4:36PM What an auspicious beginning to tonight’s debate — CNN is talking to totally disinterested David Axelrod to give his opinions of the GOP candidates. I suppose CNN’s rationale is that Axelrod no longer works in the White House, having gone back to Chicago to run Obama’s reelection campaign.
I need a drink. Oh, wait — lookie here.
4:40PM And now, a riddle.
Q: How do you tell the difference between CNN and MSNBC?
A: One makes you wish it made you laugh.
4:42PM Tonight’s drunkblog is brought to you by A Big Bucket of Scotch.
(No, I don’t always drink vodka. Did the Galloping Gourmet always gallop?)
4:44PM Overheard: “Newt needs to prove he has a campaign.” Heh. On PJTV a few minutes ago, I announced my candidacy for the GOP nomination. And then I announced my withdrawal from consideration. And in so doing, I had as much impact on the race as Newt.
4:51PM So Mittens is the frontrunner, which should make him a target. But he’s a weak frontrunner, not much beloved by anyone — and the Tea Party remains deeply suspicious. And with good reason.
But — if the other contenders spend too much time attacking Mittens (I’m thinking here of T-Paw) they risk making him appear even more of a frontrunner.
4:51PM Here come the introductions…
4:52PM Lilly white podiums. What is the set dresser trying to tell us?
4:52PM Waiting to hear how many Ronulans are stacked in the audience.
4:53PM Solid applause throughout all seven intros. Can’t pick a crowd favorite yet.
4:54PM My lovely bride just ordered pizza and offered to bring it downstairs to the studio for me. Drunkblogging is a team effort, folks — don’t do it alone.
4:59PM It’s fun watching David Gergen discuss conservative politics with Wolf Blitzer and Gloria Borger (?). It’s like watching three eunuchs talk about sex.
5:00PM OK, here we go.
5:01PM CNN has hired a large tree to conduct the debate. I think it’s called John King. Is that deciduous?
5:02PM Michele Bachmann’s goal tonight is to avoid gaffes. Newt Gingrich’s goal is to sell some books or something.
5:03PM Give Mitt the credit he deserves: During his little intro he sounded 13% less robotlike.
5:04PM Everybody is talking about their tons of kids. I half expected Tim Pawlenty to pull out his wallet and show photos, since he only has the two.
5:04PM “It’s about those grandkids.” -Herman Cain. I’m sensing a theme. #ForTheChildren
5:05PM “No bell, no whistles, no charisma.” That’s John King’s promise to you.
5:06PM Questions from the audience? What am I doing here in my basement? Anyway, first question from man with cool accent: What would Cain do to create jobs?
5:06PM “The administration has been putting all this money in the caboose.” I wish Cain had said “Up the yin-yang.”
5:07PM Santorum always looks to me like he’s speaking with a bit in his mouth. It’s distracting, even though he’s solid on economic stuff.
5:08PM T-Paw: “This president is a declinist… we’re not Greece, we’re not Portugal.”
5:10PM Romney: “Tim has the right instincts… ” Ah! Mitt is baiting T-Paw into dropping the Obamneycare stuff, at least for the night. I hope he’ll take the bait, too. Obama is now the pincushion — as he should be.
5:11PM First question for Newt: So, tell us about the book. And: Let’s roll the clip.
5:11PM Bachmann is handling her first question with… an announcement that she’s a candidate. That’s a little odd.
5:13PM Paul: “There’s nothing wrong with setting a goal [for big growth] if you have a free market economy.”
I love this man. And I will until the end of time. Or until he starts squawking like a chicken in a range only dogs can hear. Whichever comes first.
5:14PM 50 Helens Want to Know… er, Silvia Smith has a question on defunding and repealing Obamacare.
5:15PM Bachmann: “I will not rest until I repeal Obamacare.” It’s a great line, but the question remains: Does she need to be president to do that? She’s great in the House, but has yet to make the argument for the big promotion.
5:15PM Dear GOP: Every time you attack Obamacare by defending Medicare, you lose the overall debate. And you kill a little bit of my soul.
5:16PM Mitt: “I will grant a waiver to all 50 states for Obamacare.” Even before he signs the repeal. And then he defends Romneycare with the same-old-same-old. He’s opening himself back up to attack.
5:17PM Nice. T-Paw turned the Obamneycare question around and deflected it back to Obama.
5:18PM T-Paw is getting cornered by John Tree on the Obamney care remark. Deftly handled, but the fireworks-seeking press will keep making an issue of it.
5:19PM Mitt to Obama: “You should have given me a call” to find out what worked and didn’t on Romneycare.
Well done, Mittens.
5:20PM Newt: My latest book is available at Borders, and in electronic format on Amazon’s Kindle store.
5:21PM Audience guy: “I’m not libertarian, I’m not tea party, I’m just a run of the mill Republican.” Win my vote, he asks. That’s the question of the whole night, really.
5:22PM Santorum: Remember when I used to get stuff almost done?
5:23PM Bachmann: Working on selling the Tea Party to our Mainstream GOP guy. Is THAT her reason for seeking the White House? It’s not a bad one, and I’m glad I’ve heard it now.
5:23PM Bachmann: “President Obama is a one term president!” My wife hates it when I watch hot videos on the computer.
5:24PM Cain: “As a businessman… ” That might be the most refreshing phrase you’ll hear this entire race.
5:25PM Audience Guy: How to return manufacturing jobs to the US?
5:26PM Paul: “You need a strong currency” to attract manufacturing jobs. Newt is nodding in the background. In politics, we call that “The kiss of death.”
5:27PM Oh, crap — T-Paw just used the phrase “fair trade.” Is he looking for union money?
5:29PM Bachmann: She wants to sign “The mother of all repeal bills,” starting with the EPA.
5:30PM Reporter to T-Paw: Would you support a federal right to work law? Short answer: Hell, YES!
I take back my thing about the union money.
5:31PM Similar question to Newt, who says: “Don’t miss the premiere of my latest film, screening now all over New England.”
5:32PM Commercial break, and my cocktail is empty. Coincidence?
5:34PM Santorum would take Leno over Conan?
I knew I hated him for a perfectly silly reason.
5:37PM Bachmann — Johnny Cash or Elvis? Both! I heart her.
5:38PM Question to Paul: What gov’t assistance to private enterprise?
5:38PM Paul is surrounded on both sides by Romney and Santorum. Now he knows how I feel in the center square on Trifecta between Scott Ott and Bill Whittle.
5:39PM Cain: I was for TARP before I was against it.
Did I hear that right?
5:40PM Was the bailout a success? Romney: No. Wasted money.
The real problem is deeper. Bailout money HURT Chrysler and GM. They’d be leaner and meaner today without government money and that mock-Chapter 11 proceeding.
5:42PM Mitt is hitting it out of the park on the auto bailouts. Here’s my question: Does anyone care?
5:43PM A candidate needs to fill a slot to have a chance. They need to occupy a niche. Santorum’s seems to be “Mitt Lite.” The problem with that is, nobody really likes Miller Lite — much less Miller Lite Lite.
5:44PM Newt: NASA is a case study in some things I wrote about in another of my books, which you can find on remainder shelves all across the nation.
5:45PM T-Paw: Is unfocused on the space program.
Here’s T-Paw’s problem. He’s not charismatic, so he has to be the guy with the specifics. Can you name one of his tonight?
5:47PM T-Paw: “Get the economy moving… [Obama's] way failed.” There hasn’t been nearly enough anti-Obama stuff tonight, real red meat for the audience.
Where’s the beef?
5:48PM Paul: “Corrections are good.” He’s right, of course — which is why he’ll be made to pay for saying it.
5:51PM Oh, boy — decent answer from Mitt on Federalism and disaster relief. And, like Paul, he’ll get crucified by the liberal media for it. “You want babies and old people and dogs to die in global warming tornado floods!”
5:53PM Paul: Blackberry over iPhone.
5:55PM NH Family Doctor Guy: As a selfish, grabby Baby Boomer, I want to know where’s my money for my thirty-years-of-constant-weekends-retirement you promised me? [STOMPS FOOT]
5:55PM Paul: “Why can’t we opt out of the whole system and take care of ourselves?”
5:56PM Because, Dr. Paul, they have the guns. #kthnxbai
5:57PM T-Paw: “I’ll lead on this issue.” But I can’t remember what it was.
5:58PM Newt: I didn’t throw Paul Ryan under the bus, and don’t let the tire track on his back tell you any different. Also, my latest book is on sale, for one day only, at B&N and other fine booksellers.
5:59PM New Hampshire appears to be full of white people. Racists.
6:00PM Cain: “You’re not going to get most of the money you put into Medicare.”
More like that, please.
6:02PM Be specific about Social Security, because we’re not done scaring old people.
Cain: “I support a personal retirement account option.” Like they have in Chil-LAY, he says. What do they have in PAH-e-stahn?
6:03PM Mitt: “We want to see a President [do a whole bunch of stuff.]” You should have put the period after the word “President.”
6:05PM Bachmann: “I’ve already voted no on raising the debt ceiling.” And then back on the attack Obama — but her answer is awkward. I don’t think the scotch is the only reason she sounds so haphazard.
6:06PM Question: What’s your definition of the separation of church and state?
6:07PM T-Paw: Generic “creator” language, perfect for not offending happy agnostics like myself.
6:07PM Santorum: Cribbed a line from Arthur C Clarke, but I doubt he knows it.
6:08PM Paul: “I think faith has something to do with… character.” It’s a fine Philosophy 101 answer. Which is most of his answers. Which is why he won’t be President.
6:09PM Cain: I don’t like people who want to kill me.
6:13PM Newt: “If you’re not prepared to be loyal to the US, you’re not prepared to serve in my administration.”
Great line. Newt has tons of those. What he doesn’t have is a gummi bear’s chance in a garbage disposal of becoming president.
6:17PM Mitt: Spicy wings over mild. Also: Bruins up 4-0.
Is Mitt coming across as… human?
6:18PM Question: Why do you hate the gays?
6:18PM Bachmann: “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.” Others disagree. Why get the state involved at all?
6:19PM T-Paw: Would amend the constitution to bar gay marriage.
6:20PM T-Paw is losing luster, which is a bit like me losing sobriety.
6:21PM Cain: “Don’t ask don’t tell” talk is a distraction.
6:22PM Mitt: “We ought to be talking about the economy and jobs.” We’ll hear that a lot between now and whenever.
6:23PM Santorum: Wants a system of discipline.
Careful, Rick — Some of my gay friends might like that.
6:25PM Mitt has somebody new doing his gray streaks — much more natural than they used to be.
6:26PM Question: Where’s Gary Johnson tonight? Remember how I said each candidate needs a niche? Tonight, the Principled Geeky Libertarian Slot is being filled by Ron Paul.
6:28PM Santorum: States can’t be required to care for illegals.
6:30PM Paul: “There was a time we didn’t look to government to take care of everything.”
One way or another — the hard way or the really flippin’ hard way — that time is coming back.
6:30PM Hang on. My cocktail seems to have evaporated again.
6:32PM T-Paw: Reinforcing the border!
6:33PM Point of interest here: T-Paw says birthright citizenship is due to a Supreme Court decision. But doesn’t the 14th Amendmen mention citizens “born or naturalized?”
6:34PM Newt’s running the bases here on border control. Newt IS the Big Idea Guy. But do expect him to implode at least two more times before flaming out.
6:35PM Ron Paul listens to questions the way a feral cat looks a dead rat.
6:37PM Everybody hates Kelo! This is why GOP debates are 26% less frustrating than Democratic debates, where the arguments revolve around who has the best reason to screw you out of your stuff.
6:40PM T-Paw is winning me back with his strong stand for Coke over that sickly-sweet imitator.
6:42PM Foreign policy time. Pretty sure the official media questions will center around: Who wants to bomb the most brown people?
6:42PM Navy vet: Time to come home from Afghanistan?
6:43PM Mitt: Yes. Unless the generals tell me differently. And also I love vets, especially when I bring them home in accordance with our legitimate security needs so long as it isn’t nation building. And that’s how I spent my summer vacation.
6:43PM Paul: Bring’em home.
6:44PM Brazil, they’ve joked for decades, is always the next superpower. I’m starting to think T-Paw is always the next great GOP hope.
6:46PM Bachmann: Bombing Libya is not in our interest.
But Reagan did it!
I kid, of course. I think I was quoting Obama in the above line.
6:47PM Bachmann: “We deferred leadership to France. That’s all you need to know.”
The more you know… the less you care. (Cue NBC chimes.)
6:48PM Is price tag a factor in national security? Is John Tree trying to put the heartless, gay-hating Republicans in their old “green eyeshades” mode?
6:49PM Cain: Three-part national security test. His grandmother used to say, “It’s a mess, an absolute mess.”
I dread to ask what she said that about.
6:50PM Truck Driver Guy: I have no idea what he just asked. Can we get a professional moderator, please? Although I’d take Truck Driver Guy over John Tree any time.
6:51PM Dear Mr. Santorum: Please put that thumb away. You don’t know where it’s been.
6:52PM Cadillac: Using Obama bailout money to sponsor GOP debate on Republican-hating CNN!
Dude. That’s worth a shot right there.
6:55PM “Closing moment.” The prettiest thing John Tree has ever said.
6:55PM Cain: “I think they’re going to find this is a good field of candidates.”
6:56PM First debate of the season, and Tree is asking about running mates? Bring back Truck Driver Guy. Please.
6:57PM Mitt: Anyone on this stage would be a better President than Obama. Because of the economy. Which sucks. And his foreign policy. Which doesn’t exist.
6:57PM Seriously, we’re still talking about running mates?
6:58PM Paul: “They haven’t even told me how they feel about the Federal Reserve yet!”
6:59PM It’s the last minute. Normally I’d be taking notes for my wrap, but I’ll be doing that on PJTV.com in just a few minutes. Joe Hick, Stephen Kruiser and Tony Katz are hosting the post-debate talk, so you don’t want to miss it.
Also: Video evidence that my drunkblogs are as advertised!