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GOP hopefuls take stage in early debate

Republican US presidential candidates (from left) George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, and Lindsey Graham gathered onstage.
Republican US presidential candidates (from left) George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, and Lindsey Graham gathered onstage.REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham says he would ‘‘absolutely’’ bomb Iran if he believed the country was close to having a nuclear weapon.

Graham says the Iranian nuclear deal is a ‘‘nightmare’’ for Israel and he would cancel the agreement and put a better one in place to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki says he would work with Israel to ensure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon.

And former Pennsylvanian Sen. Rick Santorum says on his first day as president he would tell the Iranian government it has to open all its nuclear sites to inspection ‘‘or else we will take out those facilities.’’

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He says that would stop a war, not start one.

Donald Trump isn’t in the second-tier GOP presidential debate but he’s still dominating it.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is making a hard pitch for a higher minimum wage, a position uncommon among the Republican presidential candidates.

He says it’s not just economic, it’s a way Republicans can win.

Santorum says, ‘‘How are we gonna win if 90 percent of Americans don’t think we care about them and their chance to rise in America?’’

However, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham says a federal increase in the minimum wage would hurt businesses. Referring to his parents’ business when he was a child, Graham says, ‘‘I don’t know if my parents could have afforded a 50-cent increase.’’

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is making fighting terrorism the overarching theme of his debate performance.

When asked about gay marriage, Graham said the Supreme Court ruling has made same-sex marriage the law of the land.

Then he quickly pivoted to his issue of choice: ‘‘Radical Islam would kill you all if it could,’’ he said. ‘‘Let’s not lose sight of the big picture.’’

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His remarks came amid a larger dispute over whether Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, was acting legally.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki says Kentucky clerk Kim Davis should have been fired for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

But former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, speaking in the second-tier Republican presidential debate, equates her decision with Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience. Santorum says Davis has a fundamental right under the First Amendment to deny the license. He says there has to be room in America for such a demonstration of religious beliefs.

Pataki says there is a ‘‘huge difference’’ between standing up for religious beliefs and ignoring the rule of law as an elected official.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham says he doesn’t agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling, but since same-sex marriage is legal the law must be followed.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says the answer to the Syrian refugee crisis is not allowing more people to come into the United States.

Jindal says in the second-tier Republican presidential debate that the answer is to hunt down and ‘‘destroy’’ the Islamic State. He says enemies do not fear or respect the U.S.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham says blame rests with President Obama. He says the president’s policies for combating Islamic terrorists are not working.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki references the Sep. 11 terrorist attacks, saying the U.S. is at greater risk of attack now than then.

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South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are vigorously arguing over immigration reform.

Graham supports allowing people in the country illegally to stay, arguing in part that Hispanic voters are an untapped source for Republicans. Graham says sharply, ‘‘In my world Hispanics are Americans.’’

Santorum says he had a bill in 2006 to address illegal immigration, though it did not advance in the Senate.

Santorum, who supports slowing legal immigration, says, ‘‘American workers are being hurt by immigration.’’

The Republican presidential candidates are fighting over whether the U.S. should immediately deport 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the country.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is accusing much of the GOP field of supporting ‘‘amnesty’’ by proposing plans to legalize some illegal workers.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham say deporting millions of people is impossible. Says Graham: ‘‘I'm trying to fix the problem. We’re not going to deport the 11 million here.’’

All four candidates say they would secure the border and crack down on local officials who opt not to prosecute illegal immigrants.

The first several questions were about the reality show star and front-runner. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal defended his attacks of Trump. He argued the developer ‘‘isn’t serious.’’ Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said he'd spend his time attacking Democrat Hillary Clinton rather than other Republicans. Former New York Gov. George Pataki was asked about his statement that he wouldn’t support Trump if he were the Republican nominee.

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That led Pataki to complain about all the opening questions being about Trump.

The immigration portion of the Republican presidential debates was well under way in California hours before the candidates begin talking.

Dozens of protesters angry about Republicans who oppose citizenship for millions of people in the U.S. illegally gathered at the entry to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library compound.

Immigration advocates in Latino-heavy southern California are beating drums and carrying signs that say, ‘‘Are you going to deport me?’’

There are also people wearing oversized papier mache caricature heads of businessman Donald Trump, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Trump and Walker have taken a harder line on immigration, while Rubio has stepped back from his support for a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally.

he four candidates whose polling numbers didn’t qualify them for the main event starting at 5 p.m. introduced themselves to the crowd at the Reagan Library in southern California. They are former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.