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The Latest: Trump vows to hit IS 'very, very hard'

14 February 2016, 08:47

Greenville, S.C. — The Latest on the 2016 presidential race, with the focus turning to South Carolina and the Republican debate on Saturday night (all times local):

9:15 p.m.

Donald Trump says that if he is elected president, his first national security decision he would make would be on how to attack the Islamic State, because "we are going to have to hit very, very hard."

Trump also called the group "animals" and decried the war in Iraq and the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran.

Sen. Marco Rubio named three foreign policy priorities: dealing with North Korea and China, limiting Iran's growing influence in the Middle East and rebuilding NATO in Europe.


9:10 p.m.

Ted Cruz is using the latest Republican presidential debate in South Carolina to assure voters that he is the best candidate to pick a Supreme Court successor to Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday, hours before the debate.

A former Supreme Court clerk, Cruz argues he has the "background" and "judgment" and "resolve" to "nominated and confirm principled constitutionalists."

Cruz and his fellow senator, Marco Rubio, agree that the Senate should not confirm whomever President Barack Obama nominates to succeed Scalia.

Cruz avoided a direct question about whether he would pledge as president not to try to fill judicial vacancies late in his term.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is deviating from some of his rivals. He says he wants "a strong executive" who is willing to make court nominations. But Bush says he doubts Obama will offer a "consensus" nominee the Senate would accept.


9:05 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he fully expects President Obama to try to nominate a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But he says it's up to Congress to "delay, delay, delay."

Trump says, "If I were president now I would certainly want to try and nominate a justice."

But he says it's up the senate to stop it.

Rival John Kasich is also advising the president to hold off on selecting a successor because he says it would further divide the country.

He says, "I really wish the president would think about not nominating somebody," he says. "I would like the president to just for once here, put the country first."

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson says, "I fully agree that we should not allow a judge to be appointed in his time."


9:00 p.m.

The latest Republican presidential debate is beginning in South Carolina against the backdrop of news that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly Saturday.

The candidates and audience observed a brief moment of silence before the debate got under way.

8:00 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is praising Justice Antonin Scalia as a "dedicated public servant," even as she notes she does not share his conservative views.

She says Republicans calling on the seat to remain vacant until the next president enters office "dishonor our Constitution."

The Senate has a responsibility to confirm a new justice she says and "cannot abdicate for partisan political reasons."

Clinton is in the midst of a weekend campaign swing through Nevada.


3:45 p.m.

John Kasich is proud of efforts he made while in Congress to trim what he believed to be wasteful defense.

But allies of Jeb Bush — one of Kasich's Republican presidential rivals — see a potential vulnerability for Kasich in military-minded South Carolina. They're trying to slow the Ohio governor's momentum after a strong showing in New Hampshire.

An outside group backing Bush has begun airing a television ad ahead of South Carolina's Republican primary on Feb. 20 — using Kasich's own words.

Kasich and others are denouncing the broadside, but it's clear that the rivalry between Kasich and Bush is intensifying. Bush's team sees defense spending as a key area to draw distinctions.


8:35 a.m.

And then there were six.

The 2016 presidential field is shrinking on the Republican side, and those still in the race are preparing for Saturday night's debate in Greenville, South Carolina.

The latest contender to drop out is Jim Gilmore, a former Virginia governor.

After opening contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, the campaign is heading south for South Carolina's primary on Feb. 20.

There may be fewer White House hopefuls on the debate stage, but the race is still far from being clear.

Who's left? Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump.

- AP


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