Readying for final GOP debate of 2015

GOP presidential candidates appeared at a debate in Milwaukee Nov. 10
GOP presidential candidates appeared at a debate in Milwaukee Nov. 10

The fifth and final GOP debate of the year will be held Tuesday, less than two months before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1.

The contest will air live from Las Vegas on CNN starting at 6 p.m. with an "undercard" featuring lower-polling candidates: South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former New York Gov. George Pataki and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

The main event with the nine top candidates begins at 8:30 p.m. Businessman Donald Trump continues as the front-runner for the Republican nomination, and a constant source of material for PolitiFact.

But two senators, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio of Texas and Florida, respectively, are pushing hard to capture media attention and votes.

Also on the main stage will be former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

We’ve fact-checked statements from all of the candidates. Below are the most recent ones on the nine top candidates.

Jeb Bush

Claim: "Up until recently, 75 percent of all the sorties that left the base came back without dropping their ordnances, because there was such a concern about making sure that there were no civilian casualties."

Rating: Mostly True.

Bush was criticizing the Obama administration’s battle against the Islamic State when he made the blasted how airstrikes were being completed.

We found that 75-percent rate was accurate until this summer, when sorties against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria saw an uptick. So Bush was right to qualify his statement.

Experts said the Obama administration did want to avoid civilian casualties, but fighting an unconventional force like ISIS has made airstrikes more difficult than in previous conflicts because fighters purposefully blend into civilian populations.

Analysts also noted that even at a low rate, citing weapons use as an indicator of achieving strategic goals does not necessarily signify success the way Bush implies.

Ben Carson

Claim: "The Family Research Council, according to some government agencies, is a terrorist group."

Rating: False.

Asked whether he agreed that a recent gunman’s killing of three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado was an act of domestic terrorism, Carson referred to a prominent think tank for social conservatives.

"It certainly is an act of extreme hatred and violence," Carson said of the Colorado shooting. "You know, the Family Research Council, according to some government agencies, is a terrorist group. You know, so let's get away from the rhetoric and talk about the real problem."

The Family Research Council has been labeled an "extremist" group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, but that’s not the same as a "terrorist" group. More importantly, the center is a private, non-profit group, not a government agency.

We could find no government agency that singled out the Family Research Council as a terrorist group, and experts told us they were unaware of any government lists that did.

Chris Christie

Claim: The Democrats plan "to raise your tax rates to 70 or 80 percent."

Rating: False.

Christie may have been bumped to the undercard debate last time around, but he stayed focused not on his Republican rivals but the Democrats who he said are "coming for your wallet."

"What they forgot to tell was that they’re going to raise your tax rates to 70 or 80 percent in order to provide all of that stuff," Christie said of Democrat plans.

None of the three Democrats running have proposed raising rates to 70 or 80 percent for the average taxpayer or is it likely that they will.

Christie exaggerated the rate hikes proposed by the Democrats, the amount of people they’ll affect or both.

Ted Cruz

Claim: The "federal government is going after school districts, trying to force them to let boys shower with little girls."

Rating: False.

Cruz took aim at the Obama administration recently for a push he said that suggested the government wants schoolboys to shower with girls.

"Look," Cruz said, "these guys are so nutty that the federal government is going after school districts, trying to force them to let boys shower with little girls."

The Texan went on: "Now listen: I’m the father of two daughters, and the idea that the federal government is coming in saying that boys, with all the god-given equipment of boys, can be in the shower room with junior high girls – this is lunacy. And I bet you there are a whole lot of parents – particularly parents of daughters – that are not eager to have the federal government saying, ‘Guess what? Your daughter has to shower with a boy, if he wants to be in there,’" Cruz said.

Cruz’s grossly distorts the issue, which has to do transgender students seeking access to school facilities that correspond with their gender identity. The Obama administration has supported those cases, holding that anything less would violate federal anti-discrimination requirements.

Such conflicts — few and far between — haven’t had to do with the government wanting boys to shower with girl.

Carly Fiorina

Claim: "The vast majority of (Syrian) refugees are young, able-bodied men looking for work."

Rating:  False.

Fiorina has repeated the claim that the "vast majority of (Syrian) refugees are young, able-bodied men looking for work."

It wasn’t accurate either time.

The softs of refugees Fiorina is talking about – young, able-bodied men – would be given a low priority for settling in the United States.

Men ages 18 to 59 comprise about 22 percent of all Syrian refugees.

Contrary to Fiorina’s statement, most refugees overall are children age 17 or younger. And a slight majority of all Syrian refugees are female.

John Kasich

Claim: "When I left Washington, we had a $5 trillion surplus."

Rating: Mostly False.

Kasich's rationale for the $5 trillion figure is reasonably sound, but he was inaccurate in how he referred to it. It was a 10-year cumulative projection for future surpluses, rather than a one-year actual surplus.

And, of course, this never actually panned out, for a variety of reasons, including the technology bust, the post-9/11 attack recession and the Bush tax cuts, which decreased tax revenues collected.

Rand Paul

Claim: "In France, they have a (surveillance) program a thousandfold more invasive" than the United States.

Rating: Mostly True.

Paul has argued against excessive surveillance and the bulk collection of electronic communication data, most recently saying the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., show it isn’t successful.

Paul said that "in France, they have a (surveillance) program a thousandfold more invasive" than the United States.’ "

The term "a thousandfold" is impossible to measure and is presumably a rhetorical flourish on Paul’s part.

Still, we found five notable areas in which the French system offers law enforcement and government officials more unfettered tools than American officials have the ability to use.

Marco Rubio

Claim: "The states have always defined marriage."

Rating: Half True.

Rubio doesn’t like the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, but he said he won’t work to overturn it if he becomes president.

Instead, Rubio told NBC’s Chuck Todd, he would appoint Supreme Court justices who "will interpret the Constitution as originally constructed."

Rubio said, "States have always defined marriage."

He has a point that states are generally in charge of administering marriage within their boundaries, but states cannot make laws that violate the Constitution.

His statement implies that state marriage regulations were untouched by the federal government up until the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, and that is not the case.

There are numerous 20th century examples of the Supreme Court overturning state marriage regulations that it found to be unconstitutional, including the 1967 decision to invalidate laws banning interracial marriages.

Donald Trump

Claim: In 2000, "I wrote about Osama bin Laden, ‘We’ve got to take him out.’"

Rating: Mostly False.

Trump claims that in early 2000, almost two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, "I wrote about Osama bin Laden: ‘We’ve got to take him out.’"

Trump’s book did not contain those words or their clear likeness. Bin Laden’s name appears once in the book, when the author was criticizing the Clinton administration for having an unfocused national security policy. He complained that the U.S. kept shifting its military focus between Iraq, bin Laden’s organization and Kosovo without strong results.

The book says that if bin Laden was "public enemy number one" in 1998, then the U.S. should have spent more than one day that year on a retaliatory bombing mission against his camps that bin Laden escaped.

But Trump, never known for mincing words, did not call for future efforts to exterminate bin Laden or strike against al-Qaida.