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Highlights from the Third Republican Debate

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The top ten Republican presidential candidates met in Boulder, Colorado, on Wednesday night for their third debate of the campaign season. (Four additional candidates also participated at an earlier undercard debate.) Below are the highlights.

Donald Trump: Larry Kudlow Endorses My Tax Plan

Moderator John Harwood started off the night by going after Donald Trump over his tax plan. Harwood asked Trump if it was realistic to suggest that the plan "would not increase the deficit, because you would cut taxes by $10 trillion.”

“I talked to economic advisers who have served presidents of both parties,” Harwood said. “They said that you have as much chance of cutting taxes that much without increasing the deficit as you would of flying away from that podium by flapping your arms.”

Trump responded that Larry Kudlow, who contributes to CNBC, liked the plan. In late September, Kudlow told The Steve Malzberg Show that he thought the 15 percent corporate tax rate proposed by Trump would spur economic growth. If Harwood disagreed, “then you have to get rid of Larry Kudlow,” Trump said.

This is typical of Trump. When faced with opposition, he tends to turn to outsider backers to validate his proposals—even ones like Larry Kudlow, who, as Jeet Heer says in our live blog, is basically spinning “a supply side fantasy.” 

Jeb Tries—and Fails—to Land a Hit on Rubio

Marco Rubio has recently been criticized for playing hooky from his job in the Senate to run for president, which gave Jeb Bush an opportunity to take a stab at his fellow Floridian, who accused him of missing important votes. “You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job,” Bush said.

Rubio fired back quickly, saying the only reason Bush was criticizing him was "because we’re running for the same position and someone’s convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.” As Jeet Heer noted on our live blog, “Jeb still seems to think that Rubio is his main competitor, the one he has to take out. But Rubio bested him in the exchange.”

Carly Fiorina Goes After Hillary Clinton

Fiorina turned a question about the wage gap on its head, taking aim at Hillary Clinton for what she called the failed policies of the Obama administration. “Every single policy she espouses and every single policy of President Obama's has been demonstrably bad for women,” Fiorina said. “I am a conservative because I know our values, our principles, and our policies work better to lift everyone up, men and women.” 

She also mentioned that 92 percent of jobs lost during Obama’s first term belonged to women. Media Matters points out that her statistics were debunked during 2012, when Romney referenced the 92 percent figure. In reality, women accounted for just under 40 percent of the total jobs lost in that time, which coincided with the depths of the Great Recession.

It’s interesting to see Fiorina, who has a complicated feminist record, try to position herself as a champion for women. In the past, she has suggested that modern feminism is “an orthodoxy that seeks to portray all men as the enemy and women as requiring the constant assistance of government.”

Rubio Jabs the Mainstream Media and Hillary Clinton

After Donald Trump brought up the corruption of super PACs, a tactic he often uses to direct conversation toward his own wealth (although he is not without super PACs of his own), Marco Rubio used the opportunity to call out Hillary Clinton, her recent Benghazi hearing, and the media.

According to Rubio, the mainstream media is an ominous super PAC working to pump up the democratic candidate after her eleven-hour hearing over Benghazi. “She has her Super PAC helping her out—the mainstream media,” he said. It wasn’t the first time Rubio took a jab at the media during the debate, to the delight of the audience. As Elspeth Reeve notes on our live-blog, “Conservatives loved it.” It was just one highlight in what was a very good night for the Florida senator.

Huckabee Makes a Fashion Statement

Responding to a question about whether Trump had the moral authority to unite the country, Mike Huckabee deflected to his wardrobe. “As few questions I’ve got, the last thing I need is to give him some more time. I love Donald Trump, he is a good man. I’m wearing a Trump tie tonight, get over that one.”

While the other candidates scrambled to rile Trump by asking if the tie was produced in China or Mexico, Alex Shepard notes on our live-blog that the moment was a rare show of camaraderie among the GOP candidates. “Such a nasty question, but thank you governor,” Trump said in response.