Top quotes from the GOP town hall

Story highlights

  • Trump warms to Pope Francis: "He's got a lot of energy."
  • Bush on medical science: "We ought to have a focus on the brain. Talk about moonshots. Here's a moonshot for you: Why don't we discover the brain?"
  • Kasich on Pope Francis' squabble with Donald Trump: "I'm pro-Pope, okay? Put me down in the pro-Pope column."

(CNN)The six remaining Republican presidential candidates delivered their closing arguments to South Carolina voters in a pair of CNN town hall events ahead of Saturday's potentially pivotal primary vote.

On Thursday night in Columbia, Donald Trump, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took questions at a forum hosted by CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had their turn on Wednesday night in Greenville.
    Here are the most memorable lines:

    Donald Trump

    On Pope Francis' comments about him and his promise to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall: "Well, I didn't think it was a good thing for him to say, frankly. ... He's got an awfully big wall at the Vatican, I will tell you."
    Then, perhaps warming to Pope Francis (and jabbing Jeb?): "He's got a lot of energy."
    On whether he really opposed the Iraq war from the beginning: " "By the time the war started, I was against the war."
    On the Cruz-Rubio photoshop kerfuffle: "(The Cruz campaign) even made Marco a lot shorter than he is, if you look at it really. And I'm sure that's the thing that bothered him the most. He was, like, very small. He's not that small. Not too big, but he's not so small."
    On whether he'd bring a lawsuit against Ted Cruz: "I like to send letters. I have a lot of lawyers."
    On his political skills: "I deal with society. Society loves me. I can act differently for different people."
    On former President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq: "He started something that destroyed the Middle East. ... It started ISIS."
    On what happens if Mexico won't pay for a wall: "The wall just got 10 feet higher."
    On his decision to self-fund his presidential campaign and what would happen if he took more from donors: "I would have had 500 (million dollars), I would have had a billion -- I have people asking me, 'Please let me give you' -- I'm doing it all myself."
    On all the attention he gets: "I get a lot of publicity. I don't necessarily like it."
    On the King of Pop: "I knew Michael Jackson very well -- lived in Trump Tower for a long period of time."

    Jeb Bush

    On Pope Francis' comments about Trump: "I just don't think it's appropriate to question Donald Trump's faith. He knows what his faith is."
    On South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's endorsement of rival Marco Rubio: "I'm marking her down as neutral."
    On whether he'd pick a Supreme Court nominee in his final year in office: "Would I nominate somebody? I probably would."
    On what he'd be doing if he tried match his father, former President George H.W. Bush: "If I tried to strive to be as good as him, it would be impossible. I'd be on a couch, getting therapy all the time."
    On dealing with addiction, mental illness and disease: "We ought to have a focus on the brain. Talk about moonshots. Here's a moonshot for you: Why don't we discover the brain?"
    On his brother, former President George W. Bush's painting subjects: "I don't warrant a picture yet."

    John Kasich

    On how difficult it can be to make sense of hospital bills: "It's easier to interpret the Dead Sea Scrolls."
    On Pope Francis' squabble with Donald Trump: "I'm pro-Pope, okay? Put me down in the pro-Pope column."
    On finishing second to Trump in New Hampshire (but winning one historic small town, three votes to two): "He won fair and square. But I beat him in Dixville Notch!"
    On when he would deploy the military: "Getting in the middle of civil wars is not something I've ever favored."
    On losing his parents to a drunk driver: "I went into a black hole with a little pinprick of light."
    On viral video of his hug with an emotional supporter and what the country needs: "We've got to slow down. You've got to celebrate other people's wins, and sometimes you've got to sit with them and cry."
    To a man who had trouble pronouncing his last name: "It's a hard name, I know."

    Ted Cruz

    On what did when he got a cease-and-desist letter from Trump: "I laughed out loud."
    On the Obama administration's decision to open up relations with Cuba: "I think it's a real mistake ... My family has seen firsthand the evil and the oppression in Cuba. We need a president who stands up to our enemies."
    Cruz (briefly) channeled Stevie Wonder: "I just called to say I love you, I just called to say I care."
    On requiring women to register for selective service: "If I am elected president we will not be drafting our daughters into combat on the front lines."
    On questions about his citizenship: "It was the act of being born that made me U.S. citizen."
    On Trump bringing a lawsuit: "You can never write off the possibility of Donald Trump suing you."
    On his reputation for being unpopular among his congressional colleagues: "You think they dislike me? They hated Reagan with the heat of a thousand white hot suns."

    Marco Rubio

    On whether he'd visit Cuba as president: "Not if it's not a free Cuba. ​And I'll tell you,​ the problem with the Cuban government is that it's not just a Communist dictatorship, it's an anti-American Communist dictatorship."
    After applauding police officers, on race relations: "I personally know someone -- who happens to be a police officer and a young African-American male -- who told me that he's been pulled over seven, eight times in the last few years and never gets a ticket. What is he supposed to think? ... And here's the bottom line: Whether you agree with (African-Americans who feel mistreated) or not -- I happen to have seen this happen -- but whether you agree with them or not, if a significant percentage of the American family believes that they are being treated differently than everybody else, we have a problem."
    On his concerns with vetting Syrian refugees: "You can't just call up 1-800-Syria and ask them, do you know so and so and do you know who they are and why they're coming?"
    On the diversity of his campaign: "I got the endorsement of a governor of Indian descent, who endorsed a presidential candidate of Cuban descent, and tomorrow we'll be campaigning alongside an African-American Republican senator."
    Asked if he liked EDM (electronic dance music) or has ever been to a rave: "I've never been to a rave. No! It's a Republican primary, Anderson!"

    Ben Carson

    On whether Apple should aid federal investigators in hacking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, Carson said, "There's probably good reason not to trust the government, but we're going to have to get over that."
    On whether he would, in the last year of his own presidency, pick a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: "I probably would take the opportunity to nominate someone. Doesn't necessarily mean that person will be acted on or confirmed. Why not do it?"
    On how the social safety net used to work: "If someone got killed by a bear, everyone took care of their family."
    On defending gun rights: "We've had guns for hundreds of years and we've been free for hundreds of years. I think there may be a correlation."
    On how he would get his message out in a rowdy general election fight: "I had a program at the hospital where I'd bring in 800 students at a time, frequently elementary students, and you would say, 'How are you going to be able to speak to 800 elementary students and keep them quiet?' You know what: By speaking softly. Because then they'd say, 'Oh, what's he saying?' And they would shut up."