Steve will be arriving momentarily…

4:40PM Tonight’s drunkblog presents a new challenge. It’s not the general awfulness of one these joint-press-conferences-disguised-as-a-debate. It’s not the specific awfulness of the moderators. And it certainly isn’t the quality of the booze, I assure you. These are problems I’d conquered, as much as is possible, long ago. No, the problem is my stupid thyroid. I’m so amped up this week that I sober up almost as quickly as I can drink.

And as longtime VodkaPundit readers know, I can drink a lot.

So stick with me and let’s see how this goes. It might just be the world’s first-ever buzz-free drunkblog.

4:47PM I’d like to amend that 4:40PM entry. (All times Pacific.) I have no on my desk a jug of whiskey and enough ice to sink the Titanic. I’m just going to power through this thing.

4:49PM The following is a conversation I had with my five-year-old son, Preston, just a few minutes ago.

Me: I have to cover the debate tonight, so I won’t be at dinner.
Son: What’s a debate?
Me: It’s when politicians argue on TV.
Son: How long until they agree?
Me: They don’t.
Son: That’s stupid. Am I allowed to say stupid?
Me: Not about your friends. But politicians are OK.

4:55PM CNBC has thoughtfully provided a room full of college students too foolish to avoid running up less than 50k worth of debt for bachelors degrees in Things You Can’t Monetize.

4:57PM PJMedia’s Austin editor, Bryan Preston, has a live chat going. Open that in a new window and keep an eye on both. You’ll be so informed, you’ll think you’re Alec Baldwin.

5:01PM CNBC just called Michigan “a snapshot of America’s pain.”

No, Michigan is a preview of our pain, if we don’t change course.

5:02PM Here we go…

5:03PM How many more of these before they stop inviting Santorum and Bachmann? I mean, if they can’t have Gary Johnson, there’s no reason for those two.

5:04PM Big applause for Herman Cain. I’m afraid the conservative backlash against his MSM treatment might make him the nominee. And I have enough nines already, thank you very much.

5:04PM Jim Cramer is going to be asking questions!

5:05PM No opening or closing statements tonight, which takes away two damn fine reasons to drink.

I’ll make up for it. Promise.

5:05PM To Cain: Save Italy.

5:06PM Cain: I’ll make us so rich, we can buy Italy like a college kid buys a pizza.

I might have paraphrased. But there’s also stuff about a strong dollar and a weak Obama… and I’m sure if he keeps going he’ll say something germaine.

5:06PM To Romney: Should we allow Italy to fail?

5:07PM Romney: Yup.

Except Romney never says Yup. But you knew that already.

5:08PM To Romney: Do we ditch the IMF then?

Romney: Shucks, darlin’, we can help the IMF.

Except you know Romney never said that.

5:08PM Romney is now saying we’ll end up like Italy in four or five years. Or — and this is frightening — like Michigan.

5:09PM Cramer is talking to Ron Paul, but mostly he’s covering his microphone in spittle.

5:09PM Paul: “This bubble was predictable” and the Fed FED FED BAWK BAWK BAWK!

5:10PM Huntsman: My hair is just as nice as Romney’s. And also things about Italy and Too Big to Fail.

5:12PM To Romney: Why don’t you love bailouts except when you love bailouts?

5:12PM Romney: I’m from Michigan, I love Michigan, and I will do whatever it takes to help Michigan, especially if it involves flips or flops.

5:13PM Followup to Romney: Seriously, why are you such a flipflopper?

5:14PM Romney: I’ve been married to the same woman for more years than I can properly remember — I’m no flipflopper!

5:15PM To Perry: Why aren’t you a flipflopper like Mitt? (I swear I’m not exaggerating.)

5:16PM Perry: Government won’t pick winners and losers, not like in Texas.

5:17PM To Newt: Why is tax reform so important to job creation?

Newt: I’d fire Ben Bernanke. [BIG CHEERS]

We like GOP audiences, because they know the really good applause lines.

5:17PM Out of Context Line of the Night: “Finally, class warfare!” – Newt.

5:18PM Bachmann: “Taxes lead to jobs leaving the country.”

5:19PM Bachmann: “We have to legalize American energy.”

Nice line, but she rushed it and stepped on it and everyone but me missed it.

5:20PM To Santorum: Simplify taxes?

Santorum: Herp, derp, derp.

Sorry, but some people just bring out that human instinct to drop cinder blocks on their toes. That’s what Santorum does for me.

5:21PM Santorum: “I’m different than a many of them.”

5:21PM To Cain: Are you really the schmuck the MSM says you are? (There were boos to this question.)

5:22PM Cain: “Unfounded accusations.” And wild applause. I’m serious: GOP backlash to the MSM might just give this guy the nomination and Obama four more years in the White House.

5:23PM To Romney: Would you fire Herman Cain? (Big boos.)

Romney: I’m so presidential, I’m not going to put down somebody I’m sure I can beat in a fair vote.

5:23PM CNBC is putting on a circus. A big, dumb circus.

5:25PM Huntsman bravely took a stand: “I want to be President of the 99%. I also want to be President of the 1%.”

He also likes capitalism and hates bailouts and enjoys long walks on the beach and lots of jobs for everyone.

5:26PM To Romney (again): Why do you love that evil Milton Friedman unless you don’t?

5:26PM Romney: I love profits AND people.

We’ll call this maneuver “the Huntsman.”

5:27PM Really, what Romney is saying is correct. And yet he still came across as a flipflopper.

5:28PM Perry: I have a flat tax to get people making money and working. Also, I have a flag.

Seriously. He said that.

5:28PM Newt: I’m going to teach those OWS fools some history.

Not a bad idea. Probably better than running for President.

5:30PM Cramer: We have oil in North Dakota, should we give them federal handouts to get things started?

5:30PM Santorum: “Let the marketplace work.” Also, “thank you for letting me be on TV again tonight.”

I made up that second part.

5:31PM Back to tax reform. Question to Cain: Isn’t 9-9-9 really mean to poor people?

5:32PM Cain: “I throw out the current tax code… 9-9-9… it’s simple… it’s transparent.”

True. I still think it’s dangerous to give Washington a sales tax and an income tax at the same time. They catch you coming and going. With a buzzsaw, eventually.

5:34PM To Romney: Why do you hate tax reform?

Romney: I’d like a flatter tax. To help the middle class. And Obama is killing the middle class.

Please note that Romney is the only one consistently acting like a nominee, taking the fight to Obama.

That’s not an endorsement, just an observation.

5:36PM Bachmann: Obama needs to talk to job creators, not to “General Axelrod.”

Again, a good line. Again, she delivered it so flat that nobody noticed. “General Axelrod” — I wish I’d thought of that!

5:36PM Ron Paul: My tax plan is to cut spending.

Ah-flipping-men.

5:38PM Bless Paul for demanding an interest rate increase. Bernanke’s “free” money is killing us. When stuff is free, people get stupid — and money has been essentially free for years now. See what it’s done for us?

5:39PM Commercial break, and let me be honest and tell you I need the rest.

5:39PM Commercial break, and let me be honest and tell you I need the rest.

5:41PM I see what CNBC is trying to do — keep things moving, keep the Controversy Quotient in the high three digits, and provide a lot fo shouting.

Well, they got the last part down pat. The rest is a fair-to-middling flop so far.

5:42PM Hang tight — CNBC’s webcast just froze up. I’m working on it.

5:48PM Technical problems, but I think me and my crack team (also me) has things fixed now. Lesson: Chrome is a very naughty browser and can’t be trusted.

5:48PM I came in late, so I have no idea of Bachmann is talking about. But I’m used to that.

5:49PM Newt: Why did you take money from Frannie and Freddie?

Newt: They didn’t take my advice.

Nicely done, Newt.

5:50PM Newt: Break up Frannie and Freddie.

Big applause. Smart audience.

5:51PM Cain: The real problem is “growing this economy.”

5:51PM I know I’ve complained about CNBC, but give them kudos for mostly staying out of the gutter on the Cain allegations.

5:52PM Cain: “You don’t solve a problem from right in the middle of it.”

I’m not the only one drunk, it seems.

5:53PM Huntsman: There are real issues, very real issues, with slack.

5:54PM Huntsman would charge fees to giant banks to do… something.

That’s his solution to Too Big to Fail?

5:54PM Huntsman is just flailing now.

5:55PM Tips for newbies: Don’t use the word “efficacious” on national TV.

5:55PM Paul: We ought to have the right to “opt out of everything.”

Can I get an amen?

5:56PM Perry is on again, but it’s impossible not to notice that he’s been dumped by the hosts into the second tier of candidates.

5:57PM Cain: “Princess Nancy sent it to committee.”

Lines like that are why I love Cain despite my problems with his program.

5:57PM Romney: My plan is so presidential I need to point my many fingers in all kinds of directions.

5:58PM Newt: “My colleagues have done an excellent job of answering an absurd question.”

And that’s why I love Newt.

5:59PM Newt will also challenge Obama to “seven Lincoln-Douglass style debates.”

I’d watch. I’d require a liver transplant, but I’d watch.

6:00PM Newt just did a spiel about iron lungs and the polio vaccine. And conservatives wonder why people think the GOP is out-of-date.

6:01PM Santorum: I’m on TV!

6:02PM Santorum: I’ve led on many failed initiatives. MANY failed initiatives.

6:02PM Santorum has this in common with Obama: He loves to preen about how ineffectual he is.

6:03PM Romney: I can’t beleive I’m being called on to respond to anything Rick Santorum said.

6:05PM Romney: Yes, I do think there needs to be a very large government role, in a very small-government way.

That’s Romnomics in a nutshell.

6:05PM Ron Paul: I’m going cut the crap out of crap.

I had to work overtime to make that PG-13.

6:06PM Next commercial break.

6:09PM Next commercial break.

6:11PM Next commercial break.

6:12PM Rick Santelli — godfather of the Tea Party — will be on this segment.

6:12PM Do I really have to keep blogging answers from Rick Santorum?

6:14PM The kids who get a trophy just for showing up for a soccer game where nobody kept score? That’s Santorum at this debate. And at all the other debates.

By the way, feel free to repeat what I just wrote, replacing “Santorum” with the barely-candidate of your choice.

6:14PM To Romney: Man, you love to raise some taxes, huh?

6:15PM Romney: In MA, I “was always in an away game” with all the Dems in the assembly.

Cripes, but that’s a good line. I refuse to accept the inevitable, but I can’t help but thinking he’s inevitable.

6:16PM Perry: Texas nabbed Caterpillar!

6:17PM Perry: I will eliminate three departments of government, if only I could remember what they are.

Worst moment of the night. Seriously, Bachmann would have to flash her chest to do anything worth than Perry right now.

6:18PM Cain: “The government has no business picking winners and losers…” RE, NLRB and Boeing.

Which he then tied back to 999.

I need a drink.

6:19PM To Newt: How will you fund entitlements with this extended payroll tax holiday?

6:20PM Newt: It’s LBJ’s fault.

As a history buff, I love the history lessons. The GOP electorate? Not so much.

6:22PM Romney: “I don’t want to raise taxes on people in the middle of a recession.”

This is GOP boilerplate, but they’ve got to cut entitlements to match the FIFA tax cuts.

6:23PM Bachmann: “Obama did this [tax cut] for political reasons.”

Ummm….

6:24PM Huntsman says he’s lonely. Wait’ll he sees the Iowa caucuses

6:27PM To Paul: How would you bribe indebted college students to vote for you?

Paul: “Student loans is a total failure.”

6:29PM Huh. Paul also want to “end the Fed.” Who knew?

6:29PM To Newt: C’mon, won’t YOU pander to this room we filled with idiot college kids?

6:30PM Newt: No. The kids are idiots.

I paraphrase.

6:31PM Hey, Perry finally remembered that third department he’d eliminate.

Yeeeee-HAAAAAAAAAW.

6:32PM My own claim to shame: I once thought Perry would be The Guy.

#facepalm

6:34PM Honestly? I would rather lose control of my bowels in a crowded elevator than be Rick Perry on that stage tonight.

6:37PM Honestly? I would rather lose control of my bowels in a crowded elevator than be Rick Perry on that stage tonight.

6:38PM We’re back, a little late after another CNBC.com freeze-up. And Herman Cain is talking about bunches of nines.

I have no idea if I’m watching a live feed, a tape delay, or video from the future.

6:39PM Romney: “China is playing by different rules.”

6:39PM Romney: I would so tell on China

6:40PM To Newt: “How would you move the needle?”

Newt: I’d turn it up to eleven!

6:42PM Huntsman: “It’s a troublesome and problematic relationship” with China, but I will, as President, totally suck up to my friends in Beijing.

6:43PM “Governor Romney, are you pandering?”

Romney: Oh, heavens, no!

6:44PM To Bachmann: How do you open up the Chinese market to American goods?

Bachmann: China is nasty.

Yes, I paraphrased, but not by much.

6:45PM I have a solution to “enriching China with our money.” And that is: Make our money worthless.

Oh, wait –

6:45PM To Cain: Please answer the damn question with something other than a bunch of nines.

6:46PM Cain: We will provide certainties. And…. ack… can’t… must… WE HAVE NINES!!! Nine nine nine. I have them. You want them. NIIIIIIIIINES.

6:48PM Cain: The problem with Dodd-Frank is “Dodd and Frank.”

Oh, sweet jeebus, that was good.

6:48PM Perry: At this late hour, it is important to remember that I remember stuff. Maybe not all the stuff I’m saying in this moment, but important stuff nonetheless.

6:49PM Paul: “If you’re going after crony capitalism, I’m all for it.”

6:54PM Normally, I would do a wrap right about now, and try to sound much wiser than I actually am, after having drank a fishbowl full of whiskey and ice.

We, speaking editorially, will not be doing that tonight.

Instead, I’ll leave you with one small thought, and I hope it’s something you will take to bed with you, cuddle with it a little bit, and then try to remember its name tomorrow morning. And it is this:

As bad a job as CNBC did hosting tonight’s pretend debate, there is no way — not even if CNBC used CGI to replace the candidate’s faces with with Carrot Top’s — that the debate as a whole could suck even 1% less than Rick Perry forgetting his own program, live and on national TV.

6:55PM Normally, I would do a wrap right about now, and try to sound much wiser than I actually am, after having drank a fishbowl full of whiskey and ice.

We, speaking editorially, will not be doing that tonight.

Instead, I’ll leave you with one small thought, and I hope it’s something you will take to bed with you, cuddle with it a little bit, and then try to remember its name tomorrow morning. And it is this:

As bad a job as CNBC did hosting tonight’s pretend debate, there is no way — not even if CNBC used CGI to replace the candidate’s faces with with Carrot Top’s — that the debate as a whole could suck even 1% less than Rick Perry forgetting his own program, live and on national TV.