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Republican Presidential Candidates Discuss Terrorism, National Security

Nine top Republican presidential candidates focused on terrorism and national security Tuesday in a televised debate.

The frontrunner, businessman Donald Trump, defended his plan to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., even American Muslims. He said it would secure the U.S., and is not an attack on Islam.

“People like what I say. People respect what I say. And we’ve opened up a very big discussion that needed to be opened up,” Trump said.

Many Republican leaders have criticized Trump’s plan. But during the debate, most candidates held back from attacking it.

Candidate Jeb Bush is the brother and son of former U.S. presidents. Once considered the frontrunner, he has not done well in opinion polls.

Bush criticized Trump’s approach to politics.

Trump is “a chaos candidate, and he’d be a chaos president,” Bush said.

Bush and Trump argued many times during the debate.

“You’re never going to be president of the United States by insulting your way to the presidency,” Bush told Trump.

But Trump noted a public opinion study showing 42 percent of those asked supported him. He said Bush had just 3 percent support.

The two traded verbal barbs. Bush criticized Trump for admitting he learns about the military from watching television shows.

He asked if Trump was getting information from Sunday morning news shows or Saturday morning cartoon programs.

Some experts say Trump has not performed well in the five Republican presidential debates. But he has much more public support than any other Republican candidate.

Republican Party leaders say they are worried about Trump and public support. They say they worry that he will win the party’s nomination or run as an independent. If he runs as an independent, that would split votes among Republican voters. That would give strength to the Democratic Party.

Trump promised he would not run as an independent.

In September, Trump told reporters he would not be an independent candidate. But in the months after that press conference, he seemed to change his mind. He said he might run a third-party campaign if he does not believe he is treated fairly by other Republicans.

In recent weeks, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has increased his levels of support. Cruz is a U.S. senator from Texas.

Cruz has refused to publicly criticize Trump. During the debate, he strongly criticized President Barack Obama’s military campaign against the Islamic State group. And he repeated his threat to heavily bomb extremists in Iraq and Syria.

He said if he is elected president, he will order the military to “hunt down and kill the terrorists. We will utterly destroy ISIS. We will stop the terrorist attacks” before they happen, he said.

Throughout the debate, Cruz spoke to Marco Rubio about the Islamic State group, domestic spying programs and immigration. Rubio is a U.S. Senator from Florida. Both men are Cuban-Americans in their 40s. They have both recently gained support in national public opinion studies. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed Trump had 27 percent support. Cruz had 22 percent and Rubio, 15 percent.

The other candidates in the debate were Carly Fiorina, the former head of the Hewlett-Packard computer company; John Kasich, the governor of Ohio; Ben Carson, a retired brain surgeon; Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey; and Rand Paul, a U.S. senator from Kentucky.

The debate was shown on CNN television. It happened less than two months before the Iowa caucuses. The caucuses are the first place voters can say which candidate they support.

On Monday, the three Democratic presidential candidates discussed immigration and refugee policies.

The three are Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state; Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont; and Martin O’Malley, a former governor of Maryland.

The three strongly criticized Donald Trump.

Protesters at the hotel in Las Vegas, ,where the debate took place, said the candidates should pay attention to immigration reform, increasing wages, providing jobs and ending police abuses.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA's William Gallo, Mike O’Sullivan in Las Vegas and Ramon Taylor in New York reported on the debate. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted their stories for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

approach – n. a way of dealing with something; a way of doing or thinking about something

chaos – n. complete confusion and disorder; a state in which behavior and events are not controlled by anything

cartoon – n. a film or television show made by photographing a series of drawings; an animated film or television show

caucus – n. a meeting of members of a political party for the purpose of choosing candidates for an election

focused – v. to direct one’s attention on something

frontrunner – n. leader; the person who is most likely to win a race or competition

held back from – expression to show restraint; to keep from moving forward

done well in – expression to show success or skill in something

verbal barbs – n. critical comments

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