LIVEBLOGGING MAIN EVENT: 1st GOP Presidential Debate

As the current top tier of Republican Red State Gathering 2015 debate watch partycandidates prepare to take the stage in Cleveland, hundreds of conservative activists crowd the Grand Hyatt ballroom in Atlanta, Georgia, for the Red State Gathering debate-watch party. Earlier tonight, I tested our liveblogging gizmo on the so-called "happy hour" debate of candidates who didn't make the polling percentage cut. More than an hour before the start of the debate, Red Staters have taken all of the good seats in the room. I'll bring you quick thoughts on what's happening in Cleveland mixed with reaction from Atlanta.

Kasich recites highlights of his resume. "The state is unified and people have hope again in Ohio."

Christie tells family's story, and then goes into his resume. I'm sensing a trend here already. "We gotta stop worrying about being loved and start being respected."

Paul says he's a different kind of Republican, who wants our party to be bigger, better and bolder and he's going to places other won't, like the inner cities.

Rubio tells his family story. "I believe that we can't just save the American dream, but we can expand it for more people."

Cruz talks about is first day in the White House: rescind executive illegal orders, investigate Planned Parenthood, cancel Iran deal, move U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Carson says I'm the only one who has removed a half a brain, but if you go to Washington you might think that someone beat me to it.

Huckabee starts off sounding like he's criticizing Trump but deftly turns the joke on Hillary. Hilarious.

Walker: "It wasn't too late for Wisconsin and it's not to late for America."

Bush: "Washington is holding us back." Hits politicians for using policy issues to divide.

Trump: "Our country is in serious trouble. We don't win anymore. We can't do anything right. We have to make our country great again and I will do that."

Ben Carson decries the people who use news stories to be racially divisive. As a neurosurgeon, he's dealt with the part that makes people what they are, and that's not the skin. Great thought.


Going to closing statements...

Facebook questioner wants to know if any of the candidates have a word from God about what they should do..

Cruz says he receives a word from God everyday when he reads his Bible, which says you will know people by their fruits -- the product of their life and work.

Kasich, noting his unlikely personal story as grandson of immigrants, says he believes in miracles. He calls for unity in the country, and says the Lord wants America to succeed as a force for good in the world.

Walker, "I'm an imperfect man and it's only by the blood of Jesus Christ have I been forgiven of my sins." He says he's tried to live his life in a way that would be a testimony to the Lord.

Rubio says God has blessed us with many good candidates, "the Democrats can't even find one." Asked about veterans he speaks passionately about the V.A.

The Russians know more about Hillary Clinton's email server than the American people do, says Scott Walker, who then calls for a missile defense system to protect our European allies. He's handling the foreign policy questions well.

The military is not a social experiment, says Mike Huckabee, in response to a question about transgender policies in the military. Carson earlier complained that the sequester is decimating the military and we're losing top officers as a result.

Sen. Paul, "I'm the only one on the stage who has a five year budget that balances...[it] takes a meat axe to foreign aide, because we ought to quit sending it to folks who hate us. So you borrow money from China to send it to anyone. You don't give away money you don't have."

Christie agrees with Carson that we need to strengthen our military -- he lists specific troop and materiel increases. Israel is a priority, Christie says.

Spoke with a man who wished to remain anonymous because he's "pretty well known around here," who said that he thinks Wallace, Baier and Kelly are being fair but tough with the candidates. He acknowledged that there's more entertainment value, with occasionaly bursts of substance, particularly on the question of taxation. While he "kind of likes" Trump, he thinks the billionaire is just being provocative, and dances around some substantive questions. But overall he likes the direction the Republican party seems to be moving, and thinks that for the most part the candidates agree with each other broadly.

IMG_20150806_222144216I talked with Tom, a rookie Red Stater, who said it's tough to determine who's winning this debate. While he thinks Carly Fiorina seemed the obvious winner of the earlier debate, the larger number of candidates in this round, and the combative attitude of several of the candidates will probably leave the feeling that Trump came out ahead.

As I'm about to post this, Trump is comparing himself to Ronald Reagan on abortion...attributes his turn to pro-life to a personal encounter with friends who didn't abort their baby, who then grew up to be "a superstar."

Trump now bragging about how much money he made in Atlantic city before "everybody" there went bankrupt. He suggests that this makes him the best to solve America's debt problem.

Hey, my friend Tania just asked a question via Facebook. I guess this is legit.


Trump's four major bankruptcies and his cavalier comment about using "the chapter laws" to his advantage is just SOP in the business world. "Virtually every person you read about on the business pages has used those laws," Trump says. Everybody does it, Mom.

Christie and Huckabee tangling over entitlement reform -- but it must be said that the conversation is actually happening. What a novelty. GOP FTW.

Christie sounded strong on entitlement reform, and should get points to touching the third rail...even with relatively tame proposals.