I'll be live-blogging the debate starting soon. There will also be live-blogging on TalkingPointsMemo, National Review, and the New York Times.
Feel free to post any comments about the debate (or the election) in the comments.
[ADDED: Here's the transcript, and here's the video:]
7:58 - This seems to be online only: we see someone warming up the audience, encouraging them to applaud as wildly as possible. He introduces Anderson Cooper (who I walked by on the street the other day). Cooper tells the audience we're going to start with the National Anthem, which he'll sing very quietly because he has a terrible voice. Good, this will give me time to make a salad before the actual debate starts.
8:02 - The opening sequence has majestic music (to conjure up the West), and an announcer gives us a basic run-down of who has what at stake. After summing up Mitt Romney (holding steady in the top tier), Rick Perry ("trying to get back on track after a meteoric rise"), and Herman Cain (surging), the announcer says that Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul are still trying to break through, while Rick Santorum is described as trying to "beat the odds." Santorum fans (if they exist) had to cringe that he was placed in a lower tier than everyone else including Ron Paul.
8:07 - An aggressively masculine rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
8:08 - Fortunately, this is the second debate in a row with no bells to signal when a candidate's time is up.
8:09 - Everyone is giving an opening statement. Santorum includes a sweet message to his daughter, who had surgery today and is doing fine.
8:10 - In Cain's opening statement, he says he's "a businessman, which means I solve problems for a living." Romney goes next and awkwardly echoes Cain's intro.
8:10 - In his opening statement, Perry forcefully says he's "an authentic conservative, not a conservative of convenience." A heavy-handed swipe at Romney.
As always, I'm writing down quotes on the fly, so they may not be verbatim.
8:14 - Santorum: "Herman's well-meaning." But 84% of Americans will pay more in taxes under Cain's 9/9/9 plan.
8:16 - Cain denies that he's proposing a value added tax. Bachmann insists that he is proposing a VAT. (I recently blogged about this.) The VAT just tricks people into thinking businesses, instead of government, are making them pay more.
8:17 - Perry calls Cain "brother" twice in his answer on why the 9/9/9 plan won't work. [Here's the video, which also shows that he uses a different word for Romney:]
8:19 - Paul makes a crucial, surprisingly overlooked, point: any time you increase spending, you're effectively raising taxes (I would add: especially as long as we're in debt). The taxes will have to go up sooner or later. The fact that we don't experience the tax increases right away doesn't change this fact.
8:21 - So far it's almost all been about 9/9/9. There's a lively exchange between Cain and Romney. Cain says Romney and Perry are "mixing apples and oranges" by equating his proposed federal sales tax with the current state sales taxes. Romney retorts: "I'll have a bushel of apples and oranges, because I'll be paying both taxes."
8:24 - Bachmann says "every American should pay something" in taxes. Well that's good, because that's already true.
8:25 - Perry says he's finally released his economic plan. His plan is to extract our own energy, which would "create 1.2 million jobs." How long a period of time do you think he's referring to? A quarter? A year? Nope. 7 years.
8:29 - Santorum uses his favorite strategy of interrupting another candidate, and Romney responds very sharply, repeatedly saying: "Rick, you've had your chance — let me speak." That might be the most heated moment Romney has had in any of these debates. Santorum eventually announces that Romney's time is up before he's gotten a chance to say one sentence! The audience boos.
8:33 - Romney gets Gingrich to admit that Romney got the idea for his health-care plan's individual mandate from Gingrich and the Heritage Foundation.
8:42 - Perry says "Mitt loses all standing" on illegal immigration because Romney hired an illegal immigrant and knew about it for a year. Once Romney starts answering, Perry uses an uncannily similar strategy to Santorum's, jabbering over Romney for the whole time he's talking. Romney (who's right next to Perry) puts his hand on Perry's shoulder and leaves it there for a long time. Romney: "You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking. And I'd suggest that if you want to be President of the United States, you ought to let both people speak." Have Perry and Santorum privately agreed to the same line of attack against Romney — talking over him throughout his whole time — or did Perry spontaneously decide to emulate Santorum? Either way, Perry and Santorum are using a cowardly tactic and creating the impression that they're afraid of letting Americans hear the whole debate.
8:46 - Anderson Cooper asks Cain why he said he supported an electrified fence along the southern border, then said it was a joke, then said he stood by the statement and just didn't want to offend anyone! Cain starts out saying he's finally going to be serious, but he doesn't clarify whether he still supports an electrified fence.
8:52 - I just noticed this is the first debate without Jon Huntsman. [ADDED: He's boycotting Nevada. That'll do him a lot of good.]
8:52 - Perry brings back his attack against Romney for supposedly hiring illegal immigrants. The audience boos very loudly for a long time. Romney says: "We've been down that road sufficiently, and it sounds like the audience agrees with me." Once Romney says that, the audience immediately switches to cheering. That was Perry's big attempt to offset the charges that he himself is soft on illegal immigration, and the attempt failed miserably.
9:01 - I'm adding the "free speech" tag to this post, since the candidates seem to disagree on whether they should all get a chance to speak.
9:11 - Cain stands by his past statement about Occupy Wall Street: that if you're not rich, blame yourself. Ron Paul: "Cain is blaming the victims."
9:21 - Santorum makes a smart statement on the relevance of religion in a presidential race. The candidate's faith has to do with their values, and that's relevant for voters to consider. In contrast, whether the candidate is right or wrong about "the road to salvation" shouldn't be part of the political arena.
9:22 - Gingrich tries to outdo Santorum by saying that the idea that we were "created by a loving God" defines the boundaries of . . . what? (I'm having trouble paraphrasing him because I found this so incoherent.)
9:23 - Perry has been pausing a lot throughout the debate.
9:33 - Paul: "We have enough weapons to blow up the world 20, 25 times."
9:37 - Paul would "cut all foreign aid," which is "taking money from poor people in this country and giving it to rich people in poor countries." He emphasizes that this includes Israel.
9:41 - Gingrich, answering a question by Paul, says that the Iranian "arms for hostages" deal in the '80s was "a terrible mistake."
9:46 - Santorum says Romney in Massachusetts "ran as a liberal, to the left of Ted Kennedy." Romney laughs on cue.
9:48 - Romney: 40% of the jobs created in the last several years in Texas have gone to illegal immigrants. Perry says this is wrong, and adds: "You failed as the governor of Massachusetts." Romney responds that his unemployment rate in Massachusetts was lower than Perry's in Texas during the same time period.
9:49 - Romney: We need "someone who's created jobs, not just watched them being created by others."
9:50 - Cooper asks Cain a dumb question: Should either Romney or Perry be President? "No, I should be President!"
That's all. Now, here's the moment this debate will be remembered for:
Jonah Goldberg says:
I don’t think anyone left the debate more likable than they were when they went in, with the possible exception of Newt.Maybe he was reading Jason (the Commenter)'s Twitter feed:
My scoring of the debates: Cain -1, Romney -2, Perry -5, Bachmann -1, Santorum -2, Newt (my new favorite)Goldberg elaborates:
I thought Perry had his best performance so far, but it was awfully shaky at times and he struck me as unlikable at times. If this had been his first debate, he might still be the frontrunner, albeit with a lot of chatter about how he needs to get better.
Romney still won the debate but I think he finally got bloodied on RomneyCare in a way he hadn’t in the past. He also looked angry and flustered for the first time ever. It might humanize him for some people. Or it might make him look weak.
Cain wilted under the pressure, but didn’t fold. He needs to learn how to talk about 9-9-9 in a granular way without asserting ignorance, laziness or dishonesty on the part of its critics. He remains a mess on foreign policy.
Santorum was the winner on points in almost all of his exchanges but he simply cannot stop sounding whiney, angry or aggrieved. . . . [H]is tone is so unpresidential you want him to stop talking even when he’s winning.
Bachmann’s simply a diminished candidate who thinks saying Obama is a one-term president is an argument for her.
All in all, an exhausting debate.