Liveblogging Tonight's CNN GOP Town Hall

At 8 PM Eastern Thursday, CNN's moderator Anderson Cooper will initiate phase 2 of the Republican town hall, featuring real estate tycoon Donald Trump, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. On Wednesday, Cooper moderated a town hall with Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Trump had an MSNBC town hall at the same time as last night's CNN event, which attracted fewer viewers than the event with Cruz, Rubio, and Carson. Tonight, Trump is on the stage, so the numbers could go up.

Two days before voting in the pivotal South Carolina Republican Primary (this Saturday, February 20), this town hall gives Kasich and Bush a chance to each show why he should be the establishment favorite against Trump, and Trump a chance to defend his sizable polling lead.

Time for Round 2!

11:15 P.M.

And here's more Ted Cruz Photoshop, because why not?

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Ted Cruz!

I'll make you an offer you can't refuse!

And this is a low blow, but still hilarious.

11:11 P.M.

Final thoughts: The town hall format works really well for some (Ben Carson), but not well at all for others. Trump in particular talked too long in responding to Anderson Cooper's questions. Kasich, Bush, and Trump each gave a forgettable performance, to a large extent. Kasich's compassion, Bush's Spanish speaking, and Trump's waffling on George W. Bush will hit the news, but do little to change the race. One would hope that Trump's attacks on George W. will hurt him in South Carolina, a state which reveres the former president, but will anything stop the Donald at this point?

Last night, CNN had a much better town hall. Rubio performed solidly, as did Cruz. Rubio spoke too fast and Cruz got too much in the weeds, but they each had a good night. The real surprise was Carson, whose calm demeanor really shone, and the one-on-one format helped the good doctor explain himself.

And then there was this moment:

11:05 P.M.

"I think I was really a good parent because I put them above everything," Trump on prioritizing his kids. "I never had a drink and I never had a cigarette."

The Donald recalls, "I told my kids, no drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes." Good lessons, although I think most people can handle alcohol.

But don't let that fool you.

10:57 P.M.

Trump on his sister's legal stances: "I don't even know what her views are on abortion." She is a very private person, he says.

"I get a lot of publicity, but I don't like it." Uh huh.

10:47 P.M.

Donald Trump declares the Iraq War "one of the worst decisions ever made by any government at any time."

Trump continues to dodge answering the question of whether Bush lied. Anderson Cooper presses him three times, still no answer.

10:40 P.M.

YES! Questioner says he was offended when Trump said Bush lied to get us into Iraq. "Do you think the President of the United States, George W. Bush, lied to the American people?"

"It may have been the worst decision any president has made in the history of this country," Trump says. He blames the migrant crisis in Europe on the War in Iraq.

Yeah, right. Was it really worse than the New Deal? Worse than the Treaty of Versailles? Worse than Andrew Jackson's Trail of Tears? Worse than Wilson's War Socialism?

10:35 P.M.

Who would have thought, in these CNN town halls, that Ben Carson would be more engaging than Donald Trump?

Trump hits on good things in his Obamacare replacement plan, but it's still rather simple.

Then repeats the truth -- Obama lied about keeping your doctor. 28 times. "If he were in the private sector, he'd be sued for fraud."

10:32 P.M.

Trump's face seriously does look like an orange, bruises and all.

10:28 P.M.

Questioner is giving a speech: "In the private sector, if you don't like the deal, you can walk away." Good line, but just ask a question!

She did ask -- about Trump's temperament. "We have to be tough to protect our country," he responds.

What is this "self-control?"

10:25 P.M.

"I'm not a crook." "I'm not a dictator."

Now it's Trump's turn -- "I don't think I'm a bully at all."

10:22 P.M.

Trump admits Cruz's "Voter Violation" letter was "effective."

"He holds up the Bible, and then he lies," Trump says, channeling Rubio last night.

10:21 P.M.

"Would you like to meet with [the pope]?" Cooper asks. "Any time he wants," Trump says. He adds "I have great respect for the position."

10:17 P.M.

"I don't think it was a very good thing for him to say," Trump says of Pope Francis' comment.

"You think the government of Mexico got the pope to say this?" Anderson Cooper asks.

Trump: "He also talked about having a wall is not Christian, but he's got quite a big wall."

10:14 P.M.

So before Trump comes on, let's do a quick refresh on the Trump-Francis debate.

And who's more popular? This is YUGE, guys.

10:11 P.M.

Jeb Bush -- "I think I connect better with people because I learned how to do it." Solid comment on the struggles of an introvert running for president.

Here's a bit more.

10:09 P.M.

Jeb Bush on hobbies: "I love reading. I just finished the book on my dad."


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The party is deciding on Rubio: <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) <a href="">February 19, 2016</a></blockquote>

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10:05 P.M.

"We need to create a culture of savings, not a culture of debt." Great Line.

Jeb tells the audience to check out his website -- NOT NOT JEBBUSH.COM.

Why, you ask?

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Trump getting in on that cyber warfare. Redirect from <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Chief (@BarstoolChief) <a href="">February 18, 2016</a></blockquote>

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Oh, that's why.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Oops! <a href="">#JebBush</a>.com sends users to <a href="">@realDonaldTrump</a> website: <a href=""></a> <a href="">#abc15</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; ABC15 Arizona (@abc15) <a href="">February 16, 2016</a></blockquote>

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10:03 P.M.

Jeb to his wife Columba -- "This is your anniversary present." Telling his love story on national TV.

He divides his life into "B.C." and "A.C." -- "Before Columba" and "After Columba." The after part is much better.

9:57 P.M.

Jeb calls for a bottom-up approach to drug reform. Communities and states should lead.

Secret Identity Revealed.

9:55 P.M.

By the way, a Democrat Town Hall is also happening at the same time.

Denmark and Sweden.

9:50 P.M.

"I would nominate somebody" to the Supreme Court with only 11 months left, Jeb Bush says. He declares "I'm an Article 2 kind of guy." Yeah, as the son and brother of Presidents, that's not all that surprising. But your party won't always have the Presidency...

9:44 P.M.

Jeb isn't sour about Nikki Haley's endorsement of Rubio. Not at all. NOT AT ALL.

And this is a low blow.

9:41 P.M.

Jeb Bush on his father -- "Now I'm going to get emotional. He's the greatest man I know." Warning: Orchestrated emotion alert!

9:38 P.M.

Jeb Bush asks Obama "why not go to Congress" when it comes to mental health issues on Gun Control. Good point.

And let's not forget, the current Congress was elected to push back against Obama.

9:35 P.M.

No glasses. Is it just me, or does Jeb look even more like his father and brother now?

It's not over yet.

9:32 P.M.

Following Kasich's less-than-stellar performance, we return to your regularly scheduled programming.


9:28 P.M.

Friendly reminder -- The Good Samaritan wasn't a government program.

9:24 P.M.

Is Kasich waffling on the Second Amendment? He's outpolling Hillary in the Democrat primary! [Not Really]

Overall, though, Kasich has a very soothing voice. I swear I'm not falling asleep! Less engaging than Cruz last night.

9:21 P.M.

Would you keep Obama's executive orders in place? "Probably not," says Kasich. No "day one" promise, and no "first hundred days."

Ben Howe on point, once again.

9:18 P.M.

"Small businesses are the engine of economic growth in America." There's Kasich on his strong suit. "Stop all this flurry of regulation." Does that include Obamacare?

But if he hires everyone at town halls, that will require a rather large government.

9:16 P.M.

John Kasich said it's "too early" for him to be "laying out the drapes." Does not say if he would tap any fellow candidate for the Presidential cabinet, but asks the voter if she's open. "Send me your resume!"

Kasich defends Medicaid expansion like this.

9:13 P.M.

Kasich defends his record expanding Medicaid in Ohio. No mention of St. Peter in this version.

"Compassionate Conservative" indeed.

9:07 P.M.

Kasich is pronounced "kay-sick," not "cass-sock." That's a priest's garment. It's also not "coss-sack." That's an East-Slavic speaking people in Ukraine and Russia.

9:02 P.M.

Kasich points out that he's appointed "well over 100 judges" in Ohio. "We don't want you to make law, we want you to interpret the law -- that's what makes you a conservative judge." Well said -- we need more Originalist judges like Antonin Scalia.

And this is surprisingly accurate.

8:59 P.M.

Kasich stood up for single moms in America, saying they're "the real heroes."

Is he leaving someone out?

8:54 P.M.

Kasich finally gets to economic growth. Now he's talking like a Republican.

But don't forget about this.

And don't put your trust in politicians.

8:51 P.M.

Kasich on the Trump-Pope squabble: "I'm pro-Pope." Does that make you anti-Trump? I guess he is running against the Donald...theoretically.

Kasich says we need more bridges in Congress because people keep setting up walls. Well yes, Progressives won't let a word in edgewise, and Conservatives have slowly learn that they too need to dig in their heels.

8:49 P.M.

Kasich, with his hope and warm and fuzzies, makes some people think he's trying to be Jesus.

8:44 P.M.

"I finally found hope in the presidential candidate I support," declares Kasich supporter at a town hall. Kasich says "it's been happening to me all over."

Talk about a compassionate conservative.

8:42 P.M.

John Kasich is finally there! Somewhere...

8:39 P.M.

Finally, camera goes to the CNN Town Hall stage. Is it still "moments away"?

8:36 P.M.

Anderson Cooper keeps saying the CNN Town Hall is "moments away." You keep using those words. I don't think they mean what you think they mean.

And Cruz's photoshop melded with John Kasich's moving hug.

8:33 P.M.

CNN town hall has still not started, they're waiting on John Kasich.

By the way, #CruzPhotoshop is trending on Twitter, and the results are hilarious.

And for those who think Cruz is a criminal...

And for the Game of Thrones fans.

8:26 P.M.

And CNN is still killing time, so we will, too.

With the big pope -- Trump news, this becomes relevant.

And this is sad.

8:24 P.M.

Rubio and Cruz campaigns go back and forth on this attack photo.

8:22 P.M.

Here is what Pope Francis said.

Here is why people are calling him a hypocrite.

To be fair, the Goths did attack Rome numerous times...

The Vatican is contained within an ancient walled city, the Civitas Leonina, whose fortifications date back to the ninth century A.D., after a sack of Rome by the invading Muslim Saracens. No word as to whether the Vatican will tear down that wall any time soon.

8:14 P.M.

So Jeb Bush is going last, at 10 P.M.?

By the way, the movie "Risen" opens tomorrow -- it's highly recommended.

8:11 P.M.

CNN's Anderson Cooper asking various experts on how Pope Francis' attack on Donald Trump will impact his campaign. Most experts agree this actually helps Trump.

8:08 P.M.

In just a few moments, theoretically:

By the way, here's where Charles Koch (of the notorious "Koch Brothers") agrees with self-described Socialist Bernie Sanders.

8:00 P.M.

While Jeb Bush and Donald Trump go at it, John Kasich is giving out hugs, free hugs!

And this.

7:53 P.M.

A few notes before the town hall starts.

This is Jeb Bush:

And this happened.