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Local Republicans Gather to Watch GOP Debate

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YOLO COUNTY --

Paris, San Bernardino and the specter of the same in Los Angeles schools -- all of it front and center on a stage in Las Vegas as the GOP's White House wannabes tried to show the public how they would keep America safe.

"The war we're fighting now against radical Islamic jihadists is one we must win," said presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson.

Right away, frontrunner Donald Trump -- challenged about his plan to ban non-American Muslims from the country to keep out possible terrorists.

"We are not talking about isolation. We're talking about security," he said.

Still in the prime-time debate but struggling in the polls, Jeb Bush told Trump things just aren't that simple.

"If we're going to ban all Muslims, how are we going to get them to be part of a coalition to destroy ISIS? The Kurds are our greatest fighting force and strongest ally. They're Muslim," said the former governor.

Senator Ted Cruz, the latest candidate to make a surge against Trump, took a swipe at the racist critiques of targeting radical Islam, with a stern clarification.

"It's not a war on faith. It's a war on political and theocratic ideology that wants to murder us," he said.

Cruz's vote to end the kind of bulk phone data collection that some believe could make the fight against terror easier, had Marco Rubio on the attack.

"But now the agency is not able to quickly gather records and look at them to see who these terrorists are calling," complained Rubio.

 

When asked if someone on stage was "winning" the night, Davis' Sarah Mershon was quick with an answer while she and other members of Yolo County's Republican Party gathered for a watch party.

"I think it's Marco Rubio," she said.

Not if Rand Paul had anything to say about it, delivering a dig on immigration.

"The thing is every terrorist attack since 9/11 has involved legal immigration. Marco wants to expand that. I want more rules...more scrutiny," Paul said.

"Sorry you haven't gotten to me," said Carly Fiorina, in one of several comments lamenting her limited talk time.

Proper use of technology involving the private sector in government operations was one of the few issues she did eventually get to weigh-in on.

Two more hours of debate -- done.

"I've gotten to know him the last three or four days.  He has a wonderful temperament," said Trump, laughing as he tried to explain why he called Cruz a "maniac" who should not be  president a few weeks ago.

Literal political theater, but it all may not be clearing up much for some voters.

"I'm not sure I even care who wins. They all look awful good," said Mark Grossman of Davis.

One familiar face, not on stage during the primetime debate -- former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

A top aide walked away from the campaign this week and sagging poll numbers pushed him down into the undercard event, fueling speculation that he may be the next to defect from this race.

On the other hand, Trump is doubling-down on his bid to be much more than an apprentice at the White House.

He promised he would not run as an independent, which many have feared might split the Republican vote and hand the presidency to Hillary Clinton.