Hits and misses of the fourth Republican debate

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 11, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to keep my eye on the ball here. And that is that our real adversary, the person that we need to defeat is Hillary Clinton. And so I was going to make sure I spent my time last night letting the American people who were watching know that I have a plan to beat Hillary Clinton.

JEB BUSH, R, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whatever we have, I would view it not as a problem but an opportunity. Because if you start with the premise, everything is a problem, the end is near, it's kind of hard to imagine how you're going to fix it.

BEN CARSON, R, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because the minute you change a system and allow just one crack in it, everybody starts moving toward that crack, and then pretty soon you have another, and then you wind up with a 75,000-page tax code like we have right now. That's what we don't want.


BRET BAIER, ‘SPECIAL REPORT’ HOST: Just some of the sound today as candidates head to early states after last night's fourth Republican presidential debate on FOX Business Network. Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard," Julie Pace, White House correspondent for the Associated Press, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, fallout from this, Julie, where do you think we stand? Has the needle moved from this debate?

JULIE PACE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I don't think it has. I think that's the most striking thing about this debate is we emerged from it with the field largely as it was. I think the one takeaway that may move things a bit is that Jeb Bush lives to fight another day. He didn't have a standout performance, but he had a competent, in some ways confident performance, which is what a lot of his supporters were looking for. So I think some of the urgency and anxiety around his campaign may have eased a bit. But largely the field I think remains where it is, then.

BAIER: One of the big exchanges of the night was between Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. Everybody seemed to have a moment. This was one of theirs.


RAND PAUL, R, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Marco, how is it conservative, how is it conservative to add $1 trillion expenditure for the federal government that you're not paying for? How is it conservative, how is it conservative to add $1 trillion in military expenditures? You cannot be a conservative if you're going to keep promoting new programs and you're not going to pay for them.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't even have an economy if we're not safe. There are radical jihadists in the Middle East beheading people and crucifying Christians. Yes, I believe the world is a safer -- no, no, I don't believe. I know that the world is a safer and better place when America is the strongest military power in the world.


BAIER: OK, Steve.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, it was a clarifying exchange, and you started to hear that the crowds went crazy after Marco Rubio finished that answer.

I think it was a good moment for both of them. Rand Paul spoke more and spoke more forcefully than he has in any of the previous three debates.
He made his points very well. But I think the problem for Rand Paul is even if he makes that argument very well, he's making it to a very small sliver of the Republican Party. So he can get everybody excited, but there just aren't that many noninterventionists in the Republican Party. It limits to what he's expanding to.

Rubio, I thought, had a good debate. It wasn't as good as his other debate, in my view. And I thought he missed an opportunity there, actually. I thought his answer was good. But he could have said, you know, Senator Paul, Ronald Reagan expanded the military in a significant way. That's what I'm proposing to do here. Do you think that Ronald Reagan was really a liberal on national security? There are other things he could have said that Rubio I think usually hits those opportunities. He just didn't hit them last night as many times.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I agree. I was thinking exactly of that when I watched the debate. Of course I wasn't under the spotlights. I wasn't sweating and I wasn't thirsty. So it's a little bit easy to do when you're watching from here. But that is the obvious answer. Reagan's central plank was the military build-up and it worked. It defeated the Soviet Union. And they called off the cold war as a result.

But I do think that Rand Paul had his best night. And I give him points for courage and candor. I mean, his sort of isolationism is not a popular strain, but he went with it. He went up against the rest of the panel. He also did an answer on what's wrong with our economy where I just knew he was going to go to the Fed, which is the driest, least sexy, and slightly quirky of all answers. But he believes it, and he went with it. So I give him credit for that.

It was a good night, but not good enough I think to change the trajectory. Julie is right. I don't think anybody really changed his or her fortunes. But if you look at the stage, you saw the two wings. You had Rand Paul and you had Kasich who you could just see falling through a trap door. And then you have Carly Fiorina and Jeb, who I think are also rather tentative. And then you look in the center and you saw the final four.

BAIER: You know, last night in the post-debate, analysis, I said that Ted Cruz was a winner, maybe the winner. I said Rubio had a good night too in getting pressed by Bill O'Reilly on who won. But there was a harrowing moment for Ted Cruz. Take a look at this.


SEN. TED CRUZ, R, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We rolled out a spending plan, $500 billion in specific cuts. Five major agencies I would eliminate, the IRS, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and HUD.

Look, I just think the Department of Commerce is such a base of cronyism we need to eliminate it twice.



BAIER: That was a good response. He went on to say it was the Department of Education. But as opposed to Rick Perry, he just bowled through there and didn't really get hit by it.

PACE: Absolutely. I think the takeaway is that any time as a candidate you're about to tick off a certain number of agencies you should stop. The problem for Rick Perry is it spoke to this deeper concern about his campaign. No one is really questioning Ted Cruz' intellect. So I think that he gets a bit of a pass on that.

BAIER: Texas and naming agencies, keep the two away from each other.

HAYES: Remember, Perry stopped and said oops. And it was the "oops" that killed Perry. It wasn't really the missing piece.

BAIER: The other thing Cruz did was he started laying I think the predicate for attacks to come with sugar subsidy mention that anybody on the stage, there's nobody who is really dealing with sugar subsidies other than Marco Rubio.

HAYES: Yes, this was I think one of the most interesting and maybe underappreciated dynamics of the entire night was Ted Cruz clearly setting up these attacks I would say on sugar subsidies and what he calls corporate welfare, and also on amnesty. He kept talking about amnesty and it was very clear to me he was targeting Marco Rubio and maybe Jeb Bush also in those attacks. But he seemed to be setting up future attacks.

BAIER: We should point out, as is often the case and has been for the last four debates, the online polls overwhelmingly say Donald Trump won this debate. We note that his followers hit those polls hard. But what do you think happened to Donald Trump? Did he have a good night?

KRAUTHAMMER: Let me just say if the online polls are predictive, we would now be in the 16th year of the Ron Paul administration because he won all of those polls. It measures nothing.

Look, Trump had a so-so night. All of his debates have been so-so. He had a couple of moments where he got booed where he was a little bit rude to Carly and a little bit rude to Kasich. To Kasich he actually said I built a company worth billions of dollars. I don't have to listen to someone like you. That's an interesting remark, and he got booed on that.

But for him, I think he and Carson are judged by sort of a different standard, which is do they project what people who are very anti- establishment feel. And what do they offer? Carson, I think, offers to the people who think politics are done and corrupt a kind of moral strength. And what Trump offers is sort of a brute but, you know, unashamed strength for the country. And he represents that. And until that changes I think they are going to stay up there.

Just one point on the agencies, when he approached that I'm thinking don't do numbers. You can name agencies, but never say in advance how many.

BAIER: What the number is.

KRAUTHAMMER: And I try here. Every night I always try to say don't number it because you may not make it to the end.


BAIER: To the final number.

HAYES: Charles is wrong for three reasons.


BAIER: Yes, three reasons that he's wrong.

Julie, final word. For all of this conventional wisdom that we're starting to see this race change and that Rubio and Cruz may be the finalists, I mean, Carson and Trump are still way ahead.

PACE: They are way ahead. There is no one close at this point. Everyone you talk to who works for an establishment-minded politician says the race will change. It will happen. Voters will start really thinking seriously about who they want to be president. We'll see.

HAYES: I heard you last night make a very good point in your conversation with Bill O'Reilly. And you said more that Hillary Clinton becomes the inevitable nominee on the Democratic side, the more that Republicans may opt for somebody who looks like they can beat her. To this point it's been very theoretical on the Democratic side, she's had a fight. But I think if Republican primary voters look at her as the presumptive nominee, they may turn to people who they think can beat her more easily.

BAIER: I love to be cited.

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