Republican presidential candidates promised during Wednesday night's GOP debate to make Americans richer. Some vowed to trim taxes. Others said they would consider raising the minimum wage or promoting education. And Donald Trump, the business tycoon leading the GOP race, said he’s ready to promote trade deals to fatten the nation's wallet like he has done for himself.

“I say not in a braggadocious way," Trump said in the debate, which was televised by CNN from the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California. "I've made billions and billions of dollars dealing with people all over the world, and I want to put whatever that talent is to work for this country so we have great trade deals, we make our country rich again, we make it great again.”

The Republican Party has a tradition of using economic themes, and references to a need for national strength, to appeal to potential voters. Though this debate was light on economic policy, the next debate, which will air on CNBC, is likely to focus more on the economy.

Each of the four low-tier Republican candidates who spoke during the "happy hour" debate at 6 p.m. said they would cut taxes for regular Americans, while at the same time closing tax loopholes for corporations and hedge-fund managers. "I would not give a special break to the Wall Street fat cats," former New York Gov. George Pataki said. 

Candidates trashed President Barack Obama's economic recovery, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he would base his economic plan on that of former President Ronald Reagan. "That brought about one of the longest sustained periods of economic growth in American history," Walker said.

Unemployment was just over 5 percent at the end of 2014. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has said it was now lower than before the 2008 financial crisis. Some have alleged that the actual unemployment rate, accounting for those who do not have adequate jobs, is much higher.

 

 


 

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is second in the polls among Republican candidates, said he would “probably, or possibly” raise the minimum wage. He added that he supported two minimum wages, one for regular workers and one for youth. “How are young people ever going to get a job if you have such a high minimum wage that it makes it impractical to hire them?” he asked.

Walker, however, said he would promote education so people could “take on careers that pay more than minimum wage,” adding that it was more important to create more job opportunities and cut taxes.

Stakes were high during Wednesday’s debate, as the first debate -- held Aug. 6 in Cleveland and hosted by Fox News Channel and Facebook -- proved a good performance can reshape the presidential field. Following that debate, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina saw her poll numbers rise, as did Carson.

Front-runners Trump and Carson are considered Washington outliers, as neither has served in elected office. Trump rose to prominence in the private sphere and Carson was a noted surgeon.