I'll be live-blogging the debate here — while trying to make risotto! Keep reloading this post for more updates.
There's more live-blogging going on by National Review, TPM, Althouse (my mom), and Alex Knepper.
8:49 — Rand Paul gives an opening statement strongly bearing down on his unorthodox views on foreign policy and terrorism.
8:50 — John Kasich says his daughter doesn't like politics because it's too darn loud.
8:53 — Carly Fiorina says, "It's time to take our country back" — but "insults won't take our country back." She describes how she's been repeatedly tested, including being "called every B word in the book."
8:54 — Jeb Bush's theme (in his attempt to salvage his campaign) is that these are "serious times," so we need a serious leader like him.
8:56 — Marco Rubio reminisces about his grandfather telling him they're in the greatest country in the history of the world — in contrast with President Obama, who wants America to be more like the rest of the world.
8:58 — Ben Carson begins his opening statement with a moment of silence for the victims of the attack on San Bernardino.
9:01 — Moderator Wolf Blitzer asks Donald Trump if "the way to make America great again is to isolate ourselves from the world."
9:03 — When Bush is asked about Trump's proposal to bar non-American Muslims from entering the country, Bush hits Trump hard, calling him "unhinged" and unfit to be commander-in-chief. "He is a chaos candidate, and he would be a chaos president." [VIDEO.]
9:06 — Cruz is asked about Trump's proposal, and doesn't take the bait to attack Trump. He briefly says he "understand[s]" why Trump proposed it, and quickly pivots to attacking Obama.
9:09 — Fiorina focuses on technology, noting that social media as we know it didn't exist when the Patriot Act was enacted.
9:13 — Kasich emphasizes the need to work with our Arab and European allies.
9:14 — Cruz stands by his vote for a law to reform our "bulk collection of metadata of law-abiding citizens." Rubio disagrees: "We are now at a time when we need more tools, not less tools." Cruz retorts by calling Rubio a liar, saying he "knows that what he is saying is not true."
9:17 — Paul agrees with Cruz's vote but takes a much stronger position, saying the metadata collection made us "less safe." Paul adds that Rubio is "the weakest of all the candidates on immigration" since he's for "an open border." "Rubio has more of an allegiance to Chuck Schumer and the liberals than to conservative policy." [VIDEO.]
9:20 — Christie slams all three of the Senators who were talking about metadata — Cruz, Rubio, and Paul — suggesting that they've "never had to make a consequential decision." Christie declares that the viewers "don't care" about "which bill these guys like more."
9:22 — Bush on surveillance by the FBI and NSA: "We shouldn't even be talking about it!"
9:26 — Fiorina points out that Obama should have consulted with "the private sector" while creating the infamous healthcare.gov.
9:33 — Alex Knepper observes:
The right whines about 'political correctness' so often that it is starting to truly degrade the power of the term, much like 'racist' doesn't have the impact it used to due to overuse by the left.9:36 — Another dust-up between Rubio and Cruz on fighting terrorism.
9:37 — Trump is asked why he supports killing terrorists' families. Trump says: "That will make [terrorists] think, because they may not care much about their lives, but they do, believe it or not, care about their families." Bush says that's "crazy." Trump retorts that Bush is "very nice," but "we need toughness." They then descend into crosstalk, aggressively interrupting each other. Trump: "I know you're trying to build up your energy, Jeb, but it's not working!"
9:43 — Paul says Trump's proposal on the internet would require getting rid of the First Amendment, and his position on terrorists' families would require us to withdraw from the Geneva Convention. Trump responds incredulously: "So they can kill us, but we can't kill them?!" When Trump clarifies his position on the internet, the audience boos, and Trump directly tells the audience he can't understand why they're booing: "These are people who want to kill us!"
9:48 — Rubio sounds impressive with his knowledge of Syria, but Paul interjects: "That's factually incorrect."
9:50 — Fiorina, who explicitly refused to play the gender card in the first main debate that included her (see 10:55 here), quotes Margaret Thatcher: "If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman." [Ian Tuttle of National Review objects: "Conservatives are respecters of individuals, and of reasoned arguments over mating calls, and should act and speak accordingly."]
9:54 — As CNN cuts to a commercial and the camera backs away from the stage, we see some revealing body language: Cruz shakes Trump's hand, and Trump pats Cruz on the back, while Trump, with a serious look on his face, appears to say just a couple words to Cruz.
9:58 — Cruz maintains that the focus should be on killing terrorists rather than promoting democracy.
9:59 — Cruz mocks Obama for seeking to work with "moderate rebels." "It's like a purple unicorn — they never exist!" [VIDEO.]
10:01 — Trump pauses for a few seconds while a protester yells during his time. Then Trump says we should have taken the $4 or 5 trillion we spent on "nation building," which we got "nothing" out of, and instead spent it on infrastructure in the United States. Fiorina: "That's exactly what Obama said!"
10:04 — In response to a series of questions about whether to try to spread democracy in the Middle East, Carson points out that on airplanes, the announcement says that in case of an emergency, you should put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. "We need oxygen now."
10:07 — Cruz obnoxiously keeps speaking while Blitzer tries to cue Hugh Hewitt to ask Trump a question, and the audience boos Cruz.
10:11 — My mind was starting to wander amid all this foreign policy talk, but then Kasich grabbed my attention by saying: "It's time that we punched the Russians in the nose."
10:14 — Christie calls Obama a "feckless weakling." Christie says he'd shoot down Russian planes in a no-fly zone over Syria, even if this would risk war with Russia. "It's called a no-fly zone. Maybe it's because I'm from New Jersey — I just have this plain-language hang-up." Paul responds, while pointing to Christie: "If you're in favor of World War III, you have your candidate!"
10:16 — Bush's explanation for why he'd be better than Trump at dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin: "I know what I don't know. I will seek out the advice." Knepper says:
Jeb "Socrates" Bush knows what he doesn't know! (But can he be as wise as Rumsfeld and consider what he doesn't know he doesn't know?)10:18 — Trump scolds the moderators for starting so many of their questions, especially in the earlier debate (with the lower-tier candidates) with asking about what "Mr. Trump" has said. Trump says it's "in order to get ratings," and it's "very unprofessional." Bush suggests that if Trump thinks this debate is "tough," he isn't ready to be president. Trump sarcastically responds, "Oh yeah, you're a tough guy, Jeb!" [VIDEO.]
10:21 — Carson says just because he's quiet and not "boisterous" doesn't mean he wouldn't be a strong leader. "I don't do a lot of talking. I do a lot of doing." (So there, Carly Fiorina!)
10:25 — CNN gets Cruz and Rubio to go after each other for a third time, this time over immigration. CNN has used a split screen of the two every time this happens, clearly trying to play up the rivalry between the two 44-year-old first-term Senators. Yet again, Cruz accuses Rubio of lying about Cruz's record: "It's like saying the firefighter and the arsonist have the same record because they're both at the scene of the fire." [VIDEO.] [Added later: Politico says this was the #1 "takeaway" from the debate:]
Rubio is the Barack Obama of 2008: He rises to big moments, lives up to the hype, and is a gifted communicator and performer. There’s a reason Hillary Clinton allies fear Rubio, and are suddenly publicly pushing the idea that the GOP nominee will be Cruz, an opponent they would much prefer.10:29 — Trump calls himself "very hard-line" on immigration. "You just need to speak to the people of Israel — walls work, if they're properly constructed. I know how to build."
Rubio is better than Obama was at this point in ’08, and way more consistent. Tangling with Cruz, Rubio was much more detailed and convincing.
10:34 — Paul is asked whether he'd send home the 2,000 Syrian refugees who have already been admitted to the US. He says he "hasn't taken a position" on that, but he wouldn't allow any new ones.
10:35 — A college student, asking a question by video, suggests that taking in Syrian refugees is biblically mandated. Christie responds directly to the student, saying his top priority as president would be to keep her and her family safe. (I wish he had added that the role of government is not to carry out biblical mandates.)
10:45 — I've found Carson dull throughout this debate. He tries to show off his knowledge by listing the antiquated weapons in our arsenal. I've been mostly tuning out this latter part of the debate — it's hard to pay attention to two hours of fast talk about foreign policy in the evening.
10:51 — Trump and Cruz are both asked about their willingness or unwillingness to attack each other in public. Trump pats Cruz on the back and says he's gotten to know Cruz better just in the last 3 or 4 days. At the beginning of Cruz's answer, Trump interjects: "You better not attack!" They both decline the invitation to attack each other.
10:54 — Trump is asked if he can assure us that he'll "run as a Republican and abide by the decision of the Republicans." "I really am. . . . I'm totally committed to the Republican Party. . . . I'll do everything in my power to beat Hillary Clinton." [VIDEO.]
11:03 — Bush stumbles through his closing statement. You can sense that he knows he's not doing enough in this debate.
11:06 — In Trump's closing statement (the last one of the night), he seems to be exhausted, running out of steam — as if he's one of those dolls who says a few recorded statements when you pull a string on its back, but the batteries are running low: "We aren't winning anymore . . . If I am president, we will win again. We will have a great, great country — greater than ever before."