I'll be live-blogging here. Keep reloading this post (or the homepage) for updates.
You can see my previous live-blogs by clicking on the "live-blog" tag.
For more live-blogging of tonight's debate, I recommend checking out TalkingPointsMemo, National Review, or Althouse (my mom).
As always, I'll write down any quotes in real time, so they might not be verbatim but I'll try to get them as close as possible.
8:07 - A harmonically rich arrangement of the national anthem.
8:08 - Rick Santorum introduces his 93-year-old mother. We see her standing up as the crowd applauds her. Then Santorum says: "I'd better stop there."
8:10 - Santorum is asked what he thinks of Mitt Romney's statement in the last debate that government should nudge illegal immigrants into choosing to "self-deport." Santorum strongly agrees.
8:13 - Newt Gingrich's rebuttal: "I don't think grandmothers and grandfathers will 'self-deport.'"
8:15 - Romney: "I don't think anybody is interested in running around the country and rounding up 11 million Americans — excuse me, illegal immigrants . . ."
8:16 - This is the first time I can remember seeing an exception to what I thought seemed to be a rule:
Is there some rule that every debate needs to bring up immigration, but only near the end? There seems to be some consensus that immigration is so important that it always needs to be debated, but it's unimportant enough to wait till the audience has stopped paying attention.8:17 - Gingrich points out that if we tried to deport illegal immigrants, they'd "end up in a church, which would give them sanctuary." "We're not gonna walk in there and grab a grandmother out and then kick 'em [sic] out."
8:18 - Gingrich says Romney is the most anti-immigrant candidate in the race. Romney responds very forcefully, taking umbrage at the "highly charged epithet." "I'm not anti-immigrant. My father was born in Mexico. My mother was born in Wales." Gingrich coyly says he'd like to hear what term Romney would like to have applied to himself.
Jonah Goldberg's take on that exchange:
That was Mitt's best counterattack in 10 debates.8:21 - Romney to Gingrich: "Our problem is not 11 million grandmothers."
8:23 - Romney oddly says: "I think English should be the official language of the United States, as it is." No it isn't.
8:25 - Ana Marie Cox says on Twitter:
Newt: "No one should get trapped in a linguistic situation." Too late for poor Rick Perry...8:31 - Gingrich: "The contracts I signed with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac said I would do 'no consulting.'" And we know that everyone always does what it says in contracts.
8:31 - Romney's response to Gingrich's attack on him for investing in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: "My investments for the past 10 years have not been made by me. They're in a blind trust." Romney gives more details on how these investments are made, and then asks Gingrich if it sounds familiar. An awkward pause, and then Romney points out to Gingrich: "You also have investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac!"
8:37 - Santorum pleads for an end to the personal attacks on Gingrich and Romney: "Can we set aside that Newt Gingrich was a member of Congress and used the skills he gained there to advise companies, and that Mitt Romney is a wealthy guy because he worked hard?"
8:42 - Moderator Wolf Blitzer asks Gingrich about comments he's made criticizing Romney for investing in the Cayman Islands and Swiss banks. Gingrich echoes Santorum, saying we should just talk about "governing the country." Blitzer points out that Gingrich made those attacks just a few days ago. Gingrich glibly says he's not going to talk about it tonight, even though he's "perfectly happy to say that in an interview on a TV show." (Yes, those are Gingrich's words about himself!) Romney: "Wouldn't it be nice if people didn't make accusations somewhere else that they're not willing to make here?" Romney again explains how his investments were made (by an independent trustee, so that Romney wouldn't have any conflicts of interest). Then he launches into a powerful defense of the fact that he's earned his money, invested that money, and realized big returns on his investments. I've been tired of the personal attacks on Romney for a while, so I find him very appealing here.
8:49 - Wolf Blitzer points out that if Ron Paul were elected, he'd be the oldest president ever when inaugurated. Blitzer asks if he'll release his medical records. Paul: "Obviously, because it's about 1 page, if even that long. I'm willing to challenge anyone up here to a 25-mile bike ride in the heat of Texas." He jokingly adds: "You know, there are laws against age discrimination, so if you push this too much, you'd better be careful!" Gingrich chimes in: "He's in great shape."
8:53 - Gingrich is asked how he can be in favor of colonizing the moon and dramatically lowering taxes. Of course, he doesn't explain it. "I'd like to see an American on the moon before the Chinese get there." Why?
8:55 - Santorum smartly calls out Gingrich for his fiscal irresponsibility in calling for lavish new funding of the space program.
8:55 - Paul: "I don't think we should go to the moon. I think we should send some politicians up there sometimes."
8:57 - Gingrich implausibly claims that under his leadership, the space program would suddenly become 90% privatized.
8:58 - Romney says that if he were still working in business and someone made a proposal like Gingrich's space program, he'd say: "You're fired." I'm glad to see that Romney hasn't been cowed by the absurd attacks on him for saying he likes being able to fire people who aren't doing good work.
9:00 - Paul calls out Gingrich for claiming to have balanced the budget, saying the debt skyrocketed by a trillion dollars when Gingrich was Speaker. Gingrich seems to have no disagreement with this!
9:05 - Romney highlights the negative unintended consequences of the tax deductions for employers' health care plans: most Americans get health insurance through their employer, so they stop getting health insurance if they lose their job or even decide to change jobs. I completely agree with Romney that this is a huge problem.
9:09 - Santorum attacks Romney and Gingrich for supporting a mandate to buy health insurance. Gingrich claims that he didn't support a mandate at the federal level. Really?
9:11 - Romney makes his usual move of explaining why Romneycare was a good idea, without being clear on how any of his points are different from Obamacare. Santorum points this out: "What he just said is factually incorrect. Your mandate is no different from Barack Obama's mandate."
9:23 - Wolf Blitzer asks every candidate why his wife would make the best First Lady. Paul says his wife, Carol Paul, wrote a cookbook. Romney describes Ann Romney's battles with multiple sclerosis and cancer. Gingrich rejects the premise that Callista Gingrich would necessarily be the best First Lady, since the other candidates' wives are all fantastic; however, Callista would bring "an artistic flavor." Santorum says his wife, Karen Santorum, was a neonatal intensive care nurse for 9 years. She became interested in the ethical issues raised in that job, so she got a law degree, but she left the legal field to become a mother of 7. She wrote a book on their experience losing a child, and she also wrote a Christianity-based book on manners. [Correction: Santorum didn't explicitly say that the manners book was based on Christianity, though it might have been. Santorum just said it teaches manners "through stories," which is "how Christ taught us."]
9:30 - Romney admits: "I became more conservative when I was governor."
9:34 - Paul is asked what he'd say if President of Cuba Raul Castro called him. "I'd ask what he was calling about!"
9:36 - Nate Silver (on Twitter) makes a good point:
A basic debate skill is looking for opportunities to go on offense when you're losing. Newt seems to lack it, or doesn't know he's losing.9:40 - Romney and Gingrich give the expected answers on Israel: they'll always side with Israel, and Palestinians need to recognize Israel's right to exist.
9:43 - Here's an issue I didn't expect to come up: should Puerto Rico become a state? Santorum says Puerto Rico should get a plebiscite to voice their opinion on the issue, but Santorum himself takes no position. Wolf Blitzer simplistically says: "I'll take that as a maybe!"
9:47 - The candidates are asked about the role of religion in government. Gingrich talks about what it means to be "truly faithful." Does he really want to pitch himself as the expert in being faithful? Then he launches into his usual hyperbole about how the news media and the courts are "waging a war" against Christianity.
9:49 - Santorum says all constitutional rights come from God, not the state. They can't come from the state, or else "everything can be taken away." "The role of the government is to protect rights that cannot be taken away." I don't buy this mysticism about legal rights.
9:58 - As the debate is wrapping up, National Review's Rich Lowry says:
newt has lost the debate and prob the primary