These GOP Debate Candidates Feel More Strongly About Bernie Sanders Than You Might Have Guessed

Bernie Sanders' immense popularity has been one of the most surprising things about the 2016 race so far. The notion that a white, male, 74-year-old socialist could become a serious presidential contender in the Democratic Party caught just about everyone off guard, myself included, but that's exactly what Sanders has become. As such, Republican presidential hopefuls have felt the need to weigh in on the Vermont Senator, and surprisingly, the GOP candidates' comments about Bernie Sanders aren't nearly as critical as you might think.

There's a reason the Republicans haven't been as hard on ol' Uncle Bernie as you might expect: He's probably not going to be the Democratic nominee. Hillary Clinton has always been favored to win the nomination, and with that being the case, it's in every Republicans' interest to say somewhat nice things about Bernie to make Hillary look bad by comparison. That's why folks like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have cut Sanders some slack, despite the gaping ideological chasm that exists between them.

But of course, not all of the Republicans have nice things to say about Sanders. Many have opined on Bernie, but their opinions are really all over the map. Let's take a look at some of them.

Donald Trump

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"This maniac that was standing on [Hillary Clinton's] right is giving everything away ... He's gonna tax you people at 90 percent. He's gonna take everything. And nobody's heard the term communist, but you know what? I'd call him a socialist/communist, okay? ‘Cause that's what he is."

Marco Rubio

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"I don't personally have a problem with Bernie because he's being honest about what he believes in. I'd love to have that debate."

Ted Cruz

"The Democrats, virtually all of them, are supporting this cronyism and corporate welfare. The one person who's standing up strong is Bernie Sanders. This is an issue on which Bernie and I are in complete agreement: We need to end this corporate welfare. ... I like and respect Bernie Sanders, he's honest."

Jeb Bush

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"If Dr. Evil heard Bernie Sanders was talking about $18 trillion [in new spending], he'd have a heart attack."

Chris Christie

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"The socialist says they're going to pay for everything and give you everything for free, except they don't tell you they're going to raise your taxes to 90 percent to do it."

Ben Carson

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"There are many things to be angry about when you are consumed by hopelessness. Bernie Sanders isn't one of them."

Carson was responding to Black Lives Matters activists' interruption of a Sanders rally.

Rand Paul

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"The fact that there's a significant amount of people in this country who think Bernie Sanders would be good for us scares me to death. ... The main reason I oppose Bernie Sanders and everything he represents is he wants to take away my choices."

Mike Huckabee

Ugh.