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6 Surprises From Last Night’s Screwball GOP Debate

Potshots, head-scratchers and other assorted curveballs from a truly wacky debate

Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul and John Kasich

Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul and John Kasich take the stage for the first prime-time presidential debate.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The first Republican debate in the 2016 election was full of low points, occasional highs – and lots of surprises. Here are the six biggest curveballs.

1. The Donald May Run as an Independent Candidate

Frontrunner Donald Trump refused to say he’d back and/or not run against the eventual GOP nominee. “I cannot say. I have to respect the… person that wins,” Trump insisted, before joking: “If I’m the nominee, I will pledge I will not run as an independent.”

2. John Kasich Loves Gay People

Challenged on his personal opposition to gay marriage, Ohio Governor John Kasich suggested love conquers all: “The court has ruled, and I said we’ll accept it. And guess what? I just went to a wedding of a friend of mine who happens to be gay.” (Ah, the old “some of my best friends are gay” line. Nice.) “[Just] because somebody doesn’t think the way I do, doesn’t mean that I can’t care about them or can’t love them,” he continued. “So if one of my daughters happened to be that, of course I would love them and I would accept them. Because you know what? That’s what we’re taught when we have strong faith.”

3. Dr. Ben Carson Is Also a Stand-Up Comedian

Playing up his unique experience as a neurosurgeon, Carson insisted he was the only one on stage “to take out half of a brain – although you would think, if you go to Washington, that someone had beat me to it.”

4. Trump Claims He Bribed Hillary Clinton to Come to His Wedding

Challenged on his past associations with the Clintons, Trump said the only reason Hillary was at his marriage ceremony is because he gave her foundation cash money: “Well, I’ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding.” You know why? “She didn’t have a choice because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good.”

5. Scott Walker Is an Expert in Alternative Obstetrics 

Probed on whether he could accept abortion to protect the health of the mother, the Wisconsin governor flatly denied that pregnancy can endanger a woman’s life: “I believe that that is an unborn child that’s in need of protection out there, and I’ve said many a time that that unborn child can be protected, and there are many other alternatives that can also protect the life of that mother. That’s been consistently proven.” For the record, this is not in any way true.

6. Marco Rubio Cracks Wise About God

Asked whether God speaks to him, the Florida senator replied: “Well, first, let me say I think God has blessed us. He has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. The Democrats can’t even find one.” Zing!

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