With actual presidential primary voting finally underway, Saturday night’s Republican debate was bound to be intense. But with the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the stakes have ratcheted up even higher. Whether or not it causes a constitutional crisis, the open Supreme Court seat will surely change the shape of the election. We’re likely to see the first inklings of those changes play out as the six remaining GOP candidates meet in Greenville, South Carolina, tonight. As always, we’ll be tracking their best—and most bonkers—lines as they struggle to to respond.
Rubio, advocating the murder of the Constitution:
Someone on this stage will get to choose the balance of the Supreme Court, and it will begin by filling this vacancy that’s there now, and we need to put people on the bench that understand the constitution is not a living and breathing document. It is to be interpreted as originally meant.
Bush, explaining what it means to be “an Article 2 guy”:
We want a strong executive for sure. But in return for that, there should be a consensus orientation on that nomination, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Barack Obama will not have a consensus pick when he submits that person to the senate.
Cruz, apparently forgetting that Justice Kennedy was confirmed in 1988, an election year:
Well, we have 80 years of precedent of not confirming Supreme Court justices in an election year.
Trump, reminding the audience that he used to be, like, a peacenik, man:
I’m the only one on this stage that said, Do not go into Iraq. Do not attack Iraq. Nobody else on this stage said that. I said it loud and strong.
Kasich just sort of giving up on the debate:
I gotta tell you. This is just crazy, huh? This is just nuts. Okay. Oh, man.
Rubio, reminding you that he is both religious and a Republican:
I just want to say, at least on behalf of me and my family, I thank god all the time it was George W. Bush in the White House on 9/11 and not Al Gore.
Trump, incredulous about W.’s record:
The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush. He kept us safe? That is not safe. That is not safe, Marco. That is not safe.
Cruz, defending his flat tax proposal:
We’ve got to get people moving from part-time work to full-time work. We all agree on that. But it’s not going to be solved with magic pixie dust. It’s not going to be solved by declaring into the air, “Let there be jobs.”
Kasich on true conservative policies:
But here’s what’s interesting about Medicaid. You know who expanded Medicaid five times to try to help the folks and give them opportunities so that they could rise and get a job? President Ronald Reagan.
Moderator John Dickerson, apologetically explaining the impending commercial break:
The free market wants what it wants.
Rubio, taking a position on Cruz’s prevarications:
Look, this is a disturbing pattern now. For a number of weeks Ted Cruz has just been telling lies. He lied about Ben Carson in Iowa. He lies about Planned Parenthood and marriage. And he makes things up.
Bush on Cruz and Rubio squabbling:
I feel like I have to get into my inner Chris Christie and point out the reason why I should be president is listening to two senators talk about arcane amendments to bills that didn’t pass.
Bush on being a real tough guy:
But if you want to talk about weakness, you want to talk about weakness, it’s weak to disparaging women. It's weak to disparage Hispanics. It’s weak to denigrate the disabled. And it’s really weak to call John McCain a loser, because he was a P.O.W.
Kasich, putting on his disapproving-dad hat:
These attacks, some of them are personal. I think we’re fixing to lose the election to Hillary Clinton if we don’t stop this.
Trump, going hard on Ted Cruz:
You are probably worse than Jeb Bush. You are the single biggest liar … This guy will say anything. Nasty guy. Now I know why he doesn’t have one endorsement from any of his colleagues.
Dickerson, proving that he’s the only adult in the conversation:
Hold on, gentlemen. I’m going to turn this car around.
Trump, doubling down on Planned Parenthood:
It does do wonderful things … wonderful things having to do with women’s health.
Cruz, demonstrating that he doesn’t understand what literally means:
Our country literally hangs in the balance.
This post will be updated throughout the debate.