Republican Presidential Candidates Take Part In CNN Town Hall

Three Republican presidential candidates are taking part in a primetime town hall event on CNN tonight.  Tonight's lineup includes Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson.  

Ben Carson took the stage first. Dr. Carson said the U.S. is on a precipice and is about to go over the edge.  Ahead of Saturday's Republican primary in South Carolina, Carson said he "probably would" try to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, even if he were in the last year of his presidency.  He also criticized the overly partisan makeup of the high court.  Senate Republican leaders are advising President Obama to avoid trying to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died this past weekend.  The President vows to nominate a replacement in due time.  

Carson cited strong support for 2nd Amendment gun rights.  He said he enjoys having a gun.  He suggested that the government start offering free classes in gun safety to citizens so they can protect themselves better.  Carson also expressed support for criminal justice reform, saying the U.S. is putting a lot of people in prison who shouldn't be there.  Carson is a retired neurosurgeon.  He noted that brain surgery is harder than politics.  Meantime, Carson was asked about hobbies and said he loves to play pool.  

Marco Rubio was the next candidate to take the stage. Marco Rubio is ripping President Obama's plan to visit Cuba soon.  Rubio argued that the Cuban government is a repressive, anti-American dictatorship.  If he wins the White House, the Florida senator said he would not visit Cuba as long as the Cuban people are not free.  President Obama started normalizing relations with Cuba last year.  Rubio strongly opposes the normalization.  

Rubio stuck by his accusation that rival Ted Cruz is a persistent liar.  Rubio said, "If you say something over and over and you know it's not true, there's no other word for it."  Meantime, the freshman senator defended his qualifications to be president.  Rubio said he is especially strong on national security and foreign policy issues.  He also argued that he will put his conservative credentials up against anyone else in the GOP race.  

On a lighter note, Rubio said his big childhood dream was to grow up and play in the NFL.  He joked that size, speed and talent held him back.  Rubio got a big endorsement from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley ahead of Saturday's Republican primary in the Palmetto State.  Billionaire businessman Donald Trump is heavily favored to win that contest.  Rubio and Texas Senator Cruz are battling for the runner-up position.  

Ted Cruz was the final candidate to take the stage. Cruz says he is not surprised that rival Donald Trump is threatening to sue him. The Texas senator said Trump has been threatening to sue people for decades.  Cruz defended campaign ads criticizing Trump for things he has said in years-past about issues like abortion.  He repeated a challenge to Trump to go ahead and sue him and said he would personally depose Trump in the suit.  Cruz is a lawyer by trade. 

Cruz said Apple should be forced to unlock a decrypted iPhone that was owned by one of the San Bernardino killers.  Apple is resisting the move, which could lead to a huge legal dispute involving questions of privacy rights and national security.  Meantime, Cruz said he would not visit Cuba "as long as the Castros are in power."  President Obama plans to visit Cuba soon.  Obama started normalizing relations with the communist island nation last year.  Cruz' father is Cuban and he said his family has "seen firsthand the evil and oppression" in Cuba.  

Cruz argued that the Senate should not be asked to confirm a Supreme Court nominee in a president's last year in office.  He said the death of Justice Antonin Scalia could dramatically shift the ideological balance on the high court.  Cruz argued that this year's campaign should be a referendum on the Supreme Court.  Cruz also defended his legal standing as a presidential candidate.  Cruz was born in Canada.  He insisted that he is a citizen by birth because his mother is an American citizen.  

Senator Cruz brushed off accusations by Trump and Florida Senator Marco Rubio that he is a persistent liar.  He was also pressed about women in combat.  Cruz said, "We will not be drafting our daughters into combat on the front lines."  Ahead of Saturday's GOP primary in South Carolina, Cruz insisted that he is putting together a coalition that can win the Republican nomination.   Trump is heavily favored to win the South Carolina primary.  Cruz and Rubio are battling for the runner-up position.  

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