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Top 10 moments from Thursday's debate

The Hill logo The Hill 8/7/2015 Cristina Marcos and Jesse Byrnes
Top 10 moments from Thursday's debate © Provided by The Hill Top 10 moments from Thursday's debate

Plenty of sparks flew during Thursday's prime-time presidential debate, a high-stakes showdown that offered all the candidates onstage opportunities to stand out.

Whether discussing prostitutes and pimps, or duking it out over government surveillance programs, the 10 candidates polling well enough to make the cut for the 9 p.m. contest delivered quite a show.

Here are the top 10 moments from the debate:

1. Donald Trump takes aim at Rosie O’Donnell

Viewers hoping the former host of "The Apprentice" would deliver some jaw-dropping moments got their wish.

The billionaire real estate mogul clashed early with Megyn Kelly, the only woman of the three Fox News hosts moderating the debate, after she suggested he was fueling a "war on women."

"You've called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, snobs and disgusting animals," Kelly began.

"Only Rosie O'Donnell," Trump interrupted.

“For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell,” Kelly responded before picking up where she left off.  "Does that sound like the temperament of a man we should elect for president?"

"I don't, frankly, have time for total political correctness," he said.

Shortly after Trump's insult on national television, O'Donnell tweeted “try explaining that 2 ur kids.”

2. Paul clashes with Christie

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) got into a shouting match over government surveillance.

“I want to collect more records from terrorists but less records from innocent Americans,” said Paul, the Senate’s most prominent libertarian lawmaker.

Christie, who was a prosecutor after 9/11, called that a “completely ridiculous answer."

“How are you supposed to know?” he asked.

Paul shot back: “I don’t trust [President] Obama with our records … I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, you go right ahead," referring to Christie embracing Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, days before the 2012 presidential election.

Christie suggested Paul was being naive, retorting, “When you’re sitting in a subcommittee just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like this.”

3. Trump refuses to rule out third-party run

A mixture of boos and applause erupted seconds into the two-hour debate when Trump singled himself out by not vowing to support a GOP nominee other than himself.

Trump said he hopes to run as a Republican and support the nominee, but caught immediate flak for not taking the potential for a third-party run off the table.

“That’s what’s wrong," Paul interjected, taking aim at the GOP front-runner. "He buys and sells politicians of all stripes.  ... He’s already hedging his bet on the Clintons."

4. Trump eyes Megyn Kelly

Kelly’s question about Trump's treatment of women seemed to particularly irritate him.

After defending his comments because,  Trump warned Kelly she might be his next target.

"And honestly, Megyn, if you don't like it, I'm sorry. I've been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn't do that," Trump said.

Trump didn’t personally criticize either Bret Baier or Chris Wallace, the other anchors, during the two-hour debate.

5. Carson gets the laughs

Twitter users started to notice when retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson went more than 30 minutes without getting a second question, which eventually came from Kelly.

"Well, thank you, Megyn. I wasn't sure I was going to get to talk again," Carson quipped, casually tugging at the edges of his lectern while the crowd erupted with laughter.

Later, during his closing remarks, Carson made light of his lack of political pedigree. He was the only one onstage who could claim to have separated Siamese twins as well as take out half a brain.

"Although you would think, if you go to Washington, that someone had beat me to it," he said.

6. GOP rivals ask Trump for donations

In one of the more impromptu segments of the debate, several Republicans onstage chimed in to ask Trump for donations after the billionaire defended previously gifts to Democrats.

"You're welcome to give me a check, Donald, if you'd like," former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee chimed in. "I hope you will give to me," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said.

Trump said he made his past donations in his capacity as a businessman, including  those to Hillary Clinton, now the Democratic presidential front-runner.

"With Hillary Clinton, I said, ‘Be at my wedding.’ And she came to my wedding. You know why? She had no choice because I gave," Trump said.

7. Bush stands by ‘act of love’ immigration remark

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has been polling second to Trump, stood by his controversial remark from early 2014 that many who illegally enter the U.S. do so out of an "act of love" for their families.

“There should be a path to earned legal status for those that are here — not amnesty — earned legal status, which means you pay a fine and do many things over an extended period of time,” Bush said.

Bush said the next president should work to fix the immigration system as a way to grow the economy.

8. Prostitutes and pimps

Huckabee caused a bit of blushing across the stage when he told the debate hosts his fair-tax system would be transformational.

The Baptist minister said his system would revamp Social Security and Medicare “because the money paid at consumption is paid by everybody, including illegals, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, all the people that are freeloading off the system now.”

More than one host appeared a bit startled by Huckabee’s response. “It’s getting a little R-rated,” said Kelly, while Wallace put up his hand and said “all right, enough.”

9. Rubio suggests God is a Republican

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio fit in a thinly veiled shot at Clinton when asked a complicated question regarding God and veterans.

"I think God has blessed us," Rubio started with a straight face. "He's blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. The Democrats can't even find one."

Rubio went on to vow that under his presidency the Department of Veterans Affairs would be better managed.

10. Kasich opens up about gay weddings

Kasich defended his attending a same-sex wedding in July and said he would love and respect friends and family who are gay.

The governor said he is “an old-fashioned person" who happens "to believe in traditional marriage.”

But he said he accepts the Supreme Court’s recent ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the country and noted he attended a friend’s gay wedding last month.

“Because somebody doesn’t think the way I do doesn’t mean I can’t care about them or can’t love them,” he said. “We need to give everybody the chance, treat everybody with respect and let them share in this great American dream that we have.”

Julian Hattem, Vicki Needham, Devin Henry, Rebecca Shabad and Jonathan Easley contributed.

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