in Washington, if you want to have -- you know, have your fears and your angst be preyed upon, then I'm probably not your guy because I'm running a campaign to say I can fix these things because I did it as governor. I have 32 years of business experience and eight years as governor.

I'm working hard to be president of the United States. I think we're on the verge of greatness again. But we're going to have to fix how we tax, our entitlement challenges, our health care -- "Obama care's" a complete disaster. The regulatory system on top of every aspect of business right now is stifling our ability to create jobs.

I'm running to change those things, and I'm not going to be part of the political class in Washington, D.C. I have the skills to disrupt the old order and bring about a new culture.

HANNITY: Do you feel that you have been unfairly labeled an establishment candidate in what is now becoming an outsider insurgent year?  Because I think most people would say you're in the establishment wing. Is that -- do you think that's true? Do you think it's unfair?

BUSH: Look, all I know is that I have the most proven conservative reform record of anybody on that stage last night, and I also am the only person that had business experience and practical government experience.

And the record's there for people to see. It's my job to go tell them about it, and I do that through advertising, of course, and through campaigning. I'm going to go to a town hall meeting tonight to talk about exactly why I think I can fix the problems in Washington that people desperately want to see fixed.

And so that record is cutting taxes, reducing the government workforce, reforming our education system. I ended Affirmative Action, Sean, by executive order and replaced it with a leadership model that created more opportunities for African-American and Hispanic students.

It's a record full of accomplishment. And Washington -- compare that to Washington, where our elected officials basically do nothing.

HANNITY: Last question. Do you think maybe in light of the battles you've had with Trump and this battle you had with Marco Rubio last night, that maybe what you're saying and describing and your record and your belief that you can advance that on a national stage as president -- do you think you're better off talking about those things than battling Trump and Marco?

BUSH: That's what I do most of the time, Sean. That's good advice.  I do talk about my record of accomplishment, who I am, and the ideas that I believe will lift people up. That's what I do the great majority of the time. But there has to be some comparing and contrasting, as well, don't you think? I mean -- and I focus most of my attention...

HANNITY: Yes, I do.

BUSH: ... by the way, on Hillary Clinton and her disastrous policies.  I mean, there's a real danger in this election. Electing Hillary Clinton in an era where we now are so pessimistic about the future, would double down on Obama economics and a failed foreign policy -- so most of my attention is about my record and about defeating Hillary Clinton. But from time to time, you got to separate yourself from a very large pack of talented candidates.

HANNITY: All right, Governor. Thanks so much, as always, for being with us. Appreciate your time.

Coming up tonight right here on "Hannity"...


REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I'm disappointed in CNBC. You know, I thought maybe they would bring forward a pretty fair forum here tonight, but I think it was one gotcha question, one personal low blow after the other.


HANNITY: That was RNC chairman Reince Priebus last night ripping the CNBC debate moderators for their biased questions. He'll be here with more reaction. That's coming up next.

Plus, later tonight, Ohio governor John Kasich took a major shot at GOP rivals Donald Trump and Ben Carson during the debate.  He'll join us later to talk about that. That and my interviews with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz straight ahead.



HANNITY: And welcome back to "Hannity." So as the dust settles from last night's third GOP debate, the moderators from CNBC -- they are now facing well-deserved widespread backlash. Now, many are claiming their questions were not only unfair but extraordinarily biased. For example, watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your biggest weakness, and what are you doing to address it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have as much chances of cutting taxes that much without increasing the deficit as you would of flying away from that podium by flapping your arms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You'd have to cut government by about 40 percent to make it work with a $1.1 trillion (INAUDIBLE)


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is true. I looked at the numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said yesterday that you were hearing proposals that were just crazy from your colleagues. Who are you talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you're skipping more votes than any senator to run for president. Why not slow down, get a few more things done first, or at least finish what you start?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It raises the question whether you have the maturity and the wisdom to lead this $17 trillion economy. What do you say?


HANNITY: Unbelievable! Now, naturally, the candidates on the stage did not take this ridiculous line of questioning lying down. They fought back, and I argue they won! Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not a very nicely asked question, the way you say that.

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media.


CRUZ: This is not a cage match! And if you look at the questions, Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain, Ben Carson, can you do math, John Kasich, will you insult two people over here, Marco Rubio, why don't you resign, Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen -- how about talking about the substantive issues people care about!


RUBIO: You just listed a litany of discredited attacks from Democrats and my political opponents, and I'm not going to waste 60 seconds detailing them all.

TRUMP: If anything comes out of this whole thing with some of these nasty and ridiculous questions...

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So you want me to answer. You won't answer.



CHRISTIE: Because I got to tell you the truth. Even in New Jersey, what you're doing is called rude! So...



HANNITY: Here with reaction to last night's debate, RNC chairman Reince Priebus. You know, I said last night, Mr. Chairman, that there was a winner last night. That was the Republicans on that stage. The loser was the media. I would argue that long after this debate is forgotten, people will remember how arrogant, obnoxious, biased, shallow, agenda- driven that this media is!

I said in 2008 the media is dead in America. Journalism's dead. And I'd now argue it's now buried as of what happened last night in Boulder, Colorado. I would assume you're pretty ticked off.

PRIEBUS: Oh! I just can't tell you how pissed off I am. But you're exactly right. I mean, when you take a deep breath and you take a step back and you say, OK, this is clearly a victory for these candidates on the stage because what they did was extraordinary. I thought every one of them -- I mean, Ted Cruz's line -- you know, we're calling that the Cruz missile.

But all the rest of them, too, did such a good job in the fact of just -- it was insanity. I mean, just sitting there, seething through this thing -- I mean, other than, you know, thinking about hitting the circuit breaker in the auditorium that crossed my mind.

You know, these are people who put on a pretty decent show in the morning on CNBC. They did a debate four years ago that was a decent debate. Obviously, we had assurances that it was going to be straight-up finance, which is what they do every day.

HANNITY: Let me ask you this -- could you imagine...

PRIEBUS: And what was delivered was just nothing but a crap sandwich.

HANNITY: Hey -- hey, Hillary, is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign, you lying...

PRIEBUS: Yes. Well...

HANNITY: ... to the American people about Benghazi? Oh, by the way, that has as much chance of succeeding as you flying off this stage, Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders.

PRIEBUS: Well, you know what was good, though? What was good is that the candidates didn't take the bait. I mean, lookit, Bernie -- even know that was a pattycake debate on CNN a few weeks ago for the Democrats, Bernie Sanders was actually, though, given an opportunity on a silver platter to make political history against Hillary Clinton.

And what did he do? He said, I'm not going to talk about her e-mails.  So you know, they did have a pattycake debate, but they also didn't take the bait, either. And I think that unifying...

HANNITY: I agree.

PRIEBUS: ... feeling after...


HANNITY: ... they unified...

PRIEBUS: ... was very good.

HANNITY: And they made -- listen, in fairness to the candidates, every one of them on that stage made it far more substantive than I think the moderators wanted.

Now, here's a question. We don't have the Democrats doing a Fox News debate. They have decided they want to boycott Fox News, at least this election cycle. I don't see Hillary and Bernie Sanders doing a Fox News debate.

And they should. We have great journalists on this network. I'm an opinion person. It wouldn't be me -- that I think would do a great job.  But if they're not going to put themselves in an environment like this, do you have to now reconsider, in other words, going forward, that maybe these liberal networks don't deserve the access to these candidates?

PRIEBUS: Well, 100 percent true. I mean, CNBC is a little different.  But from here on out, I can assure you of that. And I guarantee you we're going to make sure that CNBC isn't hosting and moderating another debate with our candidates. There's no doubt that MSNBC is not, obviously, hosting any RNC or candidate forums or debates.

But you're 100 percent right. Here's what I will tell everyone.  Everything's going to be reevaluated and reset. Every debate on the calendar is going to be reevaluated, reset, look at the format, the moderators, everything. The candidates are going to -- we're going to have meetings with all the candidates. We're going to make sure that we can do everything possible to make sure that last night doesn't happen again.

HANNITY: Yes. Well...

PRIEBUS: I mean, you can't -- once the lights go on and the curtain goes up, you can't quite stop it, but we can do more to prevent it. So every debate from here on out is going to be reevaluated.

PRIEBUS: I talked to Ben Carson earlier today, and he's having his campaign reach out to every other campaign in an effort to prevent something like this from happening again. I have my interview with Ted Cruz coming up later in this program. He was on the show last night. I don't think this is self-serving, but this is what he said maybe should happen in the future. I want to get your thoughts on it.


CRUZ: No one in their right mind thinks any of the moderators actually will vote in a Republican primary.


CRUZ: In my view, republican primary debates ought to be moderated by people who would vote in a primary. How about -- how about a debate moderated by Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh? Now, that would be a debate!


PRIEBUS: I think he's right. I mean, that's the -- you know, you strive to get to a place where the people that are doing the moderating are going to put on a fair show. That didn't happen last night. There's no question. I talked to Dr. Carson today, too, and we're going to be getting together with his people here, with all the campaigns, at the RNC. So...

HANNITY: Yes, listen, I...

PRIEBUS: ... we're (sic) already started that process.

HANNITY: ... in fairness, I don't blame you. I don't think anybody really could have anticipated that.

PRIEBUS: Well, I know. But here's the thing. We are -- we co- sponsored -- we've co-sponsored these debates. So although it's easy to just -- listen, I do blame CNBC, but I also take responsibility for the fact that now we've got to do everything in our human power to make sure that never happens again. So you know, that's why we have to -- we have to take the bull by the horns here.

HANNITY: All right. Chairman -- Mr. Chairman, thank you for being with us. Appreciate it.

PRIEBUS: You bet.

HANNITY: All right, and coming up, Ohio governor John Kasich. He reacts to last night's Republican debate. And why did he go after Ben Carson and Donald Trump?

And then later tonight...


CARLY FIORINA, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every single policy she espouses and every single policy of President Obama has been demonstrably bad for women!


HANNITY: The Republican candidates did do something that the mainstream media refuses to do, and that's hold Hillary Clinton accountable. That and our interview with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz straight ahead.



GOV. JOHN KASICH, R-OHIO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the only person on this stage that actually was involved and the chief architect of balancing the federal budget. You can't do it with empty promises.

You know, these plans would put us trillions and trillions of dollars in debt. I actually have a plan. I'm the only one on this stage that has a plan that would create jobs, cut taxes, balance the budget and can get it done because I'm realistic.

You just don't make promises like this. Why don't we just give a chicken in every pot while we're, you know, coming up with these fantasy tax schemes? We'll just clean it up. Where are you going to clean it up?


HANNITY: All right, that's was Ohio governor John Kasich last night calling out his Republican rivals on the debate stage in Boulder, Colorado, and he's here now with more reaction. Governor, good to see you.

KASICH: Thanks, Sean.

HANNITY: All right, that was a pretty aggressive John Kasich last night. I didn't understand this part of the strategy. You're right, you were the last person to leave a balanced budget and a surplus and a projected surplus. You took a deficit. You turned it into a surplus. You created jobs as governor.

What I didn't understand is you are -- you've been really harsh in your attacks on you fellow candidates, and I didn't understand what the strategy was behind that.

KASICH: Well, there's no strategy, Sean, other than we're going to pick a president. We got to pick somebody who knows how to lead this country. And you know, you can't just have a tax plan that's going to add up to $10 trillion, $11 trillion and expect to balance the budget. You've always praised me for being the leader who said CBO estimates -- seven years, you know all that? So we didn't make numbers up...

HANNITY: Absolutely.

KASICH: ... and that's how we got to a balanced budget. Well, you can't get to a balanced budget and begin to pay down debt and thus create jobs in this country if you don't have specific plans to make it work.


KASICH: You know, you can't ring up...


KASICH: ... $11 trillion -- but you can't ring up $11 trillion in debt, Sean, and say that's somehow going to lead to a balanced budget by cutting waste, fraud and abuse. Come on! That's not the way any business runs, and it's just -- it's not real.

HANNITY: But I think there's definitely billions and billions in waste, fraud and abuse. There's billions that can be generated in the economy by eliminating the bureaucracy. The energy sector, I would argue, would create millions of jobs, get people off of dependency, out of poverty.

If you add to that the trillions of dollars overseas that could be repatriated by multi-national corporations and a lower tax rate, that would result in infrastructure building and manufacturing centers being built in America, not overseas.

And every candidate seems to have at least many of those components as part of their plans, including you.

KASICH: Well, my plan has all that, Sean. Sean, my plan has all of that, as you know. It's energy independence. It will help our economy.  It's a significant tax cut for corporations, including automatic expensing.  It's bringing all those profits home from Europe without any taxation.  It's lowering our corporate -- or our personal rate to 28 percent, the same rate that Ronald Reagan had.

But you know, those are the plans that I think will work, that will fit into the framework of cutting taxes, balancing budgets and creating jobs.

Look, I've done this in Washington, which no one has done since. And I was the first one to do it since man walked on the moon. I've done it in Ohio, and now I have a plan for America.

Now, I can say that I could lower the personal rate down to 10 percent. The numbers won't add up, Sean. Now, I mean, do you just want me to make campaign promises, put a chicken in every pot...


KASICH: ... or do you want me to...

HANNITY: No, no, no.

KASICH: ... come up with something...

HANNITY: Listen, I...

KASICH: ... that's going to be real -- wait a minute -- that's going to be real, that's going to grow this economy and it's going to help our kids.

And the other thing I want to tell you is this. I can go to Washington with a great team and I can grow jobs and transfer a lot of programs out of that town. But we also need to attack the issue of the spirit in our country, which is stronger families and stronger neighborhoods.

But you've got to make sure that you know how to make that town work in Washington because it's tricky.

HANNITY: Listen, I give you credit because you were there and you did it and you were the architect and you used real numbers. And I give you credit for what you did as governor.

Let's go to the exchange that you had with Donald Trump, and let's analyze this. Take a look.


TRUMP: First of all, John got lucky with a thing called fracking, OK?  He hit oil. He got lucky with fracking. Believe me, that's why Ohio is doing well. Number -- and that's important for you to know.

Number two, this is the man that was a managing general partner at Lehman Brothers, when it went down the tubes and almost took every one of us with it, including Ben and myself because I was there and I watched what happened, and Lehman Brothers started it all. He was on the board, and he was a managing general partner.

And just thirdly, he was so nice. He was such a nice guy. And he said, Oh, I'm never going to attack. But then his poll numbers tanked.  He's got -- that's why he's on the end...


TRUMP: ... and he got nasty. He got nasty. So you know what? You can have him.


KASICH: Yes, let me -- let me just -- let me -- let me respond.  First of all, Ohio does have an energy industry, but we're diversified.  We're one of the fastest growing states in the country. We came back from the dead. And you know what? It works very, very well.

And secondly, when you talk about me being on the board of Lehman Brothers -- I wasn't on the board of Lehman Brothers. I was a banker, and I was proud of it and I traveled the country and learned how people make jobs.


HANNITY: I don't get surprised often, and the way you've been running the campaign up to this point, that seemed a little out of character, even leading up to this week, saying that these guys' plans -- our party has gone crazy. Do you really feel that way about your...


KASICH: Yes. Let me -- let me -- let me tell you. Do you think that it is right to try to phase out or get rid of Medicare and Medicaid, as has been suggested? You're not going to win an election with that position. I can tell you you're not going to win in Ohio.

I mean, do you think that it's realistic for us to ship 10 or 11 million people out of this country, deport them and break up families? I mean, I don't think it's right to have a tax plan that puts us $11 trillion, $10 trillion more in the hole. I don't think that makes sense, either.

Now, the attack on Lehman Brothers -- first of all, I worked in the two-man office in Columbus, Ohio. If I was able to bankrupt Lehman Brothers from a two-man office in Columbus, Ohio, I ought to be pope, not president!

HANNITY: Thank you, sir.

All right, coming up next tonight right here on "Hannity" --


RUBIO: The mainstream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton's campaign.  It was the week she got exposed as a liar. It was the week she got exposed as a liar.



HANNITY: So Republican candidates last night called out the mainstream media for not holding Hillary Clinton accountable. When we come back our panel will respond.

And then later tonight --


CRUZ: No one in their right minds thinks any of the moderators actually will vote in a Republican primary.


HANNITY: My interviews with Senators Ted Cruz and Donald Trump all coming up as our post-debate coverage continues right here on "Hannity."    



CHRISTIE: I know who the pessimist.  It's Hillary Clinton. And you put me on that stage against her next September, she won't get within 10 miles of the White House.

RUBIO: I'm running for president because there's no way we can elect Hillary Clinton to continue the policies --

FIORINA: It is the height of hypocrisy for Mrs. Clinton to talk about being the first woman president when every single policy she espouses and every single policy of President Obama has been demonstrably bad for women.

MIKE HUCKABEE, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me tell you, Donald Trump would be a better president every day of the week and twice on Sunday rather than Hillary.


HANNITY: So last night the 2016 GOP candidates did not hold back on taking shots at the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Here now with reaction, Fox News contributor Eboni Williams, pollster Frank Luntz, and from The Washington Times, Charles Hurt.        

I also liked that, Charles, they didn't hesitate to by pointing out something the media -- media had coronated Hillary had the great comeback week, but it was exposed that she outright lied to the American people when it came to the Benghazi issue, telling her daughter, the Libyan president, the Egyptian prime minister, that this was a terror attack, not related to a YouTube video in the case of the prime minister, while she is telling simultaneously the American people, oh, this is a YouTube video, this is not terror. So I thought this was not a good week for her in spite of that, and these candidates made that known last night.

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: It was a real, true, savage beat down on CNBC and the media in general. I thought that that in particular, that comment about the mainstream media being Hillary Clinton's super PAC and exposing what you just pointed out was such an important point and how it got kind of missed all last week. It really does underscore just how powerful the media is and how in lockstep with one another they are. They are covering for her, you know, all week long. And for it to come out in such explosive fireworks during that debate, I thought that was one of the two or three highlights during that entire debate.

HANNITY: Frank Luntz, how long have you been dial-testing debates and focus groups and candidates? How many years have you been doing this?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: I started this in 1996, and I think we've done about 800 political dial sessions between 1996 and now.

HANNITY: And the best line ever came last night. In other words, the best tested line was Ted Cruz just taking down CNBC and the moderators and the media. Explain.

LUNTZ: Well, it's not only that it did so well. I went back and looked at the tape. Ted Cruz can name what every single person had said in the debate, what question had gone to each one of the candidates without using notes. He specified what the moderators were doing. And our group was so outraged, and they were waiting for someone to point a bright light at this. Not only did Cruz capture it, but when the moderators tried to interrupt him, he wouldn't give them the chance.

HANNITY: Let's -- you dialed. Now that we're talking about it, let's roll the tape.


CRUZ: The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media.


CRUZ: This is not a cage match. And you look at the questions, Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math?  John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues people care about?



HANNITY: And 98 both conservative and moderate. I've done this with you a long time. I've never seen that number. Explain the impact you think it has on his campaign.

LUNTZ: OK, so first off, the group erupted. Remember, they're watching television, and they erupted in cheers, which never happens in a debate. Second, we had only two people who walked into that room supporting Ted Cruz. When the debate was done, eight. Six people had switched from other candidates to Ted Cruz.

Third, not only was this focused on the media, but Cruz demonstrated that he had the capability to truly outperform the other candidates. I think over the next two or three weeks you're going to see Cruz's numbers go up. And I believe over the long term he's going to have the money, and he's got the message, that this is going to be one of the finalists for the presidential campaign.

HANNITY: I tend to agree with you. He's right up there at the top.  I thought he had a great night. I thought Marco had a good night. I think Trump had a good night. And I think and Chris Christie had a good night.  And Kasich to a certain extent, although I really didn't understand the battle between Carson and Trump. I think he would have been better sticking to his record. Eboni, what do you think?

EBONI WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Sean, oh, my goodness. I'm going to tell you exactly what I thought of those moderators last night.  Not just rude, not just poorly played. I saw three people that most of America don't even know who they are. And I saw them making an attempt to kind of get on the grid. They wanted to in a night kind of become household names. And I thought it flew in their faces. I thought it failed epically. I spent most of my day talking to people outside of our political bubble, outside of our world, and they were just uncomfortable.  They thought it was awkward. As Frank pointed out, people that weren't Ted Cruz fans thought he had a real hero moment. They're like, look, policy- wise I don't agree with anything he says, but, my gosh, I agree with Ted Cruz tonight. He made the most sense of anybody on that stage.

So in terms of value, while he was criticized for not substantively attacking the question he was asked, he pivoted and he made that resounding point, I think politically speaking that had more value for him and that was a better play on his part.

HANNITY: I would even argue, Charles, that that changed the trajectory of the debate. The big loser was the media. The big winner was the Republicans because they stayed on substance. And then it was followed up by Huckabee, Marco had a great line about the media. Followed up -- who else? Chris Christie made a great attack against the media. So it really became them uniting and the media losing big time. Last word.

HURT: There's so much to be optimistic if you're a Republican voter out there. And the big reason is because there's so many of these candidates are getting so much better every single day. And that's what we saw in that debate last night, in particular Cruz and Rubio, and then of course the guy that improves faster than anybody is Donald Trump. There's -- I know the media wants to discount and spell doom and gloom for Republicans right now. But Republican voters have a lot to be optimistic about right now.

HANNITY: Good to see you all. Thanks for your insight. We appreciate it.

When we come back, very important interviews that I had with Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz. That is coming up next, straight ahead.


HANNITY: Welcome back to "Hannity." So last night just moments after his strong debate performance, Texas senator Ted Cruz joined us right here on this program with immediate reaction to the GOP showdown. Here are some of the highlights.


CRUZ: Sean, look, we've seen now over and over again where the media, they are the Democrats' cheerleaders. And in these debates, the media tries, every question is an insult. Every question is an attack. Every question is asking one Republican to attack another Republican. They don't do that to the Democrats. The Democrats, they give them each a chance to talk about what they believe in.

   And I've got to say, Sean, one of the most ridiculous things, why is it that we keep having debates where the moderators, no one in their right minds thinks any of the moderators actually will vote in a Republican primary?        


CRUZ: In my view Republican primary debates ought to be moderated by people who would vote at a primary. How about a debate moderated by Sean Hannity and Mark Levin Rush Limbaugh. Now, that would be a debate.

HANNITY: I'm in. And I think I can speak for the other two. They're in as well.

And I do agree with you, because these questions are downright hostile. And I believe this was a horrible night for the news media, and in many cases, in many instances tonight, a disgrace to the profession of journalism. This is a serious issue.

CRUZ: And the reason is the moderators and the networks don't want the American people to vote for any of the 10 men and women on that stage.  They want to beat up whoever the Republican nominee is. And then they want people either to stay home or vote for Hillary.

And the purpose of these debates, listen, Republican primary voters are making a choice. And we ought to have questions that focus on our vision for America.

HANNITY: Explain how things would be different under your economic plan, because I think that's the type of substance that people want to hear about.

CRUZ: I think you're exactly right. For one thing, the cronyism and the sellout that we're seeing in Congress wouldn't be happening. This budget deal is a disaster. It is Republican leadership joining with the Democrats. Every single Democrat in the house voted for $80 billion more in spending in debt and deficit. It was just a handful of Republicans in leadership. They're going to try to do the same thing in the Senate.

   And what we need, Sean, is a strong president that says this ends now. If you send me a spending Bill filled with corporate welfare and cronyism, if you keep growing the debt, I will veto it. And it's one of the reasons the distinction that I think is perhaps most important that came out tonight is almost everyone on the stage talked about standing up to Washington, but there is a marked difference if you ask who actually has a record of doing that? Who has stood up not just to Democrats but to leaders in their own party? And in that record, I think that is why we're seeing conservatives uniting behind our campaign, because I have a proven record as a consistent conservative of standing up to Washington and fighting for the constitution.


   HANNITY: Senator Ted Cruz definitely had a big night at the third GOP debate. But so did one of his Republican rivals, Donald Trump. He also joined us right after the debate right here on this program. Take a look.


HANNITY: Mr. Trump, how are you, sir?

TRUMP: Hi, Sean.

HANNITY: I've got to be honest. We spent a lot of time talking about this. Right out of the gate I felt John Harwood was extraordinarily unfair to you and attacking you. I've got to imagine that is aggravating for you.  What is your reaction to it?

TRUMP: Well, I don't know. I think we did very well tonight. The debate itself went very well. And the audience started booing him. And, you know, I guess I expect it. I'm number one in the polls, and I would maybe expect it. But I thought it was unnecessary. And it was very interesting. I think the result was very interesting. But the evening was a great success.

HANNITY: Let me go to the issue of the substance of your economic plan, because there's a lot to it. And I don't know who these unnamed sources that John Harwood was talking about, but you talk about trillions of dollars that would be --

TRUMP: I don't think they exist. Sean, I don't think those sources exist. I don't believe they exist.

HANNITY: I actually got the impression it was his personal opinion.  It was a great line when you mentioned Larry Kudlow who works on CNBC, and you said, well --

TRUMP: He's a good guy.

HANNITY: Yes. I like Larry. He's a friend of mine. He is a good guy, and I think he's going to run for senator. Explain your economic plan, though, because what he didn't seem was factor in was the economic growth aspect of repatriated money and a lower corporate tax rate, et cetera. So I want you to give us some specifics on it.

TRUMP: We're lowering taxes, Sean, we're lowering taxes big league.  We're bringing rates down. You know we're the highest taxed in the world, we're the highest taxed country right now, and it's not even close. We're bringing the rates down to 15 percent for corporations. We're simplifying the code. We're bringing it down to 10. You're able to get your money back in. We have right now $2.5 trillion outside of this country that can't get in. We're bringing that rate way down. Everybody is going to bring the money back in. It's going to be used in our country and so many other things.

And then, of course, we're starting to cut. And we're going to cut expenses and cut waste and fraud and abuse, and we're going to have a really dynamic country again.

HANNITY: It was very interesting to me tonight to watch how bad the media was and to watch all the other candidates tonight in a very different way come to your defense. And that included Mike Huckabee. That included Ted Cruz.

TRUMP: That's true.

HANNITY: What was your reaction to that?

TRUMP: I thought it was great. I mean, we have a great relationship, and I really thought it was great. There was a certain camaraderie up there tonight not only with respect to me but with respect to everybody. I thought it was very beautiful to watch.


HANNITY: All right, when we come back, our "Ask Sean" segment is next. And we need your help, a very important question of the day, as we continue, tonight, from Los Angeles.


HANNITY: All right, time for our "Question of the Day." So who do you think won last night's GOP debate? Just go to Facebook.com/SeanHannity, @SeanHannity on Twitter and let us know what you think. Now it's time for our "Ask Sean" segment. Take a look.


   UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Sean. I'm here from the people's republic of Maryland. Do you think it would be a good idea if the RNC would start using the Internet to host the debates so we don't have stuff like what happened last night, using mainstream media trying to make our people look like idiots, and the conservatives like us to look crazy?


   HANNITY: You know what, that is a great question. I don't know if they should be online necessarily. For example, I don't see the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders, doing the Fox News Channel debates. So maybe it's time, as we were talking with Reince Priebus earlier tonight that they reevaluate whether or not they're going to allow an abusively biased news media with an agenda and loaded questions, advancing the Democrats, trying to embarrass conservatives, to have access to them.         I did like Ted Cruz's suggestion last night. Maybe me, Rush, and Mark Levin can host a debate. I don't know. We'll talk more about that hopefully in the future. Anyway, thanks for your question.         

That's all the time we have left this evening from Los Angeles.  Thank you for being with us. We will see you back here tomorrow night.

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