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Economy Takes Center Stage In Fourth GOP Debate

Republican candidates for president debated Tuesday night in Milwaukee, Wis.

To the delight of the Republican presidential candidates, the Fox Business Network's debate on economic issues stayed mainly on that topic, unlike last month's much-panned CNBC debate.

Not only did candidates draw distinctions on how they would jumpstart the economy, reform the tax code and shrink government, but major divides within the GOP on immigration and foreign policy emerged.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had another strong debate, as did Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, both of whom are nipping at the heels of frontrunners Donald Trump and Ben Carson in the polls.

Carson had a stronger debate than in the past and he successfully tackled questions about his biography, but he still appeared highly uncomfortable and meandering when trying to talk about foreign policy and national security concerns.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was under pressure to turn in a better debate performance than last time, and he mostly delivered. While he may not have been the best on stage, the showing should still calm fears of nervous donors. He didn't get in another losing spat with Rubio, but did have strong moments when he took on Trump over immigration and foreign policy.

We liveblogged the two hour main debate below. Check out our liveblog of the earlier undercard debate here.

11:10 p.m. Candidates' closing statements stick pretty close to the points they've been trying to make all night. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul declares "I'm the only fiscal conservative on stage." Fiorina boasts that "Carly Fiorina will beat Hillary Clinton." Bush: "I don't think we need an agitator-in-chief or a divider-in-chief. We need a commander-in-chief." Carson: "There is something special about this nation and we must embrace this nation and be proud of it and never give it away for the sake of political correctness."

10:58 p.m. Rubio gets a pretty softball question — why he should win over Clinton, given her experience. It gives him a prime opportunity to launch into his stump speech and draw a contrast that is a successful one this year in a year where voters want outsider candidates — "If I am the nominee, [Democrats] will be the party of the past, we will be the part of the 21st century."

10:54 p.m. Fiorina jumps in saying that this whole problem is "how socialism starts" — the government creates a problem and then steps in to solve the problem, which it did with the real estate boom."

10:45 p.m. Cruz says he would not bail out banks again, even if one like Bank of America were ready to fail and criticizes the "philosopher kings" at the Fed. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who's tried to grab every minute he can tonight, is angry and jumps in to criticize Cruz, calling his plan irresponsible and says, "I would not let the people who put their money in there all go down. As an executive I would figure out how to separate those people who could afford it versus those people who are the hardworking folks who put their money in those institutions."

His plan is met with boos though. And no one seems to mention or acknowledge the FDIC, which is supposed to protect depositors.

10:30 p.m. Fiorina jabs at Trump that she too has met Putin "but not in a greenroom." She criticizes his approach to foreign policy. Trump doesn't like it, and complains, "Why does she keep interrupting everyone?" The criticism against the only woman on stage doesn't go well at all, and is met with plenty of boos.

10:25 p.m. Trump says he could negotiate with Vladimir Putin because they shared, what he appears to mean to be a greenroom, when they were on "60 Minutes."

His approach: "We have to get smart. We can't continue to be the policeman of the world. We owe $19 trillion. We have a country that's going to hell, we have an infrastructure that's falling apart, our roads our bridges, our schools, our airports and we have to start investing money in our country."

Bush jumps in and has one of his strongest exchanges so far, criticizing his foreign policy approach. "Donald is wrong on this. He is absolutely wrong on this," he says to applause. "We're not going to be the world's policeman but we're sure as heck better be the world's leader. There's a huge difference where without us leading, voids are filled. And the idea that it's a good idea for Putin to be in Syria, let ISIS take out Assad and then Putin will take out ISIS, that's like a board game. That's like Monopoly or something. That's not how the real world works."

10:22 p.m. National security is something Carson isn't comfortable talking about, and it shows. Asked about President Obama's decision to send special operation forces to Syria to fight ISIS, here's his explanation: "Putting the special ops people in there is better than not putting them because that's why they're called special ops. They're actually able to guide the other things that we're doing there."

10:14 p.m. Trump explains his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, saying it would empower China. "It's a deal that was designed for China to come in as they always do, through the back door, and totally take advantage of everyone," he says. "It's 5,600 pages long, so complex that nobody's read it. It's like Obamacare, nobody ever read it. They passed it – nobody read it."

But as Paul jumps in to point out — defying even music that's trying to play off to commercial break — China isn't part of the deal. "I think it's a mistake that we give up power to the presidency on these trade deals. We give up the power to filibuster and I'm kind of fond of that power," he laughs. "We give up the power to amend and I think really one of the big problems we have in our country is that, over the last century really, so much power has gravitated to the executive branch, really Congress is kind of a bystander. We don't write the rules, we don't make the laws."

To him, it's more of an issue of ceding to Obama, who is trying to push the deal through Congress.

10:11 p.m. Cruz also takes a shot at sugar subsidies. Think that's by accident? Florida is a major producer and recipient of those subsidies and he's defended them as critical to national security.

10:05 p.m. An unexpected clash between Rubio and Paul. The Florida senator hits Paul for wanting to cut too much money from the defense budget: "I know that Rand is a committed isolationist. I'm not. I believe the world is a stronger and a better place when the United States is the strongest military power in the world," he says to applause.

Paul's retort: "Marco, Marco, how is it conservative to add a trillion dollar expenditure for the federal government that you're not paying for? How is it conservative to add a trillion dollars in military expenditures?"

Cruz tries to jump in and try to bridge the gap: "You think defending this nation is expensive? Try not defending it, that's a lot more expensive," he says, backing Rubio, but tries to underscore that he would find a way to pay for it without adding to the deficit.

10:03 p.m. Rubio describes his tax plan as "pro-family" and includes a child tax credit. "If the family breaks down society breaks down," he says. "You can't have a strong nation without strong values and no one is born with strong values they have to be taught to you in strong families and reinforced to you in strong communities."

10 p.m. Cruz argues his plan is the simplest — "There are more words in the IRS tax code than in the Bible, and none of them are as good."

"It's easy for everyone to say cut spending — it's much harder and riskier to put out chapter and verse, specifically the programs you would cut to stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids," he continued.

9:57 p.m. Paul's plan would keep both the mortgage and charity deductions, but his goal is to decrease the size of the government — "I want a government really, really small. So small you can barely see it."

He explains his tax plan — the main part of which is to get rid of the payroll tax: "What's also extraordinary about my tax plan is that it gets rid of the payroll tax. Democrats demagogue this issue to death and when they do they say 'Oh a millionaire would get a bigger tax cut than someone making $10,000. That's proportionality, as Ben is trying to explain to folks, but the thing is if we get rid of the payroll tax, everybody's going to get a tax cut."

9:54 p.m. Carson defends his tithe-like tax plan — which he says would eliminate many deductions such as the mortgage deduction and charitable deduction plan. "I believe if you put more money in people's pockets they will actually be more generous than less generous. It's the money that they earn," he says. "The other thing is, I do care about the poor people and in the system that we're putting together there will be a rebate for people at the poverty level."

9:47 p.m. Turning to healthcare, she explains how she would repeal and replace Obamacare: "We need to try the one thing in health insurance we never tried. Health insurance is always been a cozy little game between regulators and health insurance companies. We need to try the free market, the free market where people actually have to compete."

9:43 p.m. Cruz jumps into the immigration debate too, siding of course with Trump. "It is not compassionate to say we're not going to enforce the laws and we're going to drive down the wages of millions of hard working men and women," he argues.

9:37 p.m. It's not surprising that Trump next defends his immigration plan — build a wall, send 11 million people back who aren't here legally. "We are country of laws. We need borders. We will have a wall, the wall will be built, the wall will be successful," he promises.

But Kasich calls him out on it: "For the 11 million people, come on folks, we all know you can't pick them up and ship them and ship them back across the border. It's a silly argument. It's not an adult argument."

Trump dismisses the criticism and tries to demean Kaisch, which didn't sound like it went over too well in the room. "I've built an unbelievable company worth billions and billions of dollars," Trump says, dismissing his rival. "I don't have to hear from this man, believe me."

In a bizarre turn of events, Trump is pushing for Bush to be able to speak. But Bush doesn't take his side, and argues such large deportations also aren't possible.

"12 million illegal immigrants — to send them back 500,000 a month is just not possible, and it's not embracing American values and it would tear communities apart," he argues.

9:32 p.m. Carson is more forceful than last debates, and he gets a good response from the audience on defending questions about his biography — shifting blame to the media for not vetting other candidates like Clinton similarly and hits her on Benghazi as well.

"I have no problem with being vetted," he says. "What I do have a problem with is being lied about and then putting that out there as truth and I don't even mind that so much if they do it with everybody like people on the other side. But you know when I look at someone like Hillary Clinton who sits there and tells her daughter and a government official, no this was a terrorist attack, and then tells everybody else that it was a video, where I came from they call that a lie."

9:30 p.m. Fiorina gets into specifics on ways she would boost the economy. "In addition to rolling back what President Obama has done, we need to do a top to bottom review of every single regulation on the books – that hasn't been done in 50 years," she said. "We need to pass the REINS act so Congress is in charge of regulation, not nameless, faceless bureaucrats accountable to no one. We've become a nation of rules, not a nation of laws."

9:19 p.m. Bush — who was overshadowed badly last debate — already jumps in trying to get time. He defends his proposal to grow the GDP at a four percent rate (something that would be hard to do, per our fact check). And like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the debate before him, he points the finger at Democrats and Hillary Clinton for economic failures.

"Hillary Clinton has said that Barack Obama's policies get an A. Really? One in 10 people right now aren't working or have given up all together as you said– that's not an A. One in seven people are living in poverty – that's not an A," Bush said. "One in five children are on food stamps – that's not an A. It may be the best that Hillary Clinton can do but it's not the best America can do."

9:16 p.m. Kasich points out amazingly he's the only sitting governor on stage tonight. "I've been an innovator my entire career and I really don't what special interests or lobbyists have to say — I have a job to do," he says of how he'll jumpstart the economy. "I've done it twice, I'll do it thrice!"

9:12 p.m. Rubio is also opposed to the minimum wage, but relates it to his own personal story — repeating as he often does that he's the son of a bartender and a maid. "If you raise the minimum wage you're going to make people more expensive than a machine and that means all this automation that's replacing jobs and people right now is only going to be accelerated," Rubio says. "Here's the best way to raise wages: Make America the best place in the world to start a business."

He also makes a push for vocational education, saying we shouldn't stigmatize it. "Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders than philosophers."

9:09 p.m. Carson also says he would not raise the minimum wage because he wants people to still be able to enter the workforce, like he did, at a lower wage and work their way up. "People need to be educated on the minimum wage," he says. "Every time we raise the minimum wage the number of jobless people increases." It's a departure from the last debate though, when he said he did support some sort of increase.

9:07 p.m. The first question goes to Trump — is he sympathetic to the plight of those who want the minimum wage raised? He says no, he's against it. "We are a country that is being beaten on every front, economically, militarily. there is nothing that we do now to win," Trump says. "We're not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it but we have to leave it the way it is."

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