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Kelly File

'The Kelly File' goes face to face with GOP candidates at Texas town hall

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," February 24, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Good evening and welcome to a special edition of "The Kelly File" Face to Face with the Candidates. I'm Megyn Kelly.

We are coming to you tonight from Queensbury Theater in Houston, Texas.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Very nice.

(LAUGHTER)

You can feel the enthusiasm. Where in less than a week from now, voters will take part in the biggest prize so far of this primary season, Super Tuesday, that's when 12 states will hold primaries and caucuses. Up for grabs, 595 delegates, about half of what is needed to win the nomination.  And the state with the biggest delegate prize, right here, Texas.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

So far -- so far four states have had their say, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Businessman Donald Trump swept through three of four of those contents. But if history can be a guide, keep this in mind. When then-former Governor Ronald Reagan ran for office in 1980, he lost two of the first four states to vote that year. And when then-Governor Bill Clinton ran for office in 1992, he lost all four of the first four contests. Both went on to secure the nomination of their respective party and eventually won the White House. So before the candidates spread out across those states to deliver their Super Tuesday message to voters, some of them are here tonight to answer questions from Texans.

Joining us tonight will be Senator Ted Cruz. Senator Marco Rubio.  Governor John Kasich. And Dr. Ben Carson. Businessman and front-runner Donald Trump has a conflicting campaign event tonight in Virginia. We did offer to let him join us -- he does.

(LAUGHTER)

By satellite, but his campaign said his schedule would not allow it. They were very polite and cordial.

(LAUGHTER)

Here is how tonight is going to work. Over the next two hours, I will be joined by each candidate, one at a time. Now, we asked the members of our audience to come up with their own questions, which we reviewed to make sure we don't have anything untoward in there -- no, that we want to make sure there was a range of topics to discuss. And I'll be asking some questions, as well.

So without further delay, joining me first on the stage, Ted Cruz, presidential contender and senator from the great state of Texas.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to see you.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Hi there.

CRUZ: How are you doing? Welcome to Texas.

KELLY: Thank you very much for having me here. You feel right at home?

CRUZ: It is great to be home.

KELLY: You said last night you were looking forward to being home.

CRUZ: Last night was the first night I've slept in my own bed in a month.  It was wonderful. I woke up with my daughter Catherine coming and jumping on my lap. And that's about as good a way to wake up as there is.

KELLY: That's perfect. Congratulations on that. But let's talk about last night. Because Nevada did not work out exactly the way you would have hoped. But you came out and suggested, look, in your view, this is a two- man race at this point. And the reason you said that is because no one has ever won the nomination without winning one of the first three primaries.  The converse to that though is that no one who has won both New Hampshire and South Carolina, like Donald Trump has, has ever gone on to lose the nomination. So, is history our guide here or isn't it?

CRUZ: Well, listen, there's never been a candidate like Donald Trump. And so --

(LAUGHTER)

-- in a whole lot of ways. And so I think some of the rules historically go out the window. Listen, I think fairly speaking, there are three major candidates remaining in this field, Donald, Marco and me. Donald has a lot of momentum right now. He's won three primaries. That's a significant accomplishment. But what I think those results show is that the only campaign that can beat Donald and the only that has beaten Donald is our campaign. And in my view, you know, you look nationally, anywhere from 65 to 70 percent of Republicans don't think Donald is the right candidate for us to nominate to go up against Hillary Clinton. The polling shows Donald against Hillary loses. And I know the folks here, we don't want to lose this general election and see our country stuck on this same wrong choice.  And so if you're among those 65, 70 percent of Republicans that think Donald is the wrong choice, then Super Tuesday is the opportunity for us to coalesce behind our campaign because we're the only campaign in a position to beat him on Super Tuesday, to win the nomination and then to go on to win the general.

KELLY: But what do you make of it? Because you look at the results in South Carolina where they had nearly 70 percent evangelicals. This should have been a sweet spot for you. Nevada too have a healthy portion of evangelical voters and libertarian voters too, good areas for you. And yet he won handily. Why?

CRUZ: Well, listen, Donald is formidable. People are ticked off. They're furious with Washington. They're furious with politicians in both parties that have been lying to them. And I think Donald support is a manifestation of that. But what the polling data also shows is that head- to-head, Donald against me, we beat Donald handily. We beat by him 16 points, 56 to 40. I think Donald has a relatively high floor of about 20 or 25 percent, that will be with him almost what no matter what. As he said he could walk out of Fifth Avenue, shoot someone and those supporters would still be with him.

That may be true. But I also think he has a fairly low ceiling, I think it's 35 to 40 percent. And a majority of Republicans don't think he's the right nominee. And if you look nationally, in the head-to-head polls, Donald consistently loses to Hillary. I consistently beat Hillary. And so the question right now is, how do we prevent nominating a candidate who loses the general election or for that matter, if Donald wins the general election, who the heck knows what he will do as president? I mean, you know, we need a president we can trust.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Let's talk about Marco Rubio and you for a couple of minutes.  Because some of your top surrogates and supporters including Bob Vander Plaats and Steve Deace have come out and questioned your strategy of going after Marco Rubio, saying you're not focused on the right guy. You know, a couple of these states he's been behind you. And the question is, whether you'll going to change tactics at all going forward?

CRUZ: Well, let me be clear, the right guy to be focused on, I think, are the American people. It's the working man and woman --

KELLY: But you've been doing that.

CRUZ: That is my focus, is talking about how we fix these problems.  Talking about for example repealing ObamaCare. Talking about adopting a simple flat tax and abolishing the IRS. Look, if you look at the economy - -

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KELLY: And they love the IRS. Do you know that Texan people?

CRUZ: You know, there's an old -- old Pace Picante ad, if you remember about --

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: They know what you're talking about.

CRUZ: Talking about where this picante sauce comes from and they look at the can and say, New York City? New York City, get a rope!

(LAUGHTER)

Now, Texans fell the same --

KELLY: Wait, is there some mocking going on here? I just want to be clear. Is that what's happening?

CRUZ: Well, Texans feel the same way about income taxes. We don't have an income tax in Texas. We don't want an income tax in Texas. And padlocking the IRS would be a very good thing.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KELLY: All right. Enough from me. Let's get to the Texas voters.  Because we want to start off with one of the top stories of the day. The new developments in the battle over choosing a successor for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Now, "The Washington Post" is reporting that the White House is actually vetting -- this is something Harry Reid floated today as a possibility, centrist Republican Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval as a potential nominee. A Republican I say.  President Obama said he hopes the Senate will consider his nominee once he makes his choice. Republicans meantime on the judiciary committee yesterday said they want to wait on any hearings until after this election.

Bob Presatera (ph) came here tonight with his son and the court is his top concern. So, Bob, tell us your question.

BOB PRESATERA, TEXAS VOTER: Mr. Cruz, during the past seven years, we have witnessed an unprecedented disrespect, disregard of the constitution.

CRUZ: Yes.

PRESATERA: With the passing of Justice Scalia recently, a lot of folks are worried about the fundamental principles of our country. What our country was founded on being in jeopardy.

CRUZ: Yes. Yes.

PRESATERA: What would you do in order to restore faith in the high court's ability --

CRUZ: Yes.

PRESATERA: -- to uphold our constitutional rights?

CRUZ: Well, Bob, thank you for that question. You know, Justice Scalia's passing, I think really underscored the stakes of this election. Three days ago, I was up in D.C. at Justice Scalia's funeral. He was someone I was really -- I was blessed to know for 20 years. I knew him personally.  He was brilliant. He was principled. He was ferociously devoted to the constitution and the bill of rights. And his passing leaves the court very much in balance. We are one liberal justice away from seeing just about every one of our fundamental rights in jeopardy.

You know, as you know, before I was in the Senate, I was the solicitor general of Texas, the chief lawyer for the state in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. And I held that post for five-and-a-half years, defending the constitution, defending the bill of rights. If you look at some of our biggest victories, we defended the Ten Commandments monument that stands on the State Capitol grounds here in Texas. We went to the Supreme Court and we won five-four. We're one liberal justice away from the court ordering Ten Commandment monuments to be torn down all over this country.  

We defended the Second Amendment. The right to keep and bear arms. The biggest opinion of Justice Scalia's tenure on the court was Heller versus District of Columbia. I represented 31 states in Heller defending the Second Amendment and we won five-four. We are one justice away, one liberal justice away from the court essentially erasing the Second Amendment from the constitution, concluding not one of us has any individual rights to keep and bear arms whatsoever. If you care about the right to life, if you care about marriage, or religious liberty or the Second Amendment or privacy, every one of those is hanging in the balance with this court.

Now, I believe that Justice Scalia's passing is really emphasized to the voters, that we're deciding not one branch of government but two. And I think this should be a question for the voters. I agree with the decision of the Senate. Indeed, I called for the Senate to do what Republican leadership is said we're going to do which is not confirm any nominee whoever it is. Because for 80 years, the Senate has not confirmed any Supreme Court nominee nominated during an election year. Instead, we should take it to the people. Let the people decide, and I've got to tell you, Bob, I can't wait to stand on that debate stage with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

And make the case to the American people, if they want to put another left wing justice on the court, if they want to take away our religious liberty, if they want to undermine our right to keep and bear arms, let them make the case to the American people. Because I don't think that's our values and I'm happy to defend our values and I give you my word, Bob, spent from a lifetime defending the constitution, that every justice I appoint will be a principled constitutionalist who will be faithful and will ferociously defend the bill of rights for your kids and for mine.

KELLY: Very good.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

All right. Well, our next question comes from Wanda Ricketson (ph). Wanda lives right here in Houston. She says she is wavering between Senator Rubio and Senator Cruz and is concerned about the mess that we have seen in Washington in recent years. Wanda, what's your question?

WANDA RICKETSON, TEXAS VOTER. OK. Thank you for coming here and to all the candidates actually. I guess Donald Trump loves everyone but Texas.

(LAUGHTER)

And thank you, Senator Cruz, for going to Washington on behalf of our state to shake things up. I truly admire and respect you for being a true constitutional conservative.

CRUZ: Thank you.

RICKETSON: However, sometimes your hardline stance on issues comes across as polarizing and uncompromising.

CRUZ: Uh-hm.

RICKETSON: And I'm just worried that if you were elected that we would get four more years of nothing substantial getting accomplished in Washington again.

CRUZ: Uh-hm.

RICKETSON: So, are you willing to compromise and reach across the aisle to get things done?

CRUZ: Uh-hm.

RICKETSON: Because frankly, I do respect Marco Rubio for at least trying to get something done with immigration in the Gang of Eight.

CRUZ: Well, Wanda, thank you for that question.

(APPLAUSE)

And I appreciate -- listen, I understand where that question is coming from. We've got huge challenges in this country. And we've got to fix them. I mean, every one of us, we're not interested in a bunch of talk, we're actually interested in fixing them. Now, when it comes to compromise, my view is simple. I'm not willing to compromise on core principles. I'm not willing to compromise on fundamental beliefs. I'm not willing to compromise on the promises that I made to the men and women who elected me. But my view is also --

(APPLAUSE)

You know, my view is also -- Reagan said what do you do if someone offers you half a loaf? Answer, you take it. And then you come back for more.  And so I'm perfectly happy to compromise with anyone, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian. Heck, I'll even compromise with Martians, if they're moving in the right direction, if we're solving the problems. If we are reducing the debt, reducing the spending, protecting our liberties.  The problem with Washington, the deals always go backwards. You know, you get this word in Washington over and over again of let's compromise.

Let me tell you a story that is an example. You know, I wrote a book last year called "The Time for Truth." And the opening chapter of the book talks about the fight over the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling with a big fight, remembers, the knock down drag out fight. President Obama demanded what's called the clean debt ceiling. He wanted trillions more in debt with no spending reforms whatsoever. Now, it wasn't shocking that he asked for that it was an audacious opening bid but it wasn't shocking. What was shocking is what happened next, which is the House leadership decided to give it to him. So House leadership joined up with about I think was 192 Democrats to pass a clean debt ceiling with no spending reforms whatsoever.  They overruled about 200 Republicans. It then went to the Senate.

Now, in the Senate, the ordinary rules are to move to proceed to take up the debt ceiling. Take 60 votes, that's the way the Senate is operated for years. But any rule in the Senate can be changed by unanimous consent.  Well, the week we were taking it up, Republican leadership stood up, asked all of us, said we want to ask you to consent to lower the threshold for Harry Reid to take up the debt ceiling from 50 votes -- from 60 votes to 50 votes. And leadership told us, every one of you, all 45 Republicans -- that's when we're in the minority -- should agree to this for two reasons.  Number one, because if we do it, it will happen and hallelujah, hallelujah, that's what we want. We're afraid of this issue, kick the can down the road, we're not prepared to fight.

But number two, if we lower the threshold to 50, the Democrats will have the votes to do it on their own. So we can all vote no and we can tell our constituents we opposed the thing we just consented to allow happen. Now, I'm sitting there, Wanda, listening to that, and I had no choice. I raised my hand, I said, listen, there's no universe in which I can agree to that.  I spent two years traveling the state of Texas telling Texans, if you elect me, I will fight with every breath in my body to stop the out of control spending and debt that is bankrupting our kids and grandkids.

Now, I said listen, I'm perfectly happy to agree to something that raises the debt ceiling and puts some spending reforms in place, to use leverage to start solving the problems. But if I were to agree to just make it easier for Barack Obama and Harry Reid to add trillions in debt with no spending reforms, I think that would be both unfaithful and dishonest to the men and women who elected me.

KELLY: We have to leave it at that for right now --

(APPLAUSE)

We are not done, not by a long shot. We'll going to take a quick commercial break. But don't go away, because more of our one on one with Senator Ted Cruz is next. And more questions from our Texas Republicans when we come right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)  

KELLY: Welcome back to a special two-hour edition of "The Kelly File: Face-to-Face with the Candidates." We are coming to you tonight from the Queensbury Theatre in Houston, Texas.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: And still to come tonight, Senator Marco Rubio, Governor John Kasich, and Dr. Ben Carson. On the stage with us right now, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

So we want to get to our next question, which concerns women in the military. And it has been a hot button issue both in Washington and on the campaign trail, especially during the South Carolina vote.

This question comes from Roseanne Rodriguez (ph), who is an Army vet. She was deployed in Iraq on the front lines in the fight. Want to mention that she is also a volunteer with the Texans for Rubio group. So this is your chance, Senator, to convert her over to your side go.

Roseanne, go ahead.

QUESTION: OK. Thank you, Senator Cruz, for being here and for taking my question.

At several rallies you have stated that you would be against requiring young women to register for Selective Service. There has been a lot of discussion about lowering standards or setting standards to accommodate women in combat roles.

I believe that this is a different issue. As an Army veteran, a medic, and paratrooper who deployed to Iraq and served on the front lines and in combat, I would like to know why you think young women are less capable or owe less of a debt to this country than our young men.

CRUZ: Well, Roseanne, let me start by saying thank you for your service.  Thank you for stepping up and defending the country.

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: You know, listen, I fully agree with you that women are capable of doing incredible things. I'm the father of two young daughters who I think can accomplish whatever they set their hearts' desire too.

But I also think when it comes to the military that we shouldn't be governed by political correctness. And the question of the draft is a very different story. It's one thing to say, look, we've had many, many women who served courageously in the military. And that's their choice, their voluntary choice.

But I don't think we ought be forcibly drafting women, particularly putting them in a position where they're in combat. I don't think that makes sense. I don't think it's beneficial to the military.

If women want to step forward and serve voluntarily, I think that's perfectly appropriate and it's a wonderful thing. But it doesn't make sense to be drafting women in combat.

And I would note, you know, we had a debate a couple of weeks back where three of the candidates, including Marco, came out in favor of drafting women. The next week, Marco joined Mike Lee and me in legislation prohibiting women from being forced into being in the draft. So he backed away from that position right after taking it.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Can I just follow up on her -- why don't you think it makes sense?

CRUZ: Because I think it risks putting women in an unfair situation. You know, you've got -- if you're looking at close combat, for example, if you're dealing with a 200-pound jihadist, the idea that we will forcibly take our daughters and put them in a position where they could be in close combat, I don't think that makes sense and it's not recognizing the realities of combat.

You know, the Marines recently did studies on this looking that putting women in that position ended up increasing casualties both among the women and among the men, that it decreases military effectiveness.

And the job of our war fighters is to defeat the enemy. It's not to be this cauldron for social experiments or political correctness. It is to keep America safe.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: All right. I want to get to our next question. And our next question is really interesting. Less than a month ago a grand jury right here in Houston, Texas, was investigating criminal allegations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood, captured in a series of undercover videos.

Instead of indicting Planned Parenthood for anything that was in those videos, they decided to indict two of the pro-life activists who shot the footage. David Daleiden, the founder of the Center for Medical Progress, was handed felony charges of tampering with a government record and a misdemeanor account related to purchasing human organs. He wasn't actually trying to purchase them, but he was acting the part.

Lauren Day (ph) is a big backer of religious freedom. She just drove two hours so she could stand here and ask this question.

Lauren, you have the floor.

QUESTION: Thank you. If David Daleiden's case became a federal one, would you pardon him?

CRUZ: Lauren, thank you for asking that question. The answer is yes.

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: And let me flesh it out a little more. Listen, as a Texan, as a Houstonian, I was deeply dismayed and disappointed to see the Harris County district attorney bringing criminal charges against someone who went undercover to expose what appears to be vast criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood.

I think he performed an incredible public service. And I'll tell you this, I pledged, if I'm elected president, on the very first day in office, I intend to instruct the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood and to prosecute any and all criminal conduct by that organization.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: What do you make of Donald Trump's assertion that Planned Parenthood does some wonderful things? And that while we shouldn't pay for the abortion services, it does provide a lot of health services to women?

CRUZ: You know, there are a lot of things Donald has said that I disagree with, and that is very near the top.

Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest abortionist. Millions of unborn boys and girls have never breathed a breath of air because of Planned Parenthood. It is a multimillion dollar organization.

And you know what these videos showed? It is a federal criminal offense, it's a felony to sell the body parts of unborn children for profit. These videos showed Planned Parenthood, by all appearances, doing that.

It appears Planned Parenthood is a national criminal enterprise committing multiple felonies. Now the Obama Justice Department is so partisan and politicized they won't investigate it.

And I've got to say, anyone that in light of that on national television rhapsodizes about how wonderful they think Planned Parenthood is, listen, we're going to have to respectfully disagree.

I don't think a criminal enterprise, taking the lives of millions of unborn children, is wonderful in any way, shape, or form. And I don't they should get federal taxpayer dollars.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: I want to say, of course, for the record, that Planned Parenthood denies all that and is face no criminal charges as a result of this.

Just want to see if we have one more -- do we have time for one more? We don't. One more, one more. OK. We do. Jorge, he is here.

Jorge Villareal (ph), you have a message for -- you have a question for Senator Cruz about the Hispanic vote. Let us know.

QUESTION: Yes, Senator Cruz, so I'm mainly interested in the Republican Party growing to Latinos, especially Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. So my question for you is, what is your message to those Latino conservative voters who are undecided and may be confused by the promises of your fellow Republican primary opponents?

CRUZ: Well, Jorge, thank you for that question. It is incredibly important. As you know, Texas is a majority-minority state. And one of the things I was very proud of when I ran for the Senate in 2012 was receiving the votes of 40 percent of Hispanic voters here in Texas at the same time that Mitt Romney was getting clobbered with 27 percent of the Hispanic votes nationwide.

It is absolutely clear that Republicans have to do a much better job with the Hispanic community.

Now I think the answer to do that, I don't think it's that you pander, I don't think it's that you embrace amnesty and open borders. In fact, I think a great many Hispanics in this country, legal immigrants and citizens, don't favor open borders.

It's their jobs often that are being taken away by people who are coming here illegally. I think the way that you earn the votes of the Hispanic community, the way that I earned the votes here in Texas, is making the case that conservative principles work.

You know, if you look at what do we believe in the Hispanic community, faith, family, patriotism, love of God. If you look beyond at opportunity, you know, I've told many times my dad's story, coming from Cuba with nothing.

He was in prison. He was tortured. He had $100 in his underwear. And he washed dishes making 50 cents an hour. I try to think of every policy from the perspective of my dad, that teenage kid washing dishes.

You know, if he was still washing dishes today, the odds are very high he would have had -- lost his job because of ObamaCare.

ObamaCare is costing the jobs of millions of teenage immigrants just like him. And if he hadn't lost his job, he would have had his hours forcibly reduced to 28-29 hours a week because ObamaCare kicks in at 30.

And as president, I intend to fight to lift the burdens on small businesses so people like my dad, people in the Hispanic community washing dishes on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder who want to achieve the American dream can do that.

And I believe that's a message that resonates powerfully in the Hispanic community.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: We are going to have to wrap it up with Senator Cruz. I forgot to ask you one question. I just want to get this in before I let you go.  Mitt Romney came out today and said that every candidate should release his tax returns. Will you do so, and when, and how many years?

CRUZ: Absolutely. I'll release the remainder of what we have this week.  I have released already, I think, five years' worth. Look, the nice thing is, I haven't made enough money that my tax returns are not that interesting.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: It will be a speed read for us.

CRUZ: Yes, you know, it's not all that complicated. I recognize that Donald's tax returns are a little more complicated.

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ: You know, an awful lot of people speculate that he hasn't made nearly as much money as he said, who knows, because he doesn't release his tax returns.

But, you know, I do think Mitt has a good point that the voters are entitled to know before they vote, because you better believe the Democrats, if there's anything in there, the Democrats are going to town on this.

The Democrats are -- I mean, look, to be honest, an awful lot of the mainstream media is using kid gloves on Donald right now because they want Donald to be the nominee. And the instant he is the nominee, they will unleash every cannon they can to elect Hillary Clinton.

We can't risk that because if we do, we are going to lose the country, we are going to be buried in debt, we'll lose the Supreme Court. We can't let that happen.

KELLY: Thank you so much, Senator. Great to see you. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Thank you again.

Up next, Ohio Governor John Kasich joins our GOP candidate forum here in Texas to answer questions from voters ahead of Super Tuesday. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY: Well, Ohio Governor John Kasich had a strong showing two weeks ago in New Hampshire capturing second place with roughly 16 percent of the vote there. Today, however, he is fighting calls for him to bow out of the presidential race after a struggle in South Carolina, and then his fifth place showing in the Nevada caucuses last night.

His message to his critics earlier this afternoon at a campaign rally, "chill out."

Ohio Governor John Kasich joined me now from Kenner, Louisiana where he's campaigning. Great to see you, Governor, thank you so much for being here.

(APPLAUSE)

KASICH: Thank you, wish I could be with you.

KELLY: Alright, well, listen we appreciate you doing it at all, so thanks for being here.

Let me ask you about something you said on the campaign yesterday -- on the campaign trail that got some attention saying, "Being president may not be my purpose".

And, my question to you is if you are not sure, why should the voters be.

KASICH: No, no, Megyn, look, here's the thing. My purpose is to be president, that's why I put one foot in front of the other. And, we have some good news, I mean, I beat Hillary Clinton by more than any other candidate.

And, by the way for those that wonder about Donald Trump, if I go head to head with him in Ohio I beat him by 18 points. And, I'm running about even with him right now. We'll win Ohio.

And, look, what I was trying to tell people is we all have to find our God- given purpose, and we can't measure them. I mean, one is not necessarily bigger than another. In the eyes of the Lord, he doesn't think, well, because you're doing something to take care of somebody in the hospital that somehow that's not as important as somebody running for president.

But, you know, in this life we have to always pursue what we think we're supposed to do, what is in our gut. And, for me it's too -- it's obviously to be elected president. I intend to go all the way. I intend to be the nominee, and I intend to beat HIllary Clinton by more than 11 points when we get into the Fall election.

So, make no mistake about it, this is what I'm supposed to do, and I'm doing it all out.

KELLy: Let's talk about this situation, particularly in Ohio, because the latest Quinnipiac poll shows that you are trailing Donald Trump. It shows that he's got 31, you've got 26. Here in Texas, the latest poll shows that he has a 15 point lead over Donald Trump, and Cruz is in the number one position.

Your campaign recently said, and I quote, winning the nomination requires a candidate who is in a strong position to carry the state that knows him best. In your own words, wouldn't that be Ted Cruz?

KASICH: You mean, in Ohio? I'm not sure what the question is, Megyn...

KELLY: ... No, I mean this race...

KASICH: ... but, look there's a poll -- Oh, well, look in...

KELLY: ... In this race your campaign suggest you should vote for the candidate whose state is behind him. Well, Texas is behind Ted Cruz as of now, and right now the latest poll in Ohio says they're ready to vote for Donald Trump.

KASICH: OK, let me just tell you that a poll came out today sponsored by Baldwin Wallace that puts us even with everybody in the race. And, we haven't really put the effort in there. We've been in other parts of the country. We will win Ohio, but if you take other people out of the race, and this consolidates down to two of us, I beat Donald Trump by 18 points.

So, the fact is, Megyn...

KELLY: ... But...

KASICH: ... at this point, we're targeting our resources, and we put a lot of time now into Vermont, and Massachusetts, into Virginia. I was in Mississippi today, I'm now in Louisiana. We're on the ballot on over 40 states. And, look against Hillary Clinton, in the USA -- poll that just came out within the last week, I beat Hillary Clinton by more than anybody, by 11 points.

So..

KELLY: ... But, if you have so many people to get through before you can get to her, you know? And, that's the question, that's really the question. I'm not trying to give you hard time about your candidacy, I'm just raising the concerns that a lot of Republicans have because they see you, even though they like you, struggling to get above the bottom run in these elections....

KASICH: ... Wait a minute, wait a minute, hold on, hold on...

KELLY: ... After New Hampshire, which was a state you saturated with. And, their question is...

KASICH: ... Well, Megyn, look, let me...

KELLY: ... whether you are stealing votes from candidates who could actually win.

KASICH: Well, first of all...

(APPLAUSE)

KASICH: ... I'm not sure who those people are, OK? I'm not sure who those people are because, again, when we head North it's going to be interesting to see who can perform up North. Now, we've spent very little money, and other people have spent lots of money. And, we're holding our own.

I never said I would go to Iowa and the caucuses there. I got in at the end of July, I did not have big name identification. People counted me out. They said, you know, he'll never get to New Hampshire. He'll never get in the race, and by the way, he'll be in the debate. And, we went to New Hampshire and we finished second, and then people said he wouldn't perform in South Carolina. We were about one percent in the polls.

In about four or five days we jumped to eight. I didn't go to Nevada because I'm husbanding my resources. We're on the air in Vermont, we're on the air in Massachusetts. We have a strong organization in Vermont -- I mean, in Virginia. And, we're working in states in the South.

We will perform better in Mississippi than what people will expect.

Now, I expect for the next couple weeks we're going to probably see Donald Trump continue to win, but it's a matter of accumulating delegates and it's continuing to put one foot in front of the other. We've had a number of people who've signed on in the last three days.

Today it was Governor "Butch" Otter, two days ago it was Tom Ridge, the former Homeland Security Chief for George Bush. We have a number of financial people who have signed on. Because, you see, Megyn, the people that are calling for me to get out, many of them are people that are inside the Beltway. They're the lobbyists I had to beat 25 years ago to get the budget balanced, and I build my organizations with the grassroots. Not, with people inside the Beltway, and not with the people who call the tune on K street. I don't do that.

But, you just hang on because you know what a lot of people say? If I were to get out Donald Trump would win Ohio, and that would be the end of it. And, now articles are being written to say, well, maybe Kasich is the one who can really get the field consolidated, beat Trump, and is most electable in terms of beating Hillary Clinton.

So we intend to keep going, Megyn. We're not stopping. And I'm not giving up. That's just the end of it. And I'm certainly not listening to a bunch of people, insiders in Washington, D.C.

And, finally, by the way, I think we are in this to pick the most qualified person for president. Now I balanced the federal budget in Washington, something no one else can say, along with Pete Domenici. We reformed welfare. We cut the capital gains tax. We had a $5 trillion projected surplus.

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: . and so do I.

KASICH: No, wait, I want to just -- I want to finish, because part of this is.

KELLY: No, but listen, you're going to get the chance to talk about so many of these things, because I've got people lined up who want to talk to you. So just take their questions and.

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: OK. Look, I'm just going to finish this -- Megyn, I'm going to finish this in 30 seconds. In Ohio, we turned Ohio around.

KELLY: All right. You have got 15, because I want to get to my voters, who showed up here. They want to talk to you.

KASICH: OK. We turned Ohio around, we...

KELLY: They have a lot of important issues.

KASICH: OK. But you asked me questions, OK, I've got to answer them. So we're up 400,000 jobs.

KELLY: I know, but you're going on kind of long.

KASICH: . and surpluses. Well, OK, Megyn, have it your way. Let's go to the questions.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: All right. Thank you. You talk to my husband. Teach him that line.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: All right. Here's our first question to you from our voters. It involves an issue that you talk about a lot which is health care reform.  It comes from Travis Walker (ph) who describes himself as a grassroots Republican activist.

Go ahead, Travis.

QUESTION: Hi, Governor Kasich. As you know, health care costs are a major problem in this country. They're a big part of state and federal budgets and continually growing. And ObamaCare has done very little to address that.

In your mind, what would be a conservative free market way to reduce the price of care without cutting benefits or instituting government price controls like we see in Europe and a lot of other countries?

KASICH: Yes. Well, first of all, it's a complicated question. I will answer it as quickly as I can. I would repeal ObamaCare, but I would take some federal resources, freed up with Medicaid, which I would block grant to the states, in a budget within the first hundred days.

And then states could have their own -- they could always be able to advertise the various policies that they have with insurance inside the state with an exchange run by a state. And then people can choose what they want.

And but beyond that, I think we need to get to another place. And we, in Ohio, are launching a program, we already launched it, that is going to pay people who actually provide quality at lower prices.

We know there are some that charge a lot, hospitals and doctors, and we know some that charge less. The midpoint is that area between the high charges and the low charges. What we're going say is if you provide high quality at a lower price below the midpoint, we're actually going to pay you a financial reward.

We're going to use the market to drive down or at least begin to limit the increases in health care. And the fact is, is that we're beginning to do this in the state. And I'm also a governor that took Medicaid from 10.5 percent growth to 2.5 percent in my second year. And we have very good people, quality people who understand this process.

So number one, we're going to begin to pay people for high quality and low prices in Medicaid, and now the private sector, the insurance companies, the hospitals, the doctors are getting together on episodes to make sure that we can pay people a reward if they keep us healthy and they give us good quality below the midpoint.

And that is going to result in a transformation of health care actually using the free market. We're going to begin to make these payments next year. And I think it is something that can be and should be implemented all across the country to guarantee quality at lower prices.

KELLY: All right. Very good. Travis, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: We have many more questioners lined up. Don't go anywhere, because we're going to get to them and more with Governor Kasich right after this break. Don't go away.  

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY: And welcome back to our "Kelly File" special, live from Houston, Texas, tonight. Back with us now.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: . Republican presidential candidate, Governor John Kasich.

Governor, great to see you again. I want to get to this issue, which a lot of our voters here raised. Ever since Senator Rand Paul left this race, the libertarian voters have been looking around for which candidates best match them on the issues they care about.

And our next voter is one of those Rand Paul voters. Rusty Coochimba (ph) says he's still undecided and would like to hear from all the candidates, actually, on this one.

Rusty, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, howdy, Governor Kasich. Thank you so much for taking my question.

The question is, there doesn't seem to be a champion of liberty left in the race in some of our minds. And we're wondering why should liberty Republicans vote for you in the primary and also in the general?

KASICH: Well, look, I mean, the first thing is, I've always believed in small government. I was talking about balancing the federal budget where we shrunk the government. The same thing in my state where we have the lowest number of state employees in 30 years.

But I've always believed that we need to transfer power, money, and influence out of Washington, back to states. And frankly, I believe in transferring a lot of power from the states really down to where people are, because the strength in this country is from the bottom up, in our neighborhoods, communities, and families.

So I believe in shrinking government, modernizing government, innovating government. And, frankly, I think we ought to Uber-ize the federal government. And I have an absolute plan to do that.

On the issue of privacy, which is something that Rand Paul has been concerned about, my view is, there has to be a good balance. I am pleased with the fact that we now have inserted a judge in terms of the ability of government to collect data.

And in the battle between Apple and the government itself, my sense on that is that presidents should get them -- get people together, get them in a room. That's what a leader does. And I've done that in my state.

Get them in a room and say the government needs some information in regard to this one particular situation. We are not going to turn the key over to the government so they can just go out and do what they want.

But it is critical that business work with our folks in the intelligence community to make sure that they can get the information they need when it relates to terrorism.

This is a complicated issue. It's a difficult issue. But at the end of the day, while we have to make sure we get the information to stop these terrorist attacks, at the same time, we have to safeguard the privacy of Americans.

And so those are the two things that I would tell you. Transfer power, money, and influence from the federal government back, whether it's welfare, infrastructure, job training, education, get it out of there, get it into the states.

And secondly, the concerns about privacy, but national security are critical. And it takes a leader to be able to get people in a room and fix it.

KELLY: All right, Rusty, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Throughout the Republican primary, there has been a lot of talk about getting back to "The Constitution."

And Rosemary Graver (ph) joins us tonight with a simple question that is popular with a lot of conservative voters.

Rosa -- Rosemary.

ROSEMARY GRAVER: Yes, Governor Kasich, thank you for taking our questions.

Mine is very simple.

Who is your -- who's the founding father you look up to the most and why?

KASICH: I -- I love George Washington because he didn't want to be king.  You know, he had a chance to be in forever. And George Washington, you know, went, did his work and then he'd go away and he'd come back and, you know, I'm sort of a believer that you don't make a whole lifetime in government.

You know, I've been in government a long time as a reformer, but then I left for 10 years when we got the budget balanced and -- and when we reformed welfare and a -- and rebuilt our -- our defense.

You know, he decided he didn't need it. And frankly, the 10 years that I was out, being in the private sector and learning so much about the private sector in a real way has made me a much more effective governor.

That's how we've been able to solve many of the problems that we have in Ohio.

And the other thing that you should know is he was a compassionate man.  And I've always believed that economic growth is not an end unto itself.

So in our state -- and what I think we ought to do in the country -- is to make sure that those people who are the mentally ill, the drug addicted, the working poor, have an opportunity.

Washington had compassion in the old days. I've got compassion today. And at the end of the day, though, what I admire most about him is he knew when to walk away and say it's somebody else's turn and he knew -- need to -- he was able to say it's not about my ego or my way.

KELLY: Rosemary, thanks.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Governor, I also hear that George Washington, he was a hugger. He was a hugger. So you two -- you -- you have that in common.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: Our next guest is Lisa Moscarelli.

And she is with the Texas Federation of Republican Women. She describes herself as undecided. And she's worried about the divide she sees within this country right now, one with which most of our guests here will be very familiar.

KASICH: OK.

KELLY: Lisa, what did you want to ask the governor?

LISA MOSCARELLI, TEXAS FEDERATION OF REPUBLICAN WOMEN: Governor, thank you  for joining us, even if it is from Louisiana. No shame. No shame.

We've had eight years almost of the divider-in-chief. We have division and rancor in this Republican primary.

Where and what would you do to bring this country together, racially?

What can we do?

We -- we need someone to lead us.

What would you do?

KASICH: Well, I'd remind everybody that we're Americans before we're Republicans and Democrats. And I've been a uniter throughout my career.

When we balanced the federal budget, I negotiated with the Clinton administration. We did get what we want, lower taxes, a government that was more effective and, in fact, economic growth.

In the state of Ohio, you know, I've been able to work with everybody. I mean in terms of the racial issue, that's a very serious one. We've been able to create a coalition of both African-Americans, law enforcement, community activists, pastors. And we've had tough -- some tough cases in Ohio, but we haven't seen violence in some of the cities that we've seen other places by bringing people together.

I've worked with Democrats in terms of reforming schools in Cleveland. We worked on the issue of fighting the problems of drugs.

You see, what it really gets down to is somebody who can unite, somebody that doesn't get, you know, want to knock all the pieces off the chessboard if they get frustrated.

See, what you have to understand is having been a congressman and a -- and being in that role and understanding how to get along with people of the other party and people with other philosophies then taking that to Ohio and being able to bring that state together, by reminding people that we have a bigger purpose.

You know, the -- the purpose is not to be just somebody that represents your party. Your purpose, when you are in public life, is to solve problems, create jobs and give everybody a chance to be lifted.

So, you know, it -- look, I -- I was at a Republican fundraiser today for me at noon and I took an old Democrat conservative blue dog Democrat into this fundraiser. And when I walked him into -- he didn't even want to go.

When he walked in the door, they cheered him.

And you know why I did it?

Because I want people to know that we can find areas of agreement and if we don't, we will not fix Social Security, the border, we'll not balance the budget, and we will continue to be able to divide ourselves and the problems keep getting kicked down the road.

If I'm president, within the first 100 days, I will have conservative ideas, I will -- I will unite the Republicans, but I'll tell you what, I'll set the tune, but we're going to let some Democrats come and play in the orchestra, because we are Americans and we can do it together.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Governor, last question for you.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: The last question for you.

Governor Mitt Romney said today that he will not endorse any candidate who has not yet released their tax returns.

Will you release yours?

When?

And how many years worth?

KASICH: Sure. Sure. Yes, you know, I -- I will -- that's not going to be an issue for me. We'll be very glad to release tax returns and I don't know, we'll -- we'll figure out what the right -- right years are, but we're -- we don't have anything to hide there.

I just want to conclude by saying that one of the things we need to do in this election is not just look at resume, but look at accomplishments.

Who can lead this country?

Who's actually achieved things?

Because, you know, it's not just about promises. It's about what you delivered in the past, because what you delivered in the past gives you a sense of what we can deliver in the future.

And we'd better make sure that we have people with deep experience who know how to -- how to get things done in that town, who've got a tough backbone and know how to get it done. That is what's really important, because America can't continue to drift. We have to have somebody that can go there immediately and make the impact that we want, to improve our economy and to give all Americans a sense that they will have opportunity.

Megyn, thank you for allowing me to do it.

I'm sorry I'm here. I'm going to be winging to Texas tonight and I'll see you all there tomorrow.

KELLY: Don't worry. We're glad you came.

Thank you so much for talking to us tonight.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Great to see you, Governor.

KASICH: You're welcome.

KELLY: Thanks for your time.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: And we've got much more to come on this special "Kelly File" two hour face-to-face with the GOP candidates here in Texas.

Next hour, Senator Marco Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson are in the hot seat. And our Lone Star State voters have a lot more questions to ask of the presidential hopefuls.

All that when we come back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Welcome back to a special edition of "The Kelly File," "Face to Face With the Candidates."

We're coming to you tonight from the Queensberry (ph) theater in Houston, Texas.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KELLY: (INAUDIBLE) every time. Last hour, you heard from Texas senator Ted Cruz and Ohio governor John Kasich. This hour, the audience will have a chance to ask their questions to Florida senator Marco Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson.

We begin with Senator Rubio, who last night finished second in the Nevada caucuses, behind Donald Trump. But his message today -- the majority of GOP voters still don't want Trump as their nominee.

Joining me now by satellite, Senator Marco Rubio. Senator, thank you for joining us tonight.

(APPLAUSE)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you.

KELLY: Great to see you. So you believe...

RUBIO: Great to see you.

KELLY: ... still that the majority of voters don't want Donald Trump, but at this point in this contest, you have yet to win a single race.

RUBIO: Yes.

KELLY: With the understanding that past is prologue, what are you going to change to get a different result?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, admit he's the front-runner and that I'm certainly an underdog, but I've been an underdog my entire life, I mean, from where I grew up and how I grew up to how I came to the Senate running against the Republican establishment to this race, when I've been hit by over $40 million of negative ads by establishment money.

But I relish that. This is a country of underdogs. This is a nation made up of people who scratch and claw to move ahead and improve their lives.  And this is an important election. We are not going to allow the conservative movement to be defined by a nominee who isn't a conservative. And we certainly need to elect someone who's prepared to be president in a thoughtful and serious and important way, given the threats this country faces.

So that's why a majority of Republican voters are not supporting Donald Trump. And obviously, once this race begins to narrow a little bit, you'll see more of that support consolidating. But right now, we're kind of in this situation that we're facing, and we're going to keep working hard and picking up as many delegates as we can.

KELLY: But I didn't hear anything in there that talked about a change.  And the question is whether your -- you like being second because if you don't change anything...

(LAUGHTER)

RUBIO: Well...

KELLY: ... what are the odds that that number's going to start changing for you?

RUBIO: Well, we're not going to change our message. I mean, this is why I'm running. I'm running because I understand we have real challenges. I know that people are angry. That's why...

KELLY: What about tactics?

RUBIO: ... I ran for Senate in 2010.

Well, I mean, our tactics are the following. Every state is different, obviously. We want to go in with the resources we have and try to move numbers and do that. So our tactics are not going to dramatically change.

I think the biggest change in this campaign is going to be when the people not named Donald Trump -- the choices begin to narrow and we start to give the Republican voters a clearer choice of who they want to get behind.

And look, my argument is I'm as conservative as anyone running in this race. I hold up my record of 15 years of turning conservative ideas into conservative solutions up against anyone who's running. But I can win. I can unify this party. I can grow this party. And I will win this election.

The Democrats desperately do not want to run against me. That's why they attack me more than anyone else in this race. And if we lose, then that means Bernie Sanders, who's a socialist, or Hillary Clinton, who's under FBI investigation, becomes the next president of the United States.

So it's going to take a little longer than people want, but I feel good about it. And I can tell you no one's going to outwork us. That's for sure.

KELLY: All right, let's get some voters in here because we want to hear from them directly. This next issue is getting a lot of attention in the Democratic race. It's a hot item with young Republican voters, as well.

And the question comes from Tanya Sue Maestas (ph). She's here with her mom, Lydia (ph), and she describes herself as undecided. She says she's narrowed it down, however, and she and wants to ask about the cost of college today.

Tanya, what's your question for Senator Rubio?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening. Thank you so much for allowing me to be here tonight. Senator, I'm a current student and the first in my family to be furthering my education. My question for you is what you would do to provide more opportunities for students to further their education while making it affordable and decreasing the student debt that's crushing our America's youth.

RUBIO: Yes. Thank you, Tanya, for the question. That's an important one.  I'm actually the only Republican running that always talks about student loan debt in every one of my speeches. I actually have a plan to deal with all of it.

And one of the reasons I'm so passionate about it is because four years ago, when I became a U.S. senator, until 2012, I still had over $100,000 in student loan debt from my time in law school and undergraduate. So I -- we have a comprehensive way to deal with it.

The first is, we're going to provide students more information. Before you take out a loan, when I'm president, you're going to know how much people make when they graduate from the school you're going to with the degree that you're seeking, so you can make an informed decision about whether it's worth borrowing thousands of dollars for a degree that may not lead to a job.

Second, we're going to provide alternative ways to pick up college credit without having to pay for sitting in a classroom. In the 21st century, whether it's through Corsara (ph) or Udacity (ph) or other alternatively accredited methods, you should be allowed to acquire a substantial number of credits without having to pay for it. It'll shorten the amount time you're in school, but it's also going to open the door for higher education for non-traditional students.

The third is we would make income-based repayment the automatic method of repayment. I think that I'd much rather collect $20 a month from someone than to have them default and then ruin their credit and be unable to buy a home or start a business or whatever.

And the fourth thing that we want to do in the -- is provide an alternative to student loans. It's called the Student Investment Plan, and it would allow students, especially graduate students, to go to a private investment group and get them to pay for your tuition, instead of a loan.

If you make a lot of money, they're going to make their money back, like if they invested it in a small business that was successful. If you don't make a lot of money, they lose their investment. They made a bad investment. But it's better than a loan because it doesn't sit on your credit report, and all the risk is on the investment group.

So we have developed this strategy and -- because I feel passionately about it because I can tell you...

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: All right...

RUBIO: ... I can tell you that when...

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: They wrapped you for me. They wrapped you for me because we have to get on to our next question.

RUBIO: Oh, good. All right.

KELLY: But thank you for that. I want to get to our questioner...

RUBIO: All right.

KELLY: ... who's Kerry Kestner (ph), another one of the small business owners that we're hearing from tonight. Now, as a businessman, he says that he has a number of concerns, but one in person is an especially big deal for him.

Kerry, tell us what your question is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Marco, thank you so much for taking time to listen to us and answer our questions.

RUBIO: Thanks, Kerry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a small business owner, we have a number of concerns -- taxes, excess regulation and health insurance. As a small business, we have a tough time affording health insurance for our employees. I don't think that's fair. But the health system is currently broken.

What are you as president going to do to fix the broken health care system?  We need more than repealing "Obama care" or breaking state lines.

RUBIO: Right. And I agree with that. First of all, we are going to repeal "Obama care" and we're going to replace it. I don't want do go back to the old system. That wasn't working well, either. Substantial number of Americans were uninsured.

By the way, I'm the only one running for president that's ever done anything about "Obama care." I got rid of the bail-out fund that they were going to use with your taxpayer money to bail out private insurance companies. And I led the effort to do that.

So part of it is...

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: ... allowing everyone to control their own health care spending.  Under my plan, you would be allowed to provide to your employees -- if you can't find insurance, you'd be allowed to provide a medical money (ph), in essence, the equivalent of what you're paying on their behalf, they would be able to receive that money. It can only be used for medical care, but it would be tax-free. It wouldn't be treated as income.

And they would be able to use it to fund health insurance any way they want, whether it's a health savings account, whether it's a combination of a health savings account and buying insurance of the kind they want from any company in America.

You would also be allowed to pool your resources with other similarly situated businesses to create a coverage group. Again, it would give you more options.

So what I want to do is provide more choices because that'll lead to more competition in the health insurance marketplace, and it is through competition that you're going to get better coverage, lower prices and better networks. And that's a much better approach than we have now, where the cost of the health care exchanges, where the companies are losing money, it's all being passed to the commercial plan and that's why your premiums keep going up.

KELLY: Very good, Senator. Thank you.

Well, the issue of prison reform...

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: ... prison reform is starting to bubble up on the campaign trail, as well, on both sides of the aisle. And as an interesting point of reference, it is one issue where the Obama administration and the very conservative Koch brothers find themselves not only in agreement but working together. You got President Obama, Van Jones and Charles Koch all agreeing on some -- I mean, the same issue. It's like your head is going to explode, but it's happening!

So our next question comes from Jake Blumenkranz (ph), and he's a young student at Baylor University. We have a few Baylor visitors here tonight.

Welcome, Jake. And your question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. My question is about prison reform.  Currently, there are several bills in the House and the Senate co-signed by Democrats and Republicans alike, all trying to fix the issue of mass incarceration.

What would you do with a united front as president to solve this issue?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, thanks for the question. It can be an important issue, but I think it's largely misunderstood. First of all, federal crimes, for the most part, the vast majority of people are not in jail for some small thing. In fact, the growth in incarceration in this country has largely been through mandatory minimum sentences for violent offenders.

Up until (INAUDIBLE) 1980s, we had huge crime rates in America, and then minimum mandatories began to kick in around the '90s. And suddenly, you sound -- you saw that people that were once quickly released and returned back to the streets and were committing crimes -- much of the crime in America was being committed by recidivists, people that were going back to crime. Now these people were being locked up, and suddenly, you saw a dramatic plunge in crime rates.

So that's where the bulk and the majority of people being incarcerated are.  And I'm not going to undo that. I believe in minimum mandatory sentences for people that are violent and dangerous criminals, for drug dealers and people like that.

Now, I am open to saying let's divert people out of the system if they're first-time offenders and they're not a danger to society. I believe that is especially important for juveniles and young people who have made a bad mistake or did something dumb, and -you don't want them interacting with the criminal justice system because that stigma oftentimes leads to criminalization later on.

I don't -- you know, the vast majority of people that commit drug offenses as users are victims. They're addicted to or dependent on a substance. I don't want to see them in jail, either. I'm open to that.

But when it comes to violent and dangerous criminals and drug dealers, I support minimum mandatory sentences because it has worked in reducing the crime rate in America over the last 25 years.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: All right, we're going to have much more with Senator Rubio on the opposite side of this break coming up in a moment because -- well, yes, OK.  So stand by. We're going to have much more right here from Houston, Texas.  Don't go away. Senator Marco Rubio continues next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY: And welcome back, everybody. It's a special two-hour edition of "The Kelly File," "Face to Face With the Candidates."

On the stage with us now, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, or at least via remote. Thank you, Senator Rubio, for being back with us.

RUBIO: Thank you.

KELLY: Want to get right to this next issue. Former president George W. Bush said one of the toughest issues he struggled with as a president had to do with stem cell research, an issue on which he first used his the presidential veto.

And our next question on this issue comes from Sarah Gubala (ph), who's a science professor at Lamar (ph) University. She says she likes both Governor Kasich and you, sir.

Sarah, what is your question for the Senator?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Rubio, you've been criticized by Right to Rise being too pro-life to be president. What are your positions on stem cell research? As president, will you veto legislation that could help save a life at the cost of someone else's life?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, I don't view it as that kind of choice. I view it (ph) a couple things. Number one, I -- there's all kinds of stem cell research going on, including umbilical cord blood and things of this nature. I support all of that.

What I do not support anything that would lead to the creation of an industry where you are creating embryos solely for the purpose of cultivating stem cells because I am pro-life. I believe that all human life is worthy of the protection of our laws.

I recognize it's a difficult issue. It largely comes up in the context of abortion. This is a hard issue. I get it. It puts two competing rights against each other, the right to choose what you do with your body combined with the right of an unborn child to live. And I have to make a choice when these two things are in conflict, which side will I be on? And I've chosen the side of life.

Again, it's not a political issue for me, it's a human rights issue. I believe deeply that all human life is worthy of the protection of our laws, and I believe that if human life loses its protection or its dignity in our laws, we are a society headed in the wrong direction fast.

And so that's my view. I feel passionately and deeply about it. I understand and respect Americans that have a different view on it. And I certainly believe we can continue to make advances on stem cell research without creating an industry where embryos are being cultivated simply for purposes of accessing stem cells.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: So cord blood fine, but embryo research absolutely not? Is that your position, Senator?

RUBIO: Yes, especially embryos that are created solely for that purpose.  Yes, absolutely.

KELLY: What about discarded embryos from IVF procedures and such?

RUBIO: That's a harder issue, obviously. But again, I think the problem with that is it's very difficult to -- what's hard about policing that is anyone can claim that they're going to be discarded already, so they're really not for purposes of life. I just don't -- I'm very...

KELLY: Just to clarify...

RUBIO: ... concerned about the industry.

KELLY: Just to clarify...

RUBIO: Yes, I'm just very worried about an industry...

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: ... being created that you're -- yes.

KELLY: No. Understood. But just to clarify on the abortion issue, because you and talked about this at the very first presidential debate back in August. You state now that you are -- you're against abortion even in the cases of rape or incest. Is that your position tonight?

RUBIO: Yes. What I said -- I don't require those exceptions in order to support a law. On the other hand, I have supported laws that have those exceptions because I'm interested in saving lives. I support the 20-week abortion ban, and it has those exceptions because that's where the majority of Americans are.

If I'm president, even though I don't personally require there to be exemptions for those two things, I do -- I will support a law that has them because I am interested in saving as many lives as we can.

KELLY: Understood. OK.

Our next voter came here tonight hoping to put her question to Donald Trump. Since he could not be here, we have asked her to put the question to you, sir.

RUBIO: OK.

KELLY: And it concerns an issue that has incited a lot of emotion on the campaign trail. And with that, we turn it over to Alison Young (ph), who has a story and a question.

Alison.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Senator Rubio, recently, a Muslim American Army reservist was denied access to a recreational gun range in Oklahoma. And the range even had signage saying it was a Muslim-free facility.

What is your opinion on this? And do you think the rhetoric of this campaign season, especially the anti-Muslim rhetoric, has increased this sentiment?

RUBIO: Yes. The story you just told me is wrong. It's immoral. We should not be doing that to people. The bottom line is there are...

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: ... millions of patriotic Muslim Americans. And if you go to a national cemetery where we bury veterans who've died in the service of our country, you will see Stars of Davids and you'll see crosses, but you'll also see crescent moons. You will see Muslim Americans who have died in the service of this country.

And so our issue is not with patriotic Muslim Americans. It's not even with Islam. It is with radical jihadis. It with radical Islam, which is a political -- politicization and a radical ideology that threatens Islam.  Doesn't just threaten the West, it threatens Islam.

If you look at ISIS, ISIS wants to kill all Shia and all Sunnis who do not agree with their own version of Islam. So we recognize the contributions that Muslim Americans make in this country, and no one should be discriminated against in America because of their religion or their faith.

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: I also think we have to recognize, and I think the Muslim American community does, that radical Islam poses a threat.

KELLY: But what did you make of her question about whether the rhetoric in this campaign is putting some Muslims in this position? You know, Muslim Americans who are worrying...

RUBIO: Right. So we have to...

KELLY: ... about their sons and their daughters...

RUBIO: Yes, and that's important...

KELLY: ... walking the streets, going to gun ranges and so on?

RUBIO: And that's important, Megyn, because when you're president of the United States, you have an enormous megaphone. You get to set the agenda and the tone for the country.

We already have a president that's incredibly divisive. We should not be pitting and dividing Americans against each other. And I agree that -- we -- I think we are capable...

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: ... of recognizing the threat of radical Islam without having to demonize an entire religion, especially those Americans here that are so loyal to America and many whom are willing to don the uniform and die on behalf of our freedoms and our liberties.

KELLY: All right, we're going to get on to our next question, which is on the plan announced by President Obama on Tuesday to close the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The president's proposing to transfer Gitmo's most dangerous terrorist detainees to a facility inside the United States.

Carolyn Gibbs (ph), what's your question for the senator?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Rubio, President Obama this week announced that he wanted to close Gitmo. Would you close Gitmo? And if so, what would become of the facility and how would you transfer these hardened war criminals to the U.S. soil without them having U.S. civil rights?

RUBIO: Yes. A couple points. Great question. Number one is Gitmo is not just a prison for radical terrorists but is also an important naval facility, and we're keeping it.

Number two, we are not -- we shouldn't be transferring people out of there.

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: A substantial number of them, once released, are rejoining the battlefield against us. In fact, this week, Spanish police arrested a former Gitmo detainee who was plotting terrorism.

Number three, when I am president, we're actually going to be taking people there, not taking people out. When I'm president, we are going to have a real war on terror...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: ... which means our armed forces will destroy them. And if we capture any of these terrorists alive, we're taking them to Guantanamo, and that's where they belong. They are enemy combatants in a war against America. They should not be released so they can rejoin the battle against us.

KELLY: All right, let me follow up on that with you, Senator, though.  What about interrogation of terrorists who we capture on the battlefield?  Because back during the Bush administration, they didn't necessarily go to Gitmo. They went to CIA black sites and they were subjected, in some cases, some limited cases, to enhanced interrogation techniques.

So what would a President Rubio administration do when we capture a dangerous terrorist who we want to interrogate?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, I never talk about interrogation techniques because it gives the terrorists the opportunity to train to evade them.

Number two, let me say this, though. I believe we are capable of...

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: We have the capability of gathering information without having to do some of the things that people feel offended by. And number three, interrogating a terrorist is not the same as a law enforcement interrogation.

In a law enforcement interrogation, you're trying to acquire evidence to use at trial. In a terrorism interrogation, you are trying to acquire information to prevent a terrorist attack in the future, and so you can't always use the exact same tactics because this is not about evidence to put someone in jail. This is about evidence and information to prevent a future terrorist attack.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Now, we selected this next voter because her issue has been the issue for a lot of Republican voters throughout this primary cycle, and it concerns the decision between supporting the person you like and supporting the person you think can win. And this next question comes from Michelle Marquette. (ph)

Michelle, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. Thank you, Megyn, and thank you, Senator Rubio.

RUBIO: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm struggling right now with my decision on who to vote for because Senator Cruz shares similar values as me, but I think you're more electable. What would you say to a voter like myself when comparing electability to values?

RUBIO: Well, first, I would say you don't have to compromise those when you vote for me. I have a 15-year record of turning conservative ideas into action.

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: I -- I encourage you...

KELLY: Well, let's just...

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: Forgive me for the interruption. Forgive me for the interruption.  Please pardon me. But Michelle, is there something about Senator Rubio versus Senator Cruz that is giving you pause?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One thing I really like about Senator Cruz is this idea of limited government, and I -- sometimes, the policies that Senator Rubio, you know, he puts those -- he puts out there, I don't necessarily believe they line up with what I believe is limited government.

KELLY: Go ahead, Senator Rubio.

RUBIO: Yes. Well, first of all, I have, as I said, a record of limited government. I haven't just talked about it, I did it. I was in the state legislature in Florida, which is a part-time job, but I was the speaker of the house. We balanced the budget the two years I was speaker without raising taxes. In fact, we cut taxes.

We actually reformed the school curriculum without Common Core. We did it at the state level, where it belongs.

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: At the federal level, I've outlined clear ideas about limiting government. We -- I have a regulatory budget proposal which would dramatically reduce regulations. That shrinks agencies.

But I believe I am the conservative that can unite this party. I'm as conservative as anyone. I encourage you to examine my voting record in Washington. It's right up there with anyone in Washington. But I believe I can unite this party, as I've proven this week with more and more people coming on board, but I can also grow it.

I believe that I give us the opportunity to take conservatism to people that haven't voted for us in the past, and instead of watering down our principles, convincing them that our principles are the right way forward for them and for our country. That's not just how we win an election, that's how we create a better future for America.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Senator, I've got one final question for you, same one I'm been asking the other candidates. And that is today, Governor Mitt Romney suggested that the GOP voters should not choose a nominee until they have seen the tax returns of said nominees. Will you release yours, when, and how many years?

RUBIO: Yes. Yes, I think, in fact, we were planning (ph) today, tomorrow and the next few days. Number two, a lot of my tax returns are already out there because I released them during my Senate campaign. A lot of the information that's in them is already public because of my Senate financial disclosures every year.

But I'll release them. They're not very complicated. I -- I -- they're just not very exotic. But we will release them, sure.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: The exotic tax return. We should all be so lucky!

Senator, great to see you. Thanks so much for being here.

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: Thank you.

KELLY: Stay tuned because we've got one more candidate to go. Dr. Ben Carson joins our GOP forum here in Texas next.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY: Welcome back to a special edition of "The Kelly File," "Face to Face With the Candidates."

Last night, after finishing fourth in the Nevada caucuses, Dr. Ben Carson told his supporters his campaign was, quote, "just beginning." Here to make his pitch to the voters in this audience to help him, and the viewers at home, retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Welcome, Dr. Carson. Great to see you.

DR. BEN CARSON, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you. Good to see you.

KELLY: All right, so let me start with this. Really? Just beginning?

(LAUGHTER)

CARSON: Absolutely. You know, 5 percent of the delegates have been selected already. We've got a long to way to go. It's like a baseball game. And everybody wants to call the game after the first inning. I think we have a ways to go yet.

And the good thing is, with fewer candidates, I think maybe there's a possibility -- I'm not sure it's going to happen, but there's a possibility that people may actually start getting interested in the real solutions to our problems and not so much the gladiatorial spectacle.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Now I know that you're a Christian. Your faith is important to you. You've spoken openly about that on the campaign trail. I want to ask you about a piece that appeared in "National Review" by David French in which he wrote the following. He was addressing you and addressing Governor Kasich. And what he wrote was "Being a Christian candidate for president means far more than advocacy for life, religious liberty, and the family. It means being humble and self-aware enough to know when your vanity is hurting the country. It's time to deny self, admit defeat, and leave the race." He and so many other Republicans, while they like you, they have concerns that you're a spoiler in effect at this point and that a vote from you is effectively what he said was a vote to destroy the Republican Party. Your thoughts?

CARSON: My thoughts are that the political establishment, the pundits like to think that they're in control. And it's really we the people who should be in control. And --

(APPLAUSE)

CARSON: I believe there's still a possibility that we can sort of break the spell that they have over the people. You know, bear in mind that, you know, it's sort of like, you know, why do I stay here? It's like losing a child. If you have ever known someone whose lost a child, it's a horrendous thing. You would do anything to keep it from happening. I feel like we're in the process of losing our country. And it is in critical condition right now. And I don't see anybody else who really is going to do anything about it.

One of the real reasons that we are in critical condition is because we've had so many people who are controlled, you know. They either are on a puppet end of the string or the puppet-master end of the string. And as a result of that, things that are done are not necessarily the things that are the most beneficial things for we, the people. And that's one of the reasons that I totally refuse to accept money from special interests and billionaires who want to control things. They are the problem. And anybody who is associated with them is going to continue to do their bidding. And we are going to continue to go down the same road and we just can't afford that.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: I want to ask you about a controversial comment that you made yesterday about president Obama suggesting that he was, quote, "raised white" in contrast to yourself, in response to which many people came out, some well-known African-American commentators suggested that that plays into a narrative that there's some sort of correct or legitimate way of doing blackness, of being black. Your response?

CARSON: My response is that that's hogwash.

(LAUGHTER)

CARSON: You know, basically, in the conversation, and the transcript is available, I said that his experience in growing up is vastly different than most African-Americans. And I don't know who could really argue with that, you know. He was raised by his white grandparents in Hawaii in a very affluent area in a private school.

KELLY: He -- but he looks black.

CARSON: Let me finish. And he -- formative years were spent in Indonesia.

KELLY: Four years of his young life.

CARSON: Right, from 10 to 14. Those are formative years, with his white mother.

Now, for anybody to tell me that's a typical black experience --

(APPLAUSE)

CARSON: You know, it's basically the media doing what they always do. You know, they take a simple statement that I made, and they say so therefore he's saying that, you know, it's bad to be raised white. So that's a racist statement and he's saying that there's some other racism against blacks, and, you know, on and on they go with their, you know, just ridiculous analysis, which is only for one purpose, and that's to try to ridicule me and to drive wedges. People ought to be used to it by now.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Let's move on to the voters who have good questions for you. Our first one from Landon Este (ph). He's a young Republican worried about whether there is place for a young voter under the GOP tent. Landon, take it away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Carson, many Republicans under 40 are fiscally conservative but ted to lean more socially libertarian as compared to the older over-40 crowd. Is there room in the GOP for this younger than 40 crowd when there's a strong contrast on social issues?

CARSON: There should be room for them because, you know, one of the reasons that I've joined this race is because as a pediatric neurosurgeon I was very concerned about the next generation, about their welfare. Now, we look at how our fiscal policies are affecting young people, the millennials and the next generation, we're talking $19 trillion.

Thomas Jefferson said it is immoral to pass debt to the next generation.  If you tried to pay off $19 trillion at $10 million a day, 365 days a year, it would take you over 5,000 years. So we're not talking about the next generation. We are talking about generations as far as the eye can see.  And that's the good news, because, in fact, the fiscal gap which is all the unfunded liabilities, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, all the governmental programs, agencies, versus the money we have coming in from taxes and other revenue sources, they should be even if we're fiscally responsible. If we're not, there's a gap. Bring it forward to today's dollars. It's a fiscal gap over $200 trillion.

So if somebody came today and said, America, I've got a gift for you. I'll give you $19 trillion to pay off the national debt. Everybody would be dancing in the streets. We wouldn't even be close to being out of trouble.  And that's what young people need to understand so when people like Bernie Sanders come along saying free college for everybody, we need to understand what he's talking about. This is -- that's going to accelerate our fall off the cliff. And so young people need to recognize that, at least in my case, we're looking at people who are going to be looking for ways to ameliorate that financial deterioration.

KELLY: All right, next question on an important issue.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: We get so many of the viewers writing in about this issue and asking us to ask you the candidates about the V.A. It has been nearly two years since the scandal over wait times, to put it mildly, erupted at the Veterans Administration. And while the department's chief watchdog yet to release the findings of the investigations into some 73 V.A. facilities across the U.S., this issue is shaping up to be a big one in 2016 which leads us to the next voter, Melody Briggs (ph). Melody, take it away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Good evening, Dr. Carson. As Megyn introduced, we want to hear about the V.A. I would like to hear your solution, your action plan for what you plan to do to improve the V.A.

CARSON: OK, well, I have had an opportunity to work in a number of V.A.'s, and wonderful patients, wonderful staff, and a mountain of bureaucracy in between them. It was ridiculous the situation.

One of the things that -- first, let me put a couple of things in perspective. First of all, our veterans are incredibly important to our freedom. We have in some kind of conflict on the average every 15 to 20 years.

(APPLAUSE)

CARSON: So we're only talking about one percent of the population. We have every obligation to take care of them as they have taken care of us.

Now, what I would do is when a person enlists in the military, I would attach them with an external support group who would be with them throughout their entire military career, particularly when they're in combat and for three to five years afterwards, because that's when PTSD shows up.

A year before they're scheduled to be discharged, that group would start working on the integration back into society. So they would quit the military on Friday and start their new job on Monday. They would have health empowerment accounts that are subsidized which allow them to go to any health care facility in the country, and we would be delighted to take care of them. And then they could go to a V.A. facility if they wanted to but they wouldn't be obligated to do so. That creates competition.  Competition is the only thing that will, you know, improve the situation.  It works in all parts of our society. And if the V.A. has to compete for the patients, they will improve, no question about it.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Our next questioner is R.W. Gray (ph). R.W. Gray (ph) is a director of African-American engagement for the Texas GOP. R.W.?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing, doc? Good to see you here.

CARSON: You, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Considering the importance of the African-American vote, here of late we have seen the Democratic candidates posturing their campaigns toward the black community in order to win their candidacy. When it comes through Republican Party, what a lot of blacks are concerned about are, number one, likability, second, relatability, likeability being the character of the president, relatability meaning they're relating to the issues of the community. So my question is, what is your campaign doing in order to secure and win the African-American vote, but not only that but secure and win it for the Republican Party?

CARSON: OK, well, I don't change my message just because I'm in front of one group versus another group.

(APPLAUSE)

CARSON: You know, I was -- but by the same token, I believe the right kinds of policies lift all the votes. You know, policies that our government has had has been extremely detrimental, particularly in the African-American community in terms of destroying families. And, you know, our faith and our families, those are the two strong pillars, particularly in African-American community that got us through slavery and Jim Crow and segregation and racism. And as those things are broken down, it's problematic. So Republicans and particularly me are very, very interested in finding ways to heal those families, put those families back together.

And you think about something like out of wedlock birth, 73 percent of African-American babies born out of wedlock. Well, usually this means the end of education for that woman. And it means that baby is four times as likely to grow up in poverty. That's very problematic.

What we should be doing, I think, is supporting and creating groups that support that woman through that pregnancy so that she's not going off to get an abortion, and then helping her to be able to get her GED or her associate's degree or bachelor's degree or master's degree by providing adequate childcare so that she can learn to take care of herself and her child so you can break the cycle of poverty. That's the only way it will ever be broken.

(LAUGHTER)

CARSON: And I think, also, you know, one of the things that I have proposed in my tax plan, and please go to BenCarson.com and read about it, I got a lot of policy. I said we would have a six-month hiatus on the corporate tax rate. Zero taxes so we could bring back the money, repatriate the money overseas, over $1.2 trillion, the only stipulation being that 10 percent has to be used in enterprise zones and to create jobs for people who are unemployed, underemployed, or on welfare.

You want to talk about a stimulus -- that would be the biggest stimulus since FDR's New Deal and it wouldn't cost the taxpayers one penny. Those are the kinds of things that we have to do.

(APPLAUSE)

CARSON: And also, that once again gets corporate America used to the idea of investing in the people around them, because whose job to take care of the indigent in the society? It is our job. It is we, the people. It is not the job of the government. Government does a terrible job of it. You know, Lyndon Johnson --

(APPLAUSE)

CARSON: Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty. How did that work out?  You know, $19 trillion later, 10 times more people on food stamps, more people on welfare, broken homes, crime, incarceration, out of wedlock birth. Everything is much worse than it was before. And the government needs to read the constitution. I think that's the problem.

KELLY: We'll let them do that during the commercial break because we have more to get to with Dr. Carson right after this quick commercial break.  Don't go anywhere. Live in Houston, Texas, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY: And welcome back, everybody. More now with Dr. Ben Carson.

Once of the most frequent criticisms that we hear about you, Dr. Carson, is that you and your admittedly astonishing skills as a pediatric neurosurgeon, maybe they don't necessarily translate to being commander in chief like foreign policy or terrorism. You've heard that before. And Greg Carroli (ph), who says he's likely deciding on you as a candidate has a question for you along those lines. Go ahead, Greg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for coming out tonight, Dr. Carson. How do you respond to these claims that your foreign policy views are weak?

CARSON: Well, I would respond to that saying last week when I was in South Carolina I did a one-hour foreign policy town hall. And, you know, there are a lot of press there. And I think only one of them wrote a story, and their story was how astonished they were at my foreign policy knowledge.  The other ones didn't write anything because they couldn't find anything bad to say, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

CARSON: I just say, you know, to any reporter who asks me that, I say ask me a foreign policy question and find out what I know about it. I know a lot more about I think than probably a lot of people who are very good at giving canned 60-second answers. You know, I can go into great depth about Islam, where it came from --

KELLY: I got one.

CARSON: What jihadism is. OK.

KELLY: What's did difference of Shia and Sunni?

CARSON: Well, there are two different branches of Islam. One is much more fundamental and one is much more secular. The Sunnis are much more fundamental. The Shia are much more secular. And it is a relevant question because the deal that we made with Iran, which is mainly Sunni, stabbed a lot -- it was Shia, stabbed a lot of Sunni friends in the back throughout the Arabian Peninsula. And then the nerve to come to them and say, you be the boots on the ground and we'll be the air power. It makes absolutely no sense. These are the kinds of foolish things that happen when I don't think you fully understand what's going on.

KELLY: You feel like you're up to the job now, because that was something you said a while back, that you were studying up, reading?

CARSON: That was, that was a couple of years ago. I have --

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CARSON: Let me put it this way. I'm ready for the quiz now.

(LAUGHTER)

CARSON: But also, do bear in mind that I think it's very important to put the right people around you because no matter how much I've learned I will never be the world expert on Russian affairs. But I can get access to those kinds of people. But you do have to have a basic fundamental knowledge in order to know who you need to get. And Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said in the multitude of counselors is safety. And if the wisest man thought that I certainly believe it too.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: This next question touches on one of the most controversial debates in the country, and that's whether or not Syrian refugees should be allowed into the United States. Michaela Devailiar (ph) has this question.  Michaela?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening, Dr. Carson. My question for you tonight is should religious tests be used as factors of risk for those who enter our great country?

CARSON: No, I would never use a religious test, but I would use common sense. That is sometimes that we sometimes don't do. Some of the questions they ask people coming in, are you a terrorist? Have you ever been associated with terrorists? And do you plan to do -- give me a break.

(LAUGHTER)

CARSON: This is ridiculous stuff. But obviously we should tighten up our questioning and our screening process because it's absolutely essential that we don't let the wrong people in this country. And most of the Syrian refugees, they don't want to come here. I've been over there and I've talked to them. They want to be resettled in their own country. And it would be so easy to do that in the northeast section of Syria, Al-Hasakah province, and that area is controlled by Sunnis and Christians and Kurds.  We would have to put an international protective force. It would be much easier than trying to transport them to another location.

And the fact that Canada is bringing tens of thousands of them over here, of course they're going to be infiltrated with terrorists and with jihadists. I say it would be jihadist malpractice not to put people in there. Of course, you get this vehicle and it's coming over here. Are you kidding me?

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: Did you just say "jihadist malpractice"?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: That is a first. That is a first. All right, let's get to our next questioner, who is William Green (ph). And he says he has never been and will never be a member on any political party. His focus is on one thing, the U.S. constitution. William, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen. Dr. Carson, besides voting, protesting, or urging our representatives to take action, short of another revolution, what can we, the people, do to help restore our constitution?

CARSON: You're going to be surprised at what I'm going to tell you. You can stop listening to the pundits and you can think for yourself.

(APPLAUSE)

CARSON: And you can begin by looking at the candidates who are running for president, and you can find out what they believe. You can read their position papers, those who have them, such as myself, and you can dissect them and you can see how consistent they are with the constitution.

We're not going to have to go through a revolution if we choose somebody who is a member of we, the people. The problem is we've been taking people who are members of they, the politicians, who are controlled by the political class, and they continue to manipulate us. And that is the reason that I'm still here. I feel deep in my heart that what Thomas Jefferson said was true. He said the people of America would become less vigilant, they would not be paying attention, and as a result, the government will grow, it will metastasize, it will infiltrate and it will dominate. But he said just before we turn to another form of government, the people of America would recognize they were being manipulated, would rise up and would retake control. I believe now is the time to do that.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: I want to get one more in. We've got a little time left. Some voters here tonight hail from a variety of college campuses, places where conservative ideals are welcomed and promoted -- no. No, they are not.  Sarah Douglas (ph) is a student -- thank you for getting it -- at U.C. Austin. She says the situation in her school is no different. Sarah, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Dr. Carson. Thank you so much for being here tonight. I was wondering how specifically you would explain to college students how conservative economic policies would be much better for their futures than policies that are very liberal, like Bernie Sanders.

CARSON: Well, I would help them understand what socialism really is. I think many young people today think that socialism is being concerned about social issues. And of course that's not what it is. It's a utopian dream where the government takes care of you from cradle to grave. You never have anything to worry about. That is the goal. That is the ideal. They all end up looking exactly the same with a small group of elites at the top who control everything, a rapidly diminishing middle class, and a vastly expanded dependent class.

So I would begin to demonstrate that to them. I would also show them the United States of America, which declared its independence in 1776 and less than 100 years later was the number one economic power in the world by creating an environment that encouraged entrepreneurial risk taking and capital investigation. And I would explain to them what happens with regulations? Each regulation costs money in terms of goods and services that is passed over to the consumer. It's the most regressive taxation that there is, and it keeps business from growing.

KELLY: I've got to wrap because we're up against a hard break, but speaking of taxes and regulation, before I let you go, I've got to ask you.  Mitt Romney thinks all the GOP candidates should release their taxes. He says he won't endorse somebody until they have done so. Will you release yours?

CARSON: I'd be happy to. I have nothing to hide. I will release them for how many years will satisfy people. You got nothing to hide, not a problem. The one thing I can guarantee people about me, there are no scandals. There are no scandals.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Great to see you. Thank you so much.

CARSON: Thank you.  

KELLY: Pleasure.

And thank you all for watching our special two-our "Kelly File" face-to-face with the GOP candidates here in Houston, Texas.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Yes. Go to Facebook.com/TheKellyFile, on Twitter @MegynKelly, let me know about what you think about the show and the election. I'm Megyn Kelly. This is "The Kelly File." Thank you, Houston.    

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