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Donald Trump's comments on Megyn Kelly cost him his invitation to conservative RedState event

Welcome to your Trail Guide, the Morning After Debate Day Edition. It's Friday, Aug. 7, and the Republican field is coming off a late and loud night on the debate stage in Cleveland. This is what we're watching today:

  • Donald Trump  attacked Fox News' Megyn Kelly again and was disinvited from the conservative RedState gathering, whose influential organizer predicted doom for Trump's candidacy
  • Carly Fiorina also went to the event  to build on her attention-getting performance  in the lower-tier candidates' forum
  • Other candidates were also there to try to keep up the momentum from Thursday's debate
  • At the debate, the GOP's persistent divisions were on full display, writes the Times' David Lauter
  • Trump managed to make news before he opened his mouth
  • But the candidates all did well enough  to pass through to the next round
  • They each got in a memorable line or two. We pulled the top 10
  • And a debate-record 24 million viewers tuned in
  • Check out full L.A. Times debate coverage here

In startling reversal, Trump is disinvited from major conservative event

Donald Trump's invitation to address an influential summit of conservative activists was rescinded late Friday, with organizers calling the billionaire's latest comments about Fox News Channel host Megyn Kelly "a bridge too far."

Trump had been announced as the "surprise guest" to close out the annual RedState Gathering, held this year in Atlanta. He was scheduled to address attendees not from a hotel ballroom, as some of the other GOP hopefuls had done, but at a tailgate party at the College Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

But Trump's clash at the Thursday debate with Kelly, the Fox host popular with conservatives, seemed to threaten anew Trump's months-long run at the top of the GOP presidential field. She asked him about his comments over the years about women, saying he had called them "fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals." He responded by denying the remarks and making a joke, then saying of Kelly that he was being nice to her, "although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn't do that."

The situation escalated Friday night after a CNN interview with Trump when he again complained about the question Kelly asked.

"She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions," Trump said. "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever. In my opinion, she was off base."

Later, Erick Erickson, the founder of the conservative blog RedState and host of the conference, announced Trump's invitation had been revoked.

"While I have tried to give him great latitude, his remark about Megyn Kelly was a bridge too far," Erickson wrote on Twitter. He later said he had invited Kelly instead.

"He is not a professional politician and is known for being a blunt talker," Erickson wrote of Trump in longer comments on RedState. "He connects with so much of the anger in the Republican base and is not afraid to be outspoken on a lot of issues. But there are even lines blunt talkers and unprofessional politicians should not cross."

Trump's campaign had notified reporters just an hour before that he would hold a news conference at the event.

Carly Fiorina, the only woman seeking the Republican nomination, applauded Erickson's decision on Twitter.

"I stand with @megynkelly," she wrote. "Mr. Trump: There. Is. No. Excuse."

Every campaign declared itself a winner in the debate, but coming out on top was Facebook

Interactions during last night's debate on Facebook outpaced totals for the State of the Union and for Donald Trump's campaign announcement -- two events that also drove political conversation, albeit for divergent reasons.

The Times' Samantha Masunaga has the numbers:

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Carly Fiorina embraces attention while she tries to build name recognition

Often, candidates for office prefer to keep expectations in check for fear of underperforming. But after a well-reviewed performance in Thursday's GOP forum for second-tier presidential candidates, Carly Fiorina embraced the new-found attention on her candidacy Friday.

"Let's face it: A lot of people may have underestimated me," she told reporters after addressing the RedState Gathering of conservatives in Atlanta.

Fiorina used her speech at the event to again stress the urgency of Republicans winning the White House in 2016 and having the right candidate to do so.

"In order to win, we're going to have to have a nominee who throws every punch, who will not ever pull her punches," she said.

There was one slip-up, though. A member of the audience asked her what she would do to contain the influence of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. To applause, she asked sarcastically: "What does the Chamber of Commerce do? Remind me," before speaking about the inefficient Washington bureaucracy. She later apologized, saying she thought the question was about the U.S. Commerce Department.

Addressing reporters, Fiorina was asked whether she could sustain the momentum from Thursday. She said she would stick to her strategy and not be distracted by what her rivals are saying or doing.

"I learned long ago that the most effective way to compete is to play your own game. And I've been competing with men all my life," she said.

She said that before Thursday's debates, only 40% of Republican voters had heard her name.

"I had the lowest name ID of anyone running. I still do -- maybe that's changed today," she said. About 6 million viewers tuned in for the forum.

"Now, at least, I think people are paying attention. And I hope that what people are starting to say is, 'You know what? She actually could win this job. And I think she can do the job.'"

Debate sets record for Fox News

He may have drawn boos at the first GOP primary debate on Thursday, but the ratings on Fox News prove that few can argue Donald Trump's star power.

The kickoff to the 2016 Republican White House race drew a stunning 24 million total viewers, breaking records for primary debates on cable TV, according to Nielsen.

That was three times the audience for any previous primary debate. And it notched a record for the highest-rated non-sports program on basic cable.

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Why is the sack-like suit of the 1980s still the norm in 2015?

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz speaks as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee listens. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz speaks as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee listens. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

L.A. Times fashion critic Booth Moore watched the GOP debate last night and came away wondering about "the great suit divide between Washington and the rest of the world."

She says "former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore's suit was so saggy it looked as if there was more than one of him in there. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham's was a particularly untelegenic shade of undertaker gray." And Mike Huckabee looked like he was wearing a lobster bib instead of a necktie.

So why these choices? Is it age? Body type? Or something more serious?

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Marco Rubio's tough abortion stand may draw social conservatives but alienate women

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was pressed on his views on abortion at last night's debate and revealed a stricter viewpoint than he has in the past. He reiterated it this morning on CNN:

As The Times' Lisa Mascaro writes, Rubio's view could attract social conservatives who are important during the Republican primary season but could hurt him with female voters, especially in a general election.

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Hillary Clinton's campaign tries to keep the focus on Republicans

While the Republican presidential hopefuls were gathering in Cleveland, Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Los Angeles for a decidedly more staid event than last night's debate: a roundtable on the working conditions for home healthcare aides, where she sought to raise the profile of the issue, The Times' Soumya Karlamangla reports.

The event was eclipsed, though, not only by the debate but by Clinton's moment with someone whose celebrity tops even Donald Trump's: Kim Kardashian. She was at a fundraiser for Clinton Thursday night.

Clinton's campaign, though, was eagerly trying to keep the focus on the GOP debate, inviting reporters to watch with her team at campaign headquarters in Brooklyn.

"Hillary Clinton wasn't on the stage, but we felt she was the clear winner," the Clinton campaign's communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, told reporters. The Times' Evan Halper has the scene from Brooklyn.

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Next up for the Republican candidates: a weekend with conservatives in Atlanta

 (John Minchillo / AP)

(John Minchillo / AP)

Carly Fiorina will seek to build on her well-received performance on the GOP debate undercard Thursday in a speech to conservative activists Friday.

Most of the party's 17 presidential candidates will address the RedState Gathering in Atlanta this weekend, the latest in a series of cattle calls but one that aims to press the would-be presidents on the specificities of their plans for the future, rather than diagnoses of President Obama's mistakes.

Rick Perry, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio will also speak Friday. Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are set for Saturday.

Donald Trump will also be there but won't give a convention hall speech, opting instead to mix it up with attendees at a tailgate party Saturday night at the College Football Hall of Fame.

Thursday's debate, the first of the 2016 presidential election, revolved in at least its opening moments around the billionaire-turned-White House aspirant. But Fiorina's crisp performance in the so-called "happy hour" debate that preceded the prime-time event promised to fuel her standing in the crowded pack.

"I went into this debate with only 40% of Republicans knowing my name," Fiorina said in an interview on Friday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "Now, for the first time, actually, a lot of people discovered last night that there is more than one woman running for president. A lot of people discovered, I think, that I can win this job. And I can do this job."

GOP debate was reality TV meets 'serial drama'

The Times' theater critic, Charles McNulty, watched the show last night with an eye toward the drama. He found plenty, he says.

"Though his hair remained relatively in place, [Donald Trump] seemed discomposed from the get-go after the audience reacted negatively to his refusal to pledge his support for the Republican nominee regardless of who it might be.

"On the big stage, Trump's crooked straight talk lacked the ease of the mild-mannered political doublespeak of some of his rivals. While they would break out into stump speeches whenever cornered, he seemed frustrated that he couldn't resort to his usual Trump card, 'You're fired!' "

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Trump claims he didn't say 'many of those things' about women. But it looks like he did.

Donald Trump told the folks on MSNBC "Morning Joe" that he doesn't "recognize" the list of derogatory words Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly recited Thursday night, quoting Trump's description of women.

"I didn't say many of those things," Trump said Friday morning. "I don't remember that on 'The Apprentice,' and I don't know where they got some of these words, to be honest with you. In fact, I'm going to have somebody call up and find out where these words came from because I don't recognize those words. Not that I'm an angel, by the way. But I don't recognize those words.

That somebody need not call Fox News. Vox has already dug up at least a few of the instances in which Trump described a woman as a fat pig, a dog, a slob, an animal or disgusting. Not all of them were in reference to Rosie O'Donnell.

Read more

Last night's debate drew a record audience

Donald Trump keeps up the feud with Fox's Megyn Kelly, tweets 'bimbo' comment

While Republicans in debate criticize Iran deal, Obama's real challenge came congressional Democrats

One day after President Obama offered a stern defense of the landmark nuclear deal with Iran, some Republican presidential hopefuls reiterated their pledges during Thursday night's debate to scrap the accord on their first days in office.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he would not only reinstate sanctions on Iran's economy that would be waived under the agreement, but put in place "even more crippling" ones and lobby America's allies to do the same. The deal, he said, was "yet another example of the failed foreign policy of the Obama-Clinton doctrine," an attempt to tie Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton to an accord unpopular among Republican voters.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said he supported the idea of diplomatic negotiations with Iran but said Obama didn't "negotiate from a position of strength."

"President Obama gave away too much, too early," he said. "If there's going to be a negotiation, you're going to have to believe somehow that the Iranians are going to comply."

Obama has argued that the deal, which denies Iran the ability to produce fuel for a nuclear bomb in exchange for an easing of the sanctions that have deeply impaired its economy, is the best possible alternative to war in the Middle East.

Mike Huckabee, who recently accused Obama of leading Israelis to "the oven" by agreeing to the deal with Iran, whose leaders periodically call for the destruction of Israel, used less provocative rhetoric Thursday.

"What the Iranians have said is, 'We will wipe Israel off the face of the map, and we will bring death to America.' When someone points a gun at your head and loads it, by God, you ought to take them seriously, and we need to take that seriously," he said.

Beyond Donald Trump, who said that if Iran were a stock, he would advise that "folks should go out and buy it," few of the other leading candidates addressed the deal, let alone offered an alternative, which Obama has challenged critics of the deal to do.

In the day's earlier forum for lower-tier candidates, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said Obama "broke every rule of negotiation," and would seek to make it "as difficult as possible" for Iran to access capital around the world. But as president, she said she would immediately convene a summit of Gulf nations -- not on Iran but on the fight against the Islamic State. "You know, Obama has presented the American people with a false choice every time. It's what I've done or not done, or it's war," she said.

The main challenge to the White House on Thursday came not from Republicans but from two prominent Democrats. Sen. Chuck Schumer, likely to be the next party leader in the Senate, and Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, both said they would oppose the deal when it comes to a vote in September.

Both announced their decision during the GOP debate, when the eyes of the political world were looking away from Washington.

No noogies for Trump -- this time

 ()

No one shot to the top of the heap, no one went out of business, writes the Times' Seema Mehta. But Donald Trump's continued domination of the GOP presidential race is causing frustration.

“The backup plan was, Dad would have probably given him a noogie,” said Jeb Bush Jr., speaking to reporters about his father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. “It didn't come down to that, obviously. ... I guess we'll have to hold off till maybe the second debate for the Trump noogie.”

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