4:43PM I don’t (yet) have a horse in this race, which gives me a freedom of action tonight that not all right-leaning bloggers enjoy. And I’ll take complete advantage of that. But please remember that no matter who the nominee ends up being, I would almost certainly chew on barbed wire for the chance to vote for him or her over President Obama next year.
Which means that when I say “Ronulan” or “Palinista” or “Bachmannite,” I say it with love for the candidate and for you.
Well, except for you Huntsman people. Assuming you exist.
4:49PM Here come the candidates. If you squint, you can just see past Mitt’s hair and Rick’s teeth.
4:49PM It’s so cute how they let Newt and Huntsman up there with the big candidates.
4:53PM Watching Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman handicap the candidate reminds me a lot of eunuchs teaching the benefits of abstinence.
I think maybe this goes for Peggy Noonan, too.
4:55PM What’s with Bob Shrum tonight? I’m thinking his face is on a Lollipop Guild milk carton.
4:56PM Good Ron Paul ad, except for the part where he leaves out that he loved Reagan so much that he left the party in ’87. And then he resolutely stayed out of the party until he wanted a seat in Congress.
5:01PM Hey, MSNBC talent and crew — raise your hand if this is the first and last time you’ve ever been to the Reagan Library.
5:02PM Shocker: Americans think the economy will get worse, even though the President has scheduled a very big speech, just tomorrow night.
5:03PM First question goes to Perry: “Why does Texas suck?” I’m paraphrasing here.
5:03PM Perry looks comfortable. “We created one million jobs in Texas.” That’s his selling point, and he hit it fast.
5:04PM Follow up: “Seriously, why does Texas suck?”
5:04PM Mitt Romney is looking at Perry likes he’s a t-bone. And not in a gay way. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
5:04PM First question to Romney: You sucked as governor, huh?
5:05PM Mitt: “We created more jobs in MA than Obama has in the country.”
5:06PM Mitt sounds like a CEO, or an guy seeking startup money. I’m not sure if that’s a plus or a minus at this point.
5:06PM Yeah, it’s a minus.
5:07PM Perry followup: “I like Mitt, except for all the stuff he did as governor.”
5:08PM Whoa — seven minutes in and we’re going to talk to a third candidate already. Wait — almost. MItt gets a rebuttal.
5:08PM Mitt: Perry’s inflated claims like “Al Gore claiming he invented the internet.” Red meat for this crowd.
5:09PM Perry: Dukakis was better than you.
Mitt: Bush was better than you.
5:09PM Nine minutes to talk to… Rick Santorum?
5:10PM Santorum: “I’ve done things.” Um… what things?
5:10PM This format, to put it bluntly, sucks. Eight candidates talking like machine guns in the hands of hyperactive spider monkeys. Not good.
5:11PM Santorum got a minute. Cain is going to get a minute. Feel sorry for you Cain & Santorum people.
5:11PM Three nines? Yatzee!
5:12PM To Huntsman: Is China a currency manipulator?
So much for the red meat — Huntsman just got thrown a big bag of wet tofu.
5:13PM Huntsman: I was on an airplane once with Reagan!
Do a shot for the first Reagan plug.
5:13PM Huntsman: No, I created jobs!
I wish Johnson were here right now.
5:14PM Question to Bachmann: Say something very specific, and try not to embarrass yourself.
5:15PM Bachmann: “Obamacare is killing jobs.” With nice stories to back it up. Goes a long way to taking away the Crazy Eyes image.
5:15PM To Ron Paul: You’re crazy, right? Just tell us.
5:16PM I just noticed that MSNBC is doing Pop-Up Debate! Keep an eye on that for me, please. I have to use my ears, and keep my eyes on the drunkblog screen.
5:16PM Paul follow-up question: No, really, you’re bat-stuff crazy, yes?
5:17PM You know how to destroy a libertarian candidate in a short-form debate? Get him talking about libertarian theory. Brian Williams knows this.
Well done, Mr. Williams. Well done.
What a shame.
5:17PM To Newt: You have a total man-crush on Perry, don’t you?
5:18PM Newt’s funny. But he is SO not the guy to complain about another guy writing a book “just” about ideas. Newt has more ideas before breakfast than most people have cornflakes in their bowl. And most of them get soggy in milk.
5:19PM Pro Tip for Newt: Wide guys should not wear skinny ties. Just sayin’.
5:20PM MSNBC tech glitch. Do a shot.
5:21PM Aaaaaaaaaand we’re back to the Mitt & Rick Show. It’s a good show.
Also, to those NBC “experts” who said Mitt didn’t have to go after Mitt directly? Yeah… that was smart.
5:21PM My DVR software just hiccuped, kind of Max Headroom style. And MItt didn’t really seem that much more robotic than usual.
5:22PM To Perry: RomneyCare rocks, doesn’t it?
5:23PM There’s a theme here, and it’s “Texas sucks.” I think we’ll see a lot of that next year, even if Perry isn’t the nominee.
I’ll leave it to you to figure out exactly why.
5:24PM Perry: Texas has low insurance rates because of Washington.
He may be right, but that will take spin to explain in a short-form debate.
5:25PM You know, on paper, Huntsman really is a good candidate. But he’s in a box of low name recognition, and he’s trying to cut himself out of it by acting like a lefty.
GOP voters just won’t go for that, and he’s tamed it down tonight. A lot.
5:26PM Bachmann: She’s at her reasonable best, she really is. But Mitt was just looking at her like, “I know it’s Perry in that slot and so do you.”
5:27PM Newt: “I’m frankly not interested in your effort to get Republicans fighting each other.”
This is why I love Newt. It’s also why he won’t be the nominee. His job lies elsewhere, and he’s very, very good at it.
5:28PM Newt: “All of us are committed as a team… to defeat Barack Obama.”
As I was just saying…
5:28PM Cain: The individual mandate is not constitutional.
5:29PM In Cain’s Pop-Up Video, MSNBC did everything but put “Baptist Preacher” in scare quotes.
5:29PM Hey, Rick Santorum — I’d forgotten he was on stage. So had Brian Williams until just now.
5:30PM Question to Santorum: Why do you hate poor people?
5:31PM You know how bad Obama is? Santorum sounds really, really good right now.
5:32PM Question to Perry: OK, why do you hate black people?
5:32PM I do beleive that’s the first time I’ve ever heard a GOP candidate say “Anglo” with immediately following it with “Saxon.”
5:33PM Twitter questions!
5:33PM Question to Romney: Bachmann’s crazy, isn’t she?
5:34PM MItt’s saying the technogeek version of “drill, baby, drill.” I think I blacked out halfway through, waiting for him to breathe.
5:35PM Uh-oh. Bachmann’s using numbers. The press will spend 800 million column-inches tomorrow disproving them — especially if she’s right.
5:35PM Question to Huntsman: Bachmann’s nuts, huh?
5:36PM Huntsman: She’s only a little nuts. But I am so very sane, I can speak Chinese.
5:37PM Question to Paul: You’re against the minimum wage, you bastard.
5:38PM Paul: Instead of the usual libertarian rant (which I love), he went after Perry. Or maybe Mitt. I’m having trouble telling them apart.
5:39PM Paul: “A silver dime is worth $3.50.”
This is not the kind of thing you can say in a short-form debate, and still sound like a sane person. Compare it to Groucho Marx’s “seven cent nickel” routine to see what I mean.
5:39PM Perry just went after Paul — reducing his stature and increasing Paul’s. Bad move, governor.
5:40PM Commercial break. BRB after these important trips to the men’s room.
5:44PM Did you know that no matter how you rearrange the letters in “Rachel Maddow,” you can never spell “MILF?”
5:46PM Did NBC just play Sinatra’s “Nancy With The Laughing Face” during their Reagan tribute to remind viewers about the Nancy/Frank nooner rumor?
5:47PM There’s a lot of love on that stage for Nancy.
5:47PM Question to Perry: Why do you hate old people?
5:48PM Perry: Social Security is wrong, and I’m here to save it.
That was pretty weak.
5:49PM Follow-up to Perry: No, really, you hate the old people don’t you?
5:50PM Moderator called “TIME!” just as Perry was obviously finishing a sentence. Lame.
5:51PM Question to Romney: Explain to us why Perry hates old people.
5:52PM Perry on SS: The status quo is a Ponzi scheme.
You know what? It was obvious to me back in the ’80s that SS was a Ponzi scheme. But if you say it out loud? You’ll be crucified by the left and by the press — but I repeat myself.
5:53PM Cain: Let’s be more like Chile! (Or Chill-lay.)
5:53PM Question to Paul: Perry wants to force girls to do things, doesn’t he?
5:54PM Paul: I will not use executive orders to write laws.
But will he sign an executive order to that effect?
5:55PM Bachmann has really been at her best tonight — and also at her most invisible.
5:56PM Perry: “I hate cancer,” unlike the rest of you squares — begging forgiveness from Tom Lehrer.
This HPV thing, some candidates are treading dangerously close to the “vaccinations cause autism” line. And that’s not a good place to be.
5:57PM They’re going to town on the Perry/HPV thing, especially Santorum.
5:58PM Romney is trying to square the circle on this one — and I think he’s doing it. Nice moment.
5:58PM And then Mitt turned it into “I love America,” and into a general critique of Obama. It was a damn fine moment.
5:59PM Newt then and turned it into a debate about homeland security.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Oscar?
Seriously, bad timing.
6:00PM Paul: “Look at the monstrosity we have at the airports.”
6:01PM Question to Paul: Why do you want the weather to kill people?
6:01PM And… Paul gets baited (again) into a libertarian rant. It makes my pulse quicken — but most people tune out. Don’t take the bait, Ron!
6:02PM Um… Mr. Paul? Telling GOP voters to take money away from the troops to spend it on “whatever” is not a winning move. Mmkay?
6:03PM Question to Huntsman: Why do you want people to die on airplanes?
6:04PM Cripes, but I need another drink. Don’t ask how many.
6:05PM Here’s Huntsman’s problem: He has fine ideas and a good presentation. But he has no natural constituency. Since Rubio won’t take the job – Huntsman for Veep? Thinking out loud here.
6:05PM Question to Perry: Why do you hate Texas schoolchildren?
6:06PM Perry: “I stand by our record.”
If the MSM turns the 2012 election into a question of a GOP governor cutting spending for nice things, Obama wins.
6:07PM Newt, dude, I’m not skinny enough to wear that tie, and I have a hyperactive thyroid.
6:07PM New moderator: Jose Diaz from Telemundo.
6:08PM Question to Perry: Reagan got suckered by immigration amnesty, so why won’t you?
6:09PM Perry just said something smart, but stupid. He proposed putting Predator UAVs on patrol on the border. But wait for the Left to claim that he’d use Predators to shoot Hellfire missiles at migrants.
6:10PM Romney: Business, sanctuary cities, and other “magnets” draw in illegals. And “no amnesty.”
6:11PM Newt: Let’s outsource stuff to Amex.
I know I’m drunk, so did he really just say that?
6:12PM Hey, Rick Santorum — remember him?
Me neither. And that still goes double for Brian Williams.
6:13PM Question to Santorum: You’re gonna round up the illegal into concentration camps, huh?
6:14PM Question to Bachmann: You’re for the concentration camps and stupid-cheap gas, so you’re just crazy, right?
6:15PM It needs to be said again: This is Bachmann’s most mainstream performance on the national stage — and she’s not making any headway.
6:15PM Ouch. I might have to take back my last post, as Bachmann just intimated that illegals are diseased. They’ll rip her apart for that tomorrow.
6:16PM Huntsman dropped the R-word again. I’m pretty sure he’s the only one on stage to mention Reagan by name, and I’m also pretty sure it’s an act of desperation.
6:19PM Paul: Honestly, he’s lost me. No clue what he’s saying. “Fence business” to “keep us in” make him sound like the “angry, constipated chicken” I called him a few weeks ago on PJTV.
Such good ideas. Such lousy presentation.
6:20PM Commercial break. Even MSNBC has to pay the bills. Although since they fired Keith Olbermann, their bills got cut in half.
Yes, even MSNBC is ruled by ruthless capitalists.
6:23PM Lightning round, where the stakes get really big!
I can’t beleive this is a real televised debate.
6:23PM Mitt: I’m not Tea Party, unless I am…
6:24PM To Perry: You’re s crazy about raising your hand as these other seven jokers, aren’t you?
6:25PM Note to Perry: Generally, Americans got tired to Texas euphemisms about snakes and stuff around 2005. Too soon, OK?
6:25PM Bachmann: Nothing about snakes, but lots about Reagan. Do a shot!
6:26PM Huntsman: I’m too good to take pledges.
Did you know you can rearrange the letters in “Jon Huntsman” to spell “toast?” Close enough, anyway.
6:28PM Mitt: I love poor people. Or something. There’s a crisis of confidence — because of Obama.
Kudos to Mitt for bringing it back to POTUS. Twice. More like this, please.
6:28PM Perry: Why do you hate the War on Terror?
6:29PM Er, that was QUESTION to Perry.
6:29PM Perry: Really stumbling on this one — bringing in spending and Gitmo and Keynes. His worst moment of the night, nearly incoherent.
6:30PM Wow. Amazingly bad. Perry is going to have to bone up on foreign policy, and fast.
6:32PM Bachmann: Obama has weakened us militarily.
6:33PM Bachmann five months ago sounded crazy on Libya, with outrageous claims of NATO killing 30,000 civilians. Tonight, she sounds measured and sane. Too late, I think.
6:33PM Santorum: I’ll bomb the crap out of crap, like Reagan! (Only Reagan didn’t do that. Shhh.)
6:35PM Question to Huntsman: Why do you hate Republicans?
6:36PM Huntsman: I can get elected and I can lead.
Um… you have to get the nomination first, Mr. Ambassador.
6:37PM Perry: “The science is not settled.”
Science is never settled, Governor — and THAT is the line of attack.
Again, Perry is stumbling on this one. He came in strong, but these last 20 minutes have been weak.
6:38PM Question to Bachmann: Why do you want the Exxon Valdez to crash in the Everglades?
6:40PM Bachmann: Obama wants to turn us into Spain.
If that means brandy and tapas, count me in!
6:40PM Newt: “I would fire [Bernanke] tomorrow.”
No applause? Really? Great line. Maybe Newt muffed it, or maybe Brian Williams has put the audience to sleep. You make the call.
6:43PM Mitt: He loves the troops. And people who don’t pay taxes. And the middle class. And he has a proposal.
OK, if I were an investor, I’d give Mitt some money. As a voter? I’m not sold yet.
6:44PM Question to Perry: Why do you execute innocents so cavalierly?
6:45PM Perry: I kill killers.
Bush scored some points with similar line of thought in one of his debates against Gore in 2000 — but it helped cement his reputation with the Left as (somehow) anti-minority.
6:46PM Cain: I’m for lots of nines.
He’s trying out his own “where’s the beef” line, but it’s not catching fire. I don’t know if that’s his fault, the moderator’s, or the formar’s. Whichever, it isn’t working.
6:47PM Question to Paul: Why do you hate hungry children?
6:48PM Paul: Another lovely libertarian answer, for which he will be crucified.
6:50PM Wow. Brian Williams called the debate to a very abrupt end — practically in the middle of an off-putting Ron Paul ramble.
Coincidence? I wonder…
6:52PM Perry passed the presidential test. So did Romney — but we knew that from 2008. But the question is: Did Romney pass the Perry test?
It will likely take a few more debates to sort that one out.
6:52PM Other than Mitt & Rick — how did the debate go? Give me just a minute to ponder on that one.
6:54PM I’m a small-l libertarian with a conservative temperament, which is a fancy way of saying there was no one candidate on that stage tonight who perfectly meets my views. Although I’m hardly alone in that, I’m sure — no matter what your own philosophy might be.
6:54PM That said — and I’m a registered independent — I am amazingly proud of how this GOP field performed tonight.
6:55PM The venue — the Reagan Library — was as friendly as can be. The moderators — NBC and MSNBC — was as hostile as can be, outside of the darkest lefty corners of fringe talk radio.
6:57PM And these candidates put on a damn fine show. There wasn’t anyone I agreed with fully — as expected. But there also wasn’t anyone I wouldn’t choose in a heartbeat over the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And I’m not sure I fully expected that to happen.
6:58PM For all the talk you hear in the MSN about how weak or weird or crazy this GOP field is, really what Republican voters face here is –almost– an embarrassment of riches.
6:59PM We have four or five more of these debates coming in the next few weeks, and for the first time I’m actually looking forward to them.
7:05PM And I have to tell you, I haven’t looked forward to a presidential debate since before I was able to drink legally.
Maybe that has more to do with Obama than any of candidates themselves — and I suspect that it does. But I’ll take this opportunity to quote Robert Heinlein, who said that the difference between bad and worse is much greater than the difference between good and better.
And most any of these candidates — even Santorum, whom I despise, and Huntsman, who I think is useless at best — rises above Heinlein’s level of “bad.”
7:07PM And with that, it’s time to pass OUT.