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Trump’s ‘Nasty Woman’ remark becomes feminist battlecry

“Such a nasty woman.” Like many people, 23-year-old Emily DiVito was multitasking while watching last week’s presidential debate, with a little studying and a little Twitter-surfing. But when DiVito heard Donald Trump say those four words to Hillary Clinton, she shot up in her seat.

“The interruptions were so absurd, but that was particularly biting,” she said.

What’s more, the moment gave DiVito, a former avid supporter of Clinton’s primary rival Bernie Sanders, a feeling of solidarity with Clinton — a “moment of connectivity,” as she put it. “I was for Bernie, but moments like this make me proud to be affiliated with her, the way she is persevering.”

That’s good news for Clinton, who despite her lead in the polls, has struggled to connect with millennial voters.

It also was probably bad news for Trump. Days after his devastating “grab ‘em” remarks emerged and he started facing new allegations of sexual assault, the GOP presidential nominee had another bad week, leading some to wonder whether his popularity with female voters had reached rock bottom.

The candidate who so badly needed to close the gender gap instead saw his “nasty woman” remark — accompanied by a wagging index finger — become a feminist battle cry, a galvanizing moment for Clinton and an exclamation point to a campaign dominated by gender.

To Kathy Spillar, the “nasty woman” comment sounded like “the coffin shutting.””

“I thought, ‘That’s it,”” said Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Women voters are going to defeat Trump.” The comment, she said, not only “summed up his whole attitude about women,” but showed how bitter he was about potentially losing to one.

“Losing would be bad enough, but that he has lost to a woman really grates on him,” Spillar said. “That’s certainly clear. And this just fuels the gender gap.”

An ABC News poll conducted in the days following Wednesday’s debate gave Clinton a 55 percent-35 percent lead over Trump among women. Among college-educated white women, the gap was 62 percent to 30 percent. Likely voters, by a margin of 69 percent to 24 percent, disapproved of Trump’s response to questions about his treatment of women. In a Quinnipiac University poll conducted before that debate, Clinton led Trump among women by 52 percent to 37 percent.

Also, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released a few days before the debate showed women favoring Clinton over Trump by 55 percent to 35 percent.

The “nasty woman” interjection  — coming on a night when both candidates interrupted each other frequently — went viral.

Spotify tweeted that streams of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” were up 250 percent.

“Nasty Woman” T-shirts were on offer (“Bad Hombre” ones, too.)

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, got in on the act, tweeting to Clinton: “From one #NastyWoman to another, you were an inspiration last night.”

“So much of this election cycle has been about the ways men belittle women when they don’t get what they want from them,” said Andi Zeisler, 43, feminist author and founder of the nonprofit Bitch Media. “Now, people are seeing themselves in Donald Trump’s words toward Hillary, they’re seeing themselves in how his surrogates act toward women _ and toward Latinos and anyone who is not a straight white man.”

The “nasty woman” remark, she said, is a “somewhat predictable and almost laughable apex” of what’s been going on all year. But, she added, it is totally possible that there might be a new apex to come.

Throughout the debate, Clinton tried to highlight her opponent’s trouble with female voters, saying at one point: “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger.” When it came to abortion, she argued in a pointed way for a woman’s right to control her own body, after Trump said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

That, too, impressed DiVito, who worked for Sanders’ campaign for several months after graduating from Wellesley, Clinton’s alma mater.

“I felt solidarity rooted in pride for a woman who was up there sticking up for other women against a man who has zero interest in trying to empathize with the emotional and physical complexity of abortion,” DiVito said.

It didn’t help Trump that he evoked audible laughter in the audience — despite moderator Chris Wallace’s admonitions to the crowd — when he said: “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.”

Debbie Walsh, who specializes in women and politics at Rutgers University, said she wasn’t particularly shocked by Trump’s remark, given his other recent statements.

“Gender is front and center in this campaign, and he is clearly using it,” said Walsh, director of the school’s Center for American Women and Politics. She recalled Trump’s saying Clinton had “tremendous hate in her heart,” calling her the devil, even saying he “wasn’t impressed” when she walked in front of him _ interpreted as a comment on her appearance.

“He is the gift that keeps on giving on this stuff,” Walsh said.

For a male Clinton supporter, the moment was a chance to reflect on how women might react when they hear such things.

“I imagined women throwing things at the TV,” said Stefan Krieger, 69, a law professor in New York. “I imagine there are some men that say such things to their girlfriends, their wives, their partners, in a fit of rage. It’s a way of men lashing out with power.”

“I hope I’m not like that.”

Johnson, Feingold prepare for 1st debate in tightening race

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold are preparing to meet for the first of two televised debates in their tightening race.

They’ve been here before, six years ago, when Feingold was the more experienced, polished politician and Johnson a underdog newcomer. This year, Johnson enters Friday’s debate in Green Bay — just 25 days before the election — as the incumbent.

Even so, the underlying dynamic remains the same, said Republican strategist Mark Graul, who helped Johnson prepare in 2010 and again is lending his advice. What’s he telling Johnson?

“To be himself,” Graul said. “Ron Johnson is famously not a politician. He’s not the guy who’s going to go up there and deliver the canned one-liners and sound bites.”

Still, there’s more pressure on Johnson to shake up the race, given he’s trailing in polls, said Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster from Madison. Feingold — who’s been in politics for 34 years, 28 in elected office — should stay the course, not do anything too dramatic, and “keep on keepin’ on,” Maslin said.

The presidential race has cast a long shadow over the race, as Johnson has long been seen as vulnerable due to the state generally skewing Democratic in presidential years. But he was buoyed by a Marquette University Law School poll released this week showing the race as nearly even.

He’s also become increasingly aggressive on the campaign trail, sticking by Donald Trump in the wake of sexual assault allegations and challenging Feingold to defend backing of Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Feingold has been careful not to break ties with the more liberal wing of the party, appearing at recent rallies with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Johnson expects Feingold to try to use his support for Trump against him in the debate, which he says he’ll counter by comparing Feingold’s “lack of having a record of accomplishment” with his own record in the Senate.

Johnson’s Senate office released a report this week highlighting his work as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, noting bills passed on issues like border and immigration security and reducing federal regulations.

Feingold’s signature legislation in the Senate was co-sponsoring with Republican Sen. John McCain a campaign finance overhaul. He also was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act, which was enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and opposed President Barack Obama’s decision to expand the war in Afghanistan.

He was a vocal supporter of Obama’s health care overhaul law.

Johnson has been preparing for Friday’s showdown by going over tapes from 2010’s three debates.

Feingold campaign spokesman Michael Tyler said he’s been “listening to the needs of middle-income and working families” in advance of the debate.

The two will take questions from a panel of journalists during the hour-long debate, which is sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and will be broadcast widely across the state as well as on C-SPAN.

Feingold and Johnson’s second and only other planned debate is Tuesday in Milwaukee. That 90-minute debate will be hosted by WISN-TV and the Marquette University Law School and moderated by Mike Gousha, a veteran broadcast political journalist.

Clinton puts Trump on defensive in 1st debate

Donald Trump found himself on the defensive for much of Monday’s 90-minute showdown with Hillary Clinton and the next morning, he spread the blame.

He accused moderator Lester Holt of a left-leaning performance and going harder on him than Clinton, even floating the theory that organizers had intentionally given him a faulty microphone to set him up.

And after brushing off Clinton’s claim that he’d once shamed a former Miss Universe winner for her weight, Trump dug himself deeper.

“She gained a massive amount of weight. It was a real problem. We had a real problem,” Trump told “Fox and Friends” about the 1996 winner of the pageant he once owned.

Clinton was thoroughly prepared in the debate, not only with detailed answers about her own policy proposals, but also sharp criticism of Trump’s business record, his past statements about women, and his false assertions that President Barack Obama may not have been born in the United States. She said his charges about Obama were part of his pattern of “racist behavior.”

The Democrat also blasted Trump for his refusal to release his tax returns, breaking with decades of presidential campaign tradition. She declared, “There’s something he’s hiding.”

Trump has said he can’t release his tax returns because he is being audited, though tax experts have said an audit is no barrier to making the information public. When Clinton suggested Trump’s refusal may be because he paid nothing in federal taxes, he interrupted to say, “That makes me smart.”

The televised face-off was the most anticipated moment in an election campaign that has been historic, convulsive and unpredictable.

The candidates entered the debate locked in an exceedingly close race to become America’s 45th president, and while both had moments sure to enliven their core constituencies, it was unclear whether the event would dramatically change the trajectory of the race.

The debate was confrontational from the start, with Trump frequently trying to interrupt Clinton and speaking over her answers.

Clinton was more measured and restrained, often smiling through his answers, well-aware of the television cameras capturing her reaction.

“Hillary told the truth and Donald told some whoppers,” Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, told ABC News the morning after the debate.

Trump’s criticism of Clinton turned personal in the debate’s closing moments. He said, “She doesn’t have the look, she doesn’t have the stamina” to be president. He’s made similar comments in previous events, sparking outrage from Clinton backers who accused him of leveling a sexist attack on the first woman nominated for president by a major U.S. political party.

Clinton leapt at the opportunity to remind voters of Trump’s controversial comments about women, who will be crucial to the outcome of the November election.

“This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs,” she said.

The centerpiece of Trump’s case against Clinton was that the former senator and secretary of state is little more than a career politician who has squandered opportunities to address the domestic and international problems she’s now pledging to tackle as president.

“She’s got experience,” he said, “but it’s bad experience.”

Clinton, who hunkered down for days of intensive debate preparation, came armed with a wealth of detailed attack lines. She named an architect she said built a clubhouse for Trump who says he was not fully paid and quoted comments Trump had made about Iraq and about nuclear weapons.

When Trump made a crack about Clinton taking time off the campaign trail to prepare for the debate, she turned it into a validation of her readiness for the White House.

“I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate,” Clinton said. “And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.”

The candidates sparred over trade, taxes and how to bring good-paying jobs back to the United States.

Clinton said her Republican rival was promoting a “Trumped-up” version of trickle-down economics – a philosophy focused on tax cuts for the wealthy. She called for increasing the federal minimum wage, spending more on infrastructure projects and guaranteeing equal pay for women.

Trump panned policies that he said have led to American jobs being moved overseas, in part because of international trade agreements that Clinton has supported. He pushed her aggressively on her past support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact while she was serving in the Obama administration. She’s since said she opposes the sweeping deal in its final form.

Trump repeatedly insisted that he opposed the Iraq War before the 2003 U.S. invasion, despite evidence to the contrary. Trump was asked in September 2002 whether he supported a potential Iraq invasion in an interview with radio personality Howard Stern. He responded: “Yeah, I guess so.”

Presented with the comment during the debate, Trump responded: “I said very lightly, I don’t know, maybe, who knows.”

The Republican also appeared to contradict himself on how he might use nuclear weapons if he’s elected president. He first said he “would not do first strike” but then said he couldn’t “take anything off the table.”

Clinton said Trump was too easily provoked to serve as commander in chief and could be quickly drawn into a war involving nuclear weapons.

Some frequently hot-button issues were barely mentioned during the intense debate. Illegal immigration and Trump’s promises of a border wall were not part of the conversation. And while Clinton took some questions on her private email server, she was not grilled about her family’s foundation, Bill Clinton’s past infidelities or voter doubts about her trustworthiness.

Hillary for Wisconsin announces debate watch parties

Hillary for Wisconsin will host a number of debate watch parties across the state on Sept. 26.

A glance at the plans:

Madison Debate Watch Party

WHEN: 8 p.m.

WHERE: Plan B, 924 Williamson St., Madison.

Milwaukee Debate Watch Party

WHEN: 8 p.m.

WHERE: Milwaukee Coordinated Campaign Office, 1107 W Historic Mitchell St., Milwaukee

La Crosse Debate Watch Party

WHEN: 8 p.m.

WHERE: 117 Fifth Ave. S, La Crosse

Green Bay Debate Watch Party

WHEN: 8 p.m.

WHERE: Brown County Democratic Party, 118 S Chestnut Ave., Green Bay

Johnson, Feingold set to debate Oct. 14

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and his Democratic challenger Russ Feingold are scheduled to debate Oct. 14.

The debate was announced this week by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation.

The hour-long debate on a Friday night just over three weeks before the Nov. 8 general election will be somewhere in the Green Bay-Appleton market, but the exact location was not announced.

This is the first announced debate of the campaign between Johnson and Feingold this cycle.

It marks the first time the two have debated since their first contest in 2010.

Johnson won that year, ending Feingold’s bid for a fourth term.

Also this week, a spokesman for Feingold said Johnson should withdraw his support of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The push comes after Trump disparaged the bereaved parents of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim who was awarded a Bronze Star after he was killed in 2004 in Iraq.

Feingold spokesman Michel Tyler said that “our Gold Star families should be honored, not slandered again and again by Donald Trump.”

Tyler said “enough is enough” and Johnson should denounce Trump and withdraw support.

Johnson issued a statement on the issue but he did not mention Trump by name.

Johnson said Khan and all “Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country deserve our deepest respect and gratitude.”

Trump is set to campaign in Wisconsin later this week.

See also: Wisconsin veterans denounce Trump’s attacks on Gold Star family

DIVIDED AMERICA: Gun views fractious even as fewer bear arms

Look anywhere in this nation born of a bloody revolution of musket fire and you’re likely to find sharp disagreement over guns.

Democrats war with Republicans. Small towns are pitted against cities. Women and men are at odds, as are blacks and whites and old and young. North clashes with South, East with West.

“The current gun debate is more polarized and sour than any time before in American history,” said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA and author of the 2011 book, Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.

Still numb from the latest mass shooting, in Orlando, it’s easy to imagine that guns have always divided us this way.

But a close look at survey data over decades shows they haven’t.

There was a time when most citizens favored banning handguns, the chief gun lobbyists supported firearm restrictions and courts hadn’t yet interpreted the Second Amendment as guaranteeing a personal right to bear arms for self-defense at home.

Today, in a country of hundreds of millions of guns, public opinion and interpretation of the law have shifted so much that outright gun bans are unthinkable. It’s true that large segments of the public have expressed support for some aspects of gun regulation — but when Americans have been asked to say which is more important, gun control or gun rights, they trend toward the latter.

That shift has come, perhaps surprisingly, as fewer Americans today choose to keep a gun in their home. The General Social Survey by NORC at the University of Chicago — one of the foremost authorities on gun ownership — found 31 percent of households had guns in 2014, down from a high of 50.4 percent in 1977.

“Institutions have repeated, ‘More guns, less crime. More guns, less crime,’ over and over again for almost 40 years, and it’s hard to turn that belief around in any easy way,” said Joan Burbick, an emeritus professor at Washington State University who wrote Gun Show Nation: Gun Culture and American Democracy and who owns a gun for hobby shooting.

Among the longest-existing measures of public gun sentiment is a Gallup poll question asking whether there should be a law banning handguns except by police and other authorized people. When it was first asked, in July 1959, 60 percent of respondents approved of such a measure.

By last October, 27 percent agreed.

Many point to a single date as crucial in the societal shift: May 21, 1977, when a contingent of National Rifle Association members staged a revolt that remade the group’s leadership, scuttled plans for a retreat from politics and sealed a rightward, hard-line shift. It led to a fundamental remaking of the NRA, which had come to accept some gun laws, including the Gun Control Act of 1968.

“That was the moment, in one evening, when the gun debate in America radically changed,” said Winkler.

The gun lobby’s increasingly powerful voice found receptive ears among a public left uneasy by civil rights battles, assassinations and growing urban lawlessness. Over time, statehouses and Congress bowed to the influence of the NRA and its allies. And in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court finally declared Americans have the right to a gun for self-defense.

“What they (gun rights advocates) did is a classic example of how you make constitutional change: They realized they needed to win in the court of public opinion before you could win in the court of law,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University and author of The Second Amendment: A Biography.

The NRA did not respond to an interview request.

But data from the GSS and the Pew Research Center offers a sketch of what the gun-owning populace looks like today: Overwhelmingly white and male, concentrated in rural areas, and more often identifying with or leaning toward the Republican Party.

They also have higher incomes and are more likely to vote.

Though polarization appears in broad questions on gun rights, far more consensus emerges on individual proposals.

A Pew poll released last August showed:

  • 85 percent of people support background checks for purchases at gun shows and in private sales.
  • 79 percent support laws to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns.
  • 70 percent approve of a federal database to track gun sales.
  • 57 percent favor a ban on assault weapons.

“The fact is it’s not divisive. The things that we’re advocating in the American public, when you’re talking about keeping guns out of dangerous hands, we all agree,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “The only place where this is truly a controversial issue is, tragically and disgracefully, in Congress and in our statehouses across the country.”

Murphy ends filibuster, Senate Republicans agree to votes on gun measures

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy ended a blockade of the Senate after nearly 15 hours, saying Republicans agreed to hold votes on measures to expand background checks and prevent people on U.S. terrorism watch lists from buying guns.

Democrats stalled Senate proceedings on June 15 and into June 16 in a bid to push for tougher gun control legislation following the massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and spoke on the Senate floor through out the night.

Republicans, who currently have a 54-person majority in the Senate, have over the years blocked gun control measures, saying they step on Americans’ right to bear arms as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

“When we began there was no commitment, no plan to debate these measures,” Murphy, of Connecticut, said during the 15th hour of the filibuster early on Thursday.

He said Democrats were given a commitment by the Senate’s Republican leadership that votes would be allowed on two measures on preventing gun sales to people on terrorism watch lists and expanding background checks.

“No guarantee that those amendments pass but we’ll have some time to … prevail upon members to take these measures and turn them into law,” Murphy said.

With Republicans and the National Rifle Association gun lobby under pressure to respond to the massacre, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would meet with the NRA to discuss ways to block people on terrorism watch or no-fly lists from buying guns.

The Senate had began discussions on legislation to ban firearm sales to the hundreds of thousands of people on U.S. terrorism watch lists. The Orlando gunman, who carried out the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, had been on such a list.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged senators on June 15 to offer ideas on how to prevent another attack like the one in Orlando.

Late on June 15, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said negotiations “were little more than a smokescreen by Republicans trying to give themselves political cover while they continue to march in lock-step with the NRA’s extreme positions.”

If Congress was to pass a gun control measure, it would mark the first time in more than 20 years that lawmakers agreed on how to address the hot-button issue. A ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, such as the one used in Orlando, had gone into effect in 1994 and expired 10 years later.

Wisconsin court candidates to debate at UW-Madison

Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates Rebecca Bradley and JoAnne Kloppenburg are set to meet in a debate on the University of Wisconsin campus.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports it will sponsor the March 18 debate along with Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio.

The debate is set to begin at 7 p.m. at Wisconsin Public Television’s studio on the UW-Madison campus. Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio will broadcast the event live.

Bradley and Kloppenburg will square off in the April 5 election for the late Justice Patrick Crooks’ seat.

Crooks died in September, a week after he announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Gov. Scott Walker appointed Bradley in October to serve out the remainder of his term, making her the incumbent going into the election.

Milwaukee match: Clinton, Sanders step into debate ring tonight

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders get back in the debate ring tonight (Feb. 11).

The debate comes just 48 hours after Sanders’ victory over Clinton in the New Hampshire primary by 22 percentage points.

Clinton, with a slim Iowa victory in her pocket, acknowledged she needs especially to earn the votes of young women who aren’t automatically with her just because she, too, is a woman.

For Sanders, the next-up states are a test for how he does with non-white voters.

What to watch for in the PBS debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee:

• Watch how Sanders capitalizes on the attention by introducing himself to Americans who know little about his socialist self. The Vermont senator’s message of economic and social inequality, systemic racism and unlimited money in politics is aimed at Americans who feel the system is stacked against them.

Sanders has a perceived disadvantage with minority voters, so expect him to talk at length about the civil rights activism of his youth, his recent outreach to prominent black figures and parts of his agenda that might most resonate with black and Hispanic communities.

• Clinton expected to lose New Hampshire and has acknowledged she has “work to do” to introduce herself to young women and new voters. But Sanders’ double-wide victory there included trends that suggest she’s got a bigger task ahead, namely on trust and empathy issues. Look for her to find a way to address these points.

• Look for Clinton to hit Sanders more aggressively on issues that matter to minority voters, such as the health care law achieved by President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president. Sanders supports a markedly different universal health care law. Clinton also probably will go after Sanders for casting her as a tool of Wall Street who is not as serious as he about controlling money in politics. And Clinton’s not likely to stop hitting at Sanders’ opposition to longer waiting periods for gun purchases.

The setting in polarized Wisconsin, where the GOP controls the Legislature and holds the governor’s mansion, is all about the general election. National Democrats purposely chose the state to plant a flag in the state.

The debate will begin at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on PBS and also simulcast on CNN. The debate also will be streamed at www.pbs.org/newshour.

PBS Newshour co-anchors Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff will moderate.

Rubio campaign reeling after sharp attacks during last Republican debate

Marco Rubio faced withering criticism of his readiness to be president and his policy depth in the last Republican debate before tomorrow’s New Hampshire primary, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and other candidates launched an aggressive campaign to slow the Florida senator’s rise.

Rubio’s responded with an uneven performance on Saturday night that could hurt his bid to emerge as an alternative to Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. If anything, his showing gave new hope to Christie, Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, all of whom need strong finishes in New Hampshire to keep their White House bids afloat.

Cruz, the Iowa caucuses winner, also took criticism at the debate for controversial political tactics, with one candidate disparaging him for having “Washington ethics” and being willing to test the campaign’s legal limits.

New Hampshire’s primary could further winnow an already shrinking GOP field or leave the primary muddled. Hard-fought, expensive and far-ranging, the campaign has become a fight for the future of the Republican Party, though the direction the GOP will ultimately take remains deeply uncertain.

Rubio, a first-term senator from Florida, has sought to appeal both to mainstream Republicans and those eager to upend the status quo. But his rivals, particularly Christie, have been blistering in their criticism of what they see as his slim qualifications to serve as commander-in-chief.

“You have not been involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable,” Christie said. “You just simply haven’t.”

Christie has built his closing argument around his criticism of Rubio, and he kept up that approach on the debate stage. He accused the senator of being a candidate governed by talking points — then pounced when the senator played into his hands by repeating multiple times what appeared to be a planned response to criticisms about his qualifications.

“That’s what Washington D.C. does,” Christie said. “The drive-by shot at the beginning with incorrect and incomplete information and then the memorized 25-second speech that is exactly what his advisers gave him.”

Rubio wavered in defending his decision to walk away from the sweeping immigration bill he originally backed in the Senate — perhaps the legislation he’s most closely associated with — and said he wouldn’t pursue similar legislation as president.

“We can’t get that legislation passed,” Rubio said of the bill that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for millions of people in the United States illegally. The senator found his footing later in the debate when outlining his call for more aggressive action to fight the Islamic State and emphasizing his anti-abortion stance.

Cruz was the victor in Iowa, triumphing over billionaire Trump by drawing heavily on the support of evangelical voters. But he’s faced criticism for messages his campaign sent to voters ahead of the caucuses saying rival Ben Carson — another favorite of religious conservatives — was dropping out and urging the retired neurosurgeon’s supporters to back him instead.

Cruz apologized for his campaign’s actions Saturday, but not before Carson jabbed him for having “Washington ethics.”

Those ethics, he said, “say if it’s legal, you do what you do to win.”

Trump was back on the debate stage after skipping the last contest before the Iowa caucuses. After spending the past several days disputing his second-place finish in Iowa, he sought to refocus on the core messages of his campaign, including blocking Muslims from coming to the U.S. and deporting all people in the country illegally, all while maintaining he has the temperament to serve as president.

“When I came out, I hit immigration, I hit it very hard,” Trump said. “Everybody said, ‘Oh, the temperament,’ because I talked about illegal immigration.”

Kasich, who has staked his White House hopes on New Hampshire, offered a more moderate view on immigration, though one that’s unpopular with many GOP primary voters. He said that if elected president, he would introduce legislation that would provide a pathway to legalization, though not citizenship, within his first 100 days in office.

The debate began shortly after North Korea defied international warnings and launched a long-range rocket that the United Nations and others call a cover for a banned test of technology for a missile that could strike the U.S. mainland.

Asked how he would respond to North Korea’s provocations, Bush said he would authorize a pre-emptive strike against such rockets if it was necessary to keep America safe. Cruz demurred, saying he wouldn’t speculate about how he’d handle the situation without a full intelligence briefing. And Trump said he’d rely on China to “quickly and surgically” handle North Korea.

Associated Press writer Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.