4:45PM Anderson Cooper is moderating tonight’s debate, which fills me with a special kind of dread, over and above the usual. As a host, Cooper has that rare ability to reduce the sum total of charisma in any studio to less than zero. Scientists call this “the Eric Stoltz Effect.”
4:48PM Wow. David Gergen looks incredibly lifelike.
4:52PM At least Fox and MSNBC give me something to make fun of during the preshow. This panel is just… hey, maybe Cooper is just off-camera.
4:57PM CNN has protestors. This is like protesting Wonder Bread.
4:58PM Oh. It’s Occupy Las Vegas. Why is that a thing? Unless you’ve got cash — and these people, by definition, don’t — then Vegas will ignore you like the prom queen does the chess club.
5:00PM Here we go…
5:00PM Horses, waterfalls, and big red rocks. This is… Las Vegas?
5:01PM I don’t know who this announcer is, but he’s doing his best to fill the audience with dread. That job could be outsourced to — anywhere, really.
5:02PM Hee-Haw. Now there was a show with an intro.
5:03PM Who told Bachmann that Tuesdays nights in Vegas is Sailor Night?
5:05PM Where’s Chris Christie and Sarah Palin?
5:05PM We’ll take a moment out for the national anthem.
5:07PM Trivia: Romney and Santorum sang along.
5:08PM You see what I mean now about the Eric Stoltz Effect. You thought I was making that up.
5:08PM Nice moment from Santorum about his daughter. Best wishes to her, all snark aside.
5:09PM Cain: “I’m a 42 year businessman, which means I solve problems for a living.”
5:09PM Mitt Romney: I did business, too.
5:10PM Romney sounded defensive and un-frontrunnery there.
5:10PM Perry: “A genuine conservative, not a conservative of convenience.”
5:10PM Newt loves Vegas and hates Obama. Big cheers.
5:11PM Bachmann: I’m thrilled. And also an admiral.
5:11PM Big Guy in Audience asks about getting rid of income tax and replacing it with a sales tax.
5:12PM Bachmann: Give congress a new tax, and it won’t go away.
BUt the question was half about getting rid of a tax, yes?
5:12PM Cain is on half the screen and he can’t WAIT to talk about 9-9-9.
5:13PM Every time he says “Herman Cain dot com” I think of Ross Perot always reminding us about his 1-800 number.
5:14PM Santorum: Cain means well, but 9-9-9 will raise taxes.
I’m dubious, too. Although I can get fully behind the 80 Proof Plan.
5:15PM Cain: Look at my totally unbiased analysis prepared by totally unbiased people I hired.
5:15PM Bachmann, I swear to you, just raised her hand.
5:16PM Bachmann is still talking about the VAT, which is not part of 9-9-9.
5:16PM Perry: “I love you, Herman, but… ”
Replace “Herman” with “Steve” and that’s how it started every time I got dumped.
5:17PM Perry is coming on strong, just as he has in every other debate, except last week’s. That one was bad all the way through.
But will he fade in the last 30 minutes as he usually does? Dunno. But right now he’s strong.
5:17PM CNN is proud to present tonight’ Herman Cain Debate.
5:18PM Paul: 9-9-9 is dangerous.
5:18PM Paul: Would replace the income tax with “nothing.”
If only he were approaching sane on foreign policy…
5:19PM Cain: No one understands my plan.
I guess it’s not as simple as he claims — but he’s holding his own, not losing his cool.
5:20PM Romney has just usurped Cooper’s job. Looking quite presidential doing it, too.
If you think this is on accident, you can’t handle your liquor.
5:21PM Very deftly done. Romney turned his turn as Cooper into a mini stump speech.
I’m in freakin’ awe.
5:22PM Newt: I can’t condense his gag, but let’s just admit right now that Newt is the only genuinely funny person on this stage. Maybe in politics today.
5:23PM Bachmann: I’ll tax you bastards back to the Stone Age.
Not really. But she does want everyone to have skin in the gave, “even if it’s just a dollar.” Good policy. Bad politics.
5:26PM Perry: Has not read Mitt’s 59-point plan. But then, neither has Romney.
Unfortunately, Perry’s talking Texas solutions — energy, not jobs. He’s not running for Governor of Texas of the United States. He’s running for President. But he’s not nationalizing his campaign.
5:27PM Romney: “We’re an energy rich nation that acts like an energy poor nation.” And then… Romney deflects back to all kinds of jobs. And repealing ObamaCare. National stuff. This is why he’s held steady while Perry has collapsed.
5:28PM All kidding aside, Cooper is moderating this debate far more evenly than last week’s. Everybody gets to speak.
Tip: If you invite a candidate, ask that candidate questions.
5:28PM Related: If the drunkblogging is more serious this week, that’s because the debate is.
5:29PM Santorum just stole Romney’s time, trying to use the same maneuver Romney used with Cain.
It didn’t work.
5:30PM Romney 2012 reminds me of Kerry 2004: A pure debating machine.
Please note that Kerry lost.
5:30PM Romney: “I didn’t get the job done in MA” on health care.
5:31PM Newt just said, “Let’s stay focused.” That’s like Lindsay Lohan saying, “Let’s keep my knees together.”
5:32PM Newt’s just going to town on RomneyCare, MA, and Washington largess to keep it going.
5:33PM Romney: “We got the idea of an individual mandate from you,” Newt Gingrich.
5:33PM The Herman Cain Debate has turned into the Mitt Romney Debate.
5:34PM Hey, Michele? I have worn epaulets since my last time out on safari. Just sayin’.
5:38PM Piers Morgan looks like Stephen Fry’s less talented younger brother.
5:38PM To Ron Paul: What part of ObamaCare would you like to keep?
5:38PM And then Paul burst spontaneously into flame.
5:40PM Same question to Cain.
“It’s a disaster.”
5:42PM Perry: “We have one of the finest healthcare systems in the world, here in Texas.”
But – we also have tons of illegals without insurance. And they come here looking for jobs. Which we don’t have. And Mitt hires illegals because he’s a big hypocrite.
Wow. Not a good answer.
5:42PM You know what? Republicans got sick of the Illegal Nannies debate back around February, 1993. Perry’s not doing himself any favors here.
5:44PM Perry: Mitt’s lying about never hiring illegals.
Drop it, Rick. It’s a lousy issue.
5:45PM New topic: Will you build the fence?
5:46PM Cain really looks bad on the electric death fence thing.
On the other hand, Electric Death Fence would make an excellent name for a rock band.
5:47PM Perry: You can build a fence, but it take decades and billions of dollars.
Instead, he wants “strategic fencing” and high-tech solutions.
Strategic Fencing would make a terrible name for a rock band.
5:48PM Bachmann just hit Obama for his illegal cousin and aunt, which is an excellent blow to the capillaries.
5:49PM Also, Bachmann would build a fence THIS HIGH.
5:50PM Perry: “I’ve been dealing with this border for ten years.”
And I know this puts me outside current GOP thinking on the issue — you’re shocked, shocked by that — but I’m sympathetic to Perry’s solutions, even his statewide Dream Act solutions.
5:51PM Aaaaaaan Mitt steps up to look all elevated and presidential and stuff. I think there’s a switch in his pocket.
5:52PM Perry just got booed, soundly, for calling Romney “the problem.”
5:52PM Audience Guy: What is you message for legal Latinos?
5:53PM Newt: I know many different kinds of immigrants, including Botswanans.
5:55PM Paul: “Remove these incentives” to illegal immigration. “To attract Latino votes,” stop treating them like a special interest group. “See them as an individual.”
5:56PM Cain: My message to minorities is: “We must significantly boost this economy.”
That should sell better than Jesse Jackson Jr’s new permanent welfare plan.
5:56PM Perry: “You get to ask the questions, I get to answer like I want to.”
5:58PM Bachmann might just support repealing the 14th amendment because of “anchor babies.”
5:58PM I for one, have never endorsed or engaged in the practice of using babies for nautical purposes.
5:59PM Santorum is talking, but all I can do is look to his left and wonder when Ron Paul will buy suit jacket that fits properly.
5:59PM Santorum: “I’m for jobs, too.”
Worst line of the night.
6:00PM Paul: “Bring the troops home.” His applause line of the night. This isn’t the GOP electorate of 2004.
6:02PM Paul: The nation doesn’t have the right to use Yucca Mountain for nuclear waste.
6:02PM Romney: “Congressman Paul was right on that.”
And Ron Paul just burst spontaneously into flame.
6:03PM Perry: “I agree with Mitt who agrees with Ron Paul.” And then something about how he likes France.
France just burst spontaneously into flame.
6:04PM Audience Guy: Fix the housing bubble for us.
6:05PM Santorum: I’m against TARP. That’s how.
6:05PM I think Santorum and Perry have tied first for Biggest Flailers.
6:06PM Perry: I hate TARP and love deregulation.
Santorum: I’m equal to Perry tonight!
6:07PM Romney: I hate actions on the part of government and love economic recovery.
It’s a bold statement, but he Just. Might. Mean. It!
6:08PM Cain: I made mistakes, but I’ll get government “out of the way.” But I think he stumbled when he said he’d “reform” Dodd-Frank. Red meat demands “repeal.”
6:09PM Bachmann: “I talk to moms.”
6:09PM From Twitter: Explain and Co-opt Occupy Wall Street.
6:10PM Cain: Get a job, you filthy hippies.
I paraphrase, but not by much.
6:11PM Paul: “Cain has blamed the victims.” And then something about the Federal Reseve and bubbles and SQUAWK SQUAWK SQUAWK SQUAWK.
6:11PM There were wild cheers, a few, to the chicken part.
6:12PM Paul: “I work on the assumption” that government is bad at almost everything.
And now I relove him.
6:13PM Romney: Let’s not talk about me in 2008, let’s talk about Obama in 2011.
6:14PM Commercial break. Or “refill,” as we call it here at Casa Verde.
6:18PM Up after the break: Gun control!
And I will use my psychic powers right now to tell you that the people on this stage are against it. Except for Romney who was for it before he was against it.
6:19PM Email Question: Is personal faith an issue?
6:20PM Boos, a fair number of them, that Mormonism is a cult.
6:21PM Santorum: Look at the result, I think is what he’s saying. “It’s a legit thing to look at…” but not in a way derragotory to LDS.
6:21PM Newt: No rush to judgement in how “others approach God.”
6:22PM Wow. Newt isn’t afraid to offend the GOP’s atheist and agnostic wing, which consists of me and some other guys.
6:23PM Perry: Is a man of faith, and maybe there’s nothing wrong with Mormons, and the First Amendment and values and our freedoms of religions that can’t be taken away and our expressions of opinions and fact and faith that Americans understand and everyone knows that Obama suck.
I don’t think I paraphrased.
6:24PM Romney I think just made LDS kinda cool with a flippant remark I can’t remember because of the fifth scotch.
6:25PM Nice moment between Perry and Romney. First time they looked like equals on that stage.
6:26PM Next topic: Defense cuts.
6:26PM Prediction: Paul likes them, but no one else does.
6:26PM Michele? A fourth conflict in a foreign land is not “historic.”
6:27PM Bachmann: Libya is not in Africa.
6:28PM Newt: “We’ll be grateful that [the supercommitee]” is only mostly stupid. I had to paraphrase, because of the scotch.
6:28PM Newt would make an excellent prime minister. Does he not know we don’t have a parliamentary system?
6:29PM I think Ron Paul just promised to “cut you bitches up” on the budget.
6:29PM I think I respect that.
6:30PM Paul sounds like an idiot on the Empire subject — we spend less on defense, including wars, as a percentage of GDP than we did during the ’50s, when we were at something like peace.
6:31PM Cain will not negotiate with terrorists, unless there are facts.
6:32PM Santorum: You can’t negotiate with terrorists, even when there are facts.
6:33PM I’m man enough to tell you when I need to go potty. And that’s during Ron Paul’s current answer.
6:34PM Lady in Audience: Why do we have foreign aide?
6:34PM Perry: Wants to have a debate about it.
I hope it goes better than any of his recent debates.
6:35PM Romney: It’s complicated.
This is Number Two in the list of things said to me right before I got dumped.
6:37PM Romney is nodding at Paul as though… hell, metaphor fails me.
6:38PM Bachmann: “Israel is our greatest ally.”
Whether or not you think Israel deserves our help — and I think it does — that’s just a silly statement. Israel has fought shoulder-to-shoulder with us… where?
6:39PM Cain: “Peace through strength and clarity.” And, if I may add, the ability to blow the stuff out of stuff.
6:40PM And there’s Ron Paul, winning points by bringing up Iran-Contra.
I’ve never even done that drunk.
6:44PM Topic: Who can beat Obama?
Correct answer: Something with a pulse, or perhaps without one.
6:45PM Santorum: I don’t have any name recognition!
6:45PM Santorum: I won a swing state! Back in the ’90s or something!
6:46PM In case you hadn’t guessed, this is the Beat Up Romney Topic. It’s OK — the frontrunner always deserves that.
6:47PM Romney: Have you seen my presidential suit and my presidential hair and my presidentialish record?
6:47PM Perry: Romney is a Democrat and I make jobs in my sleep.
6:49PM Oh, Mitt — we all know Perry used to be a Democrat. That’s a lame issue, just like the one he used against you, early.
And then, in a moment of uncharacteristic weakness, Romney opened it up for Perry.
6:49PM Romney is recovering quite nicely, but he didn’t need to spar with a guy whose numbers are falling faster than me down an escalator after last call.
6:50PM Cain: “No, I should be President.”
Also: I’m a lot like Romney, other than that nasty Wall Street stuff he’s done.
6:51PM Bachmann: “Cake is big!”
Did she really just say that???
6:52PM Also, Michele? “Pastel patriotism” was a GHW Bush line, not Reagan.
6:52PM Newt: I’m a winner! Or something. Time is short.
6:52PM A Quick Wrap in just a sec.
6:57PM I make fun of CNN — and of Anderson Cooper — for being staid, ordinary, and unexciting. But the fact is, I don’t much watch Fox News. It’s too bombastic for my tastes. I don’t much watch MSNBC, because I’m sane.
So when I want cable news, I usually tune in to staid, ordinary, and unexciting CNN.
And I’m glad I tuned in tonight. It was a good debate they put on — the best so far.
I know that’s a low bar, and I don’t mean to give CNN praise it hasn’t earned. It wasn’t a great debate. But it was a good debate — about what you’d expect from staid, ordinary, and unexciting CNN.
I won’t bother you with picking the winners and losers. If you watched CNN, you can do that yourself. And if you only read the drunkblog, well… I made my biases plain, and I expect you’ll still be able to fairly pick the winners and losers.
But I would like to thank Anderson Cooper for sucking all the charisma out of CNN, and for moderating a middlin’ decent GOP debate.