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Drunkblogging Tonight's Republican Presidential Debate

5:44PM This is the — 15th? 16th? 17th? — GOP debate? I lost count over the holidays, when I was enjoying some much-needed time re-learning my sons’ first names. But I can tell you this: Sometime back in November, I started keeping Tums down here in my studio bathroom.


I’m sure I’ll be reaching for them at some point this evening.

Maybe more than once.

Locked and loaded — let’s get ready to rumble.

5:49PM I’m right now watching Karl Rove handicap the debate before it happens. Which reminds me, I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

5:53PM Forget the spin. Here’s what to expect. Everyone will attack Romney, and Romney will do his best to remain sunny and above-it-all. Easy in theory, tough in practice — but by now Romney has plenty of practice.

5:55PM COMMERCIAL BREAK: Babies trading stocks on a smartphone. Replace the smartphone with a big CRT screen and make him dance at the end, and it’s 1998 all over again.

Commercials repeat themselves as farce, too.

5:58PM For the record, I am not becoming a BillOreilleydotcom Premium Member.

6:00PM Here we go…

6:00PM South Carolina for a GOP debate sounds like West Texas for friday night football.

6:01PM A moment of silence or whatever for Jon Huntsman. I, for one, will always miss his daughters.

6:01PM Juan Williams! Somebody Evans! Somebody else!

6:02PM Tonight’s warning cue: None, if possible.

I’d go for a comical slide whistle. Put ’em in their place.

6:03PM MLK opener: What do you do in a time of challenge?

6:03PM Hoo-boy: Open season on Romney.

I’ll pull my shocked face out of this drawer.

6:04PM To Newt: Why do you hate capitalism?

6:05PM Newt: I stayed positive until it stopped working. Also, capitalism RAWKS. Because Reagan. Not because Bain.

A little rough out of the gate for Newt tonight, but he has debate staying power.

6:05PM Newt: “We need to satisfy the country.” He has a good start on that, for sure.

6:06PM Newt: I’m just “raising questions” about Mitt and Bain and how he put poor people on the streets and took their skins to make the moldings in his solid gold palace.

6:07PM Newt: “There was a pattern, in some companies… ”

6:07PM Mitt: “I appreciate the Speaker’s work… ” above the fray, exactly as I have foreseen.

6:08PM Mitt: “My record… as the person who ran the Olympics… ”

You know what? I can’t remember him mentioning that before, and it was quite the accomplishment.

6:09PM First big cheers go to Mitt. In South Carolina. This is like me cheering Last Call.


6:10PM To Perry: How do you curb “vulture capitalism?”

Perry: “We’re all about capitalism,” here in Texas where we create jobs.

I know I encouraged Perry to go to SC, and was encouraged when he went. But right now I wonder why he’s on this stage.

6:11PM Perry just made a cheap “firing” shot at Romney. It was beneath a guy who just tried to defend himself as a defender of capitalism.

6:11PM Romney is going to get a LOT of 30-second responses tonight.

6:12PM Romney just pivoted closing a steel mill to Chinese monetary practices. He’s slick.

6:13PM Bearded Guy asks Mitt: Why are you such a vulture?

6:14PM Romney: “Do I believe free enterprise works? …Absolutely!” Especially when it comes to individual mandates and stuff.

6:15PM Kelly Evans to Ron: Why do you hate hateful attacks you engage in?

6:15PM When Ron Paul laughs, he makes me think of Buck Henry babysitting Lorraine Newman and Gilda Radner on the original SNL.

I’m officially creeped out right now.

6:16PM Santorum: Man, I make a lot of mistakes.

6:16PM Second big applause of the night went to Santorum.

6:17PM Santorum: “I support right to work,” except when I don’t.

6:18PM Juan Williams to Santorum: Isn’t it time to play nicer with the other candidates?

Santorum: I have played nice. Honest.

6:19PM First good dig of the night: Mitt tried to pass the blame for an ad to a 527, and Santorum just told him to answer the question.

6:20PM Second good dig of the night, Santorum insisting Romney “answer the question.”

But, Senator Santorum? MLK Day is “a big deal” for ALL Americans, not just African-Americans. All. Of. Us.

6:22PM Mitt: “As governor of MA, I had an 85% Democratic legislature.”

This is the one thing, the one thing, that would bring me out to vote for Romney next fall. With a GOP Congress, Romney’s worst pandering instincts would be held in check.

But right now, Santorum is holding his own.

And Perry is doing a Me-Too, the three-term governor calling the out-of-work pols “insiders.”

6:23PM Brett: “We may have to rethink the whole no-bell thing.”

Two words, Brett: Slide whistle.

6:25PM Commercial break. Merciful, merciful commercial break.

6:27PM Almost forgot to mention Juan Williams’s tie, which I covet.


6:28PM FWIW, Myrtle Beach is where I go to buy booze, when I’m staying on the beach in North Carolina.

6:28PM To Mitt: Are you a perfectly-lubricated weathervane?

To which I say: Ewwwwwww.

6:29PM Romney: I’m not a weathervane, I just sneak through the cracks. So, more of a garter snake, really.

6:30PM By the way, I’m not joining in a pile-on for anybody, or avoiding targeting the frontrunner — I just call them as I see them, which these days is increasingly in twos.

6:32PM Juan to Perry: Why would you stop minorities from voting?

Perry: SC is “at war with this administration” regarding voting.

Big applause. Perry, getting second-rate attention, is having a first-rate night. It’s just four months too late, and that makes me sad.

6:33PM Brett to Santorum: Why do you hate the unemployed?

6:34PM I’m just fascinated by the fact that Santorum’s hair is just as perfect at Mitt’s, but his colorist is so much more heavy-handed.

Also, he has some nice content here, but I never want to hear that “we gave the states” flexibility. I want to hear more stuff like Perry says, that it isn’t DC’s business.

6:35PM Wow. A question for Newt. He’s been almost an afterthought so far tonight.

6:36PM Newt: Tie unemployment benefits to job training, because DC knows where the jobs are. Or something.

Such small-government instincts, tied to big-government dreams.

6:37PM To Mitt: Are you going to print up a bunch of money to bail out Europe?

Mitt: No blank checks.

But what about blank Czechs or Belgians or Spaniards or Greeks?

6:38PM Oh, Mitt just sounded all Reaganesque there. I don’t buy it, but he sure sounded it.

6:39PM To Ron: Why do you hate the military?

6:40PM Ron: When I’m President, I’ll open Army bases right in your house!

Um… Third Amendment?

6:42PM I’ve never heard Ron this incoherent. I don’t always agree with him — by a longshot — but I can always follow his logic. That answer was all over the place, trying to justify his military budget plans while pandering to SC voters. His worst debate moment of this campaign.

6:42PM MItt: I’d like to lower taxes, but keep collecting them as-is until then. Or something.

6:43PM Ron: “The inflation tax.” He’s right. That one is in full effect, too.


6:43PM To Mitt: Release your income tax records.

6:45PM Mitt: A definite maybe that Might at some point when it becomes traditional with the exposure if I’m the nominee and with the April date.

Bad answer. Enough ummmms to fill a Hanson video.

6:45PM Mitt: The Latin voters love me like the Bossa Nova.

6:46PM I’m loving the heck out of the Everybody Hates Mitt show, but I could use another commercial break.

6:48PM Santorum is great when he talks family. He sucks sea otters when he talks solutions to how to save families.

6:49PM Juan to Ron: Here’s a question about race, you old race-baiter.

6:50PM Paul: I hate the drug war, which persecutes minorities. (And please forget when I was predicting a race war back in the ’90s!)

6:51PM Ron: Watch as I plug MLK shamelessly after deriding his holiday.

6:51PM Juan to Newt: Why do you insult back Americans?

6:52PM Newt: I never did that. My own daughter was a janitor.

6:53PM Newt is in favor of doughnuts. If he’d come out in favor of home-delivered bacon, he’d have my vote right now, and for life.

6:53PM Newt: “Only the elites despise earning money.”

And I’d bet real money, that’s the best line of the night.

6:54PM Juan just got booed for implying that Newt has been race-baiting.

I love Juan Williams, but that was a cheap shot. It also set up Newt to do that thing he does against the press. And something tells me Juan knew that long in advance.

6:56PM Commercial break. But when we come back, it’s time to talk about foreign policy, if anyone remembers what that is.

7:00PM To Ron: Why do you want Osama bin Laden to still be alive today?

7:01PM Ron: “I did not say that.”

Well, yeah, you did.

7:01PM When I win the lottery, I will buy Ron Paul a suit that fits. And also a clue.

7:04PM “Think about Saddam Hussein… we did that.”

Wow. That’s like Perry-in-October awful.

7:04PM First boos of the night went to Ron Paul.

7:05PM Newt: I’d have killed bin Laden so efficiently it would have been retroactive to 1998.

7:06PM Camera pulled back to show Newt and Ron together. One looked like a candidate. The other looked like… the creepy SNL babysitter.

7:07PM Newt: Andrew Jackson “had a pretty clear idea about America’s enemies: Kill them.”


Ron: But then they won’t like us!

Huge boos for Ron. He’s talking himself into fourth place in SC, down from second.

7:08PM To Mitt: Negotiate with the Taliban to wind down Afghanistan?

Mitt: Kill our enemies and hear the lamentations of the wimmin.

7:10PM MItt: Biden is wrong on the Taliban.

Actually, Biden is right. And I only say that once every… Biden.

7:11PM To Santorum: Libya oh Libya oh have you seen Libya, Libya the tortured country?

7:11PM Santorum: I love Israel. I even got Syria out of Lebanon. Honest I did.


7:12PM To Perry: Say something smart about Turkey. Please.

7:13PM Perry: Many see Turkey’s government as terrorists.

They do?

7:13PM Perry: Also, I lived in Turkey, or a country much like it. And Obama makes us nervous.

7:14PM Perry: “I volunteered to wear the uniform of this country.” Subtext: Ron Paul got drafted.

7:15PM Perry standing up for the Marines. “They need to be punished,” but Islamists cut heads off.

7:16PM That was Perry’s best performance of the entire process to date. Likely almost his last, too.

7:16PM Paul: Taliban OK, AQ bad.

7:17PM Mitt: I’d have signed the NDAA, with indefinite detention of American citizens.

Big boos, well-earned.

The NDAA is the national security version of SOPA.

7:18PM Romney is defending NDAA based on trusting the right guy in the White House. Well, so is Obama.

7:19PM Santorum on NDAA: No!

He’s no fan of federalism, but he’s right on NDAA.

7:21PM Ron: “I need a minute,” not 30 seconds, to talk about NDAA.

We need a lengthy national debate on this one. But remember, Obama signed it late in the afternoon of December 31, when no one was looking.

7:22PM Perry on NDAA (I think): I’d cut taxes.

I’m feeling whiplashed, like I missed a segue somewhere. Help me out here.

7:23PM Perry is having another very nice moment. If he’d performed like this back in September, he’d be the frontrunner in SC this week.


7:25PM It makes me sad to see Republicans defend Medicare as-was. But we’ll see a lot of that going into November.

7:26PM To Newt: Why do you love big-market solutions to Social Security?

7:27PM I smile when Republicans say “Chill-AY” like I cringe when Obama says “PAH-kee-stahn.”


It’s not the accent, it’s the example.

7:28PM Santorum: I’d cut taxes like a prison snitch.

Or something. Honestly, I just hate this guy so much I lose track.

7:31PM Newt: “One of the ways we pay for it…”

Phrases like that is why Republicans lose — GOP tax collectors for the Democratic welfare state.

7:34PM It’s Santorum versis Newt! And Mitt sides with Santorum going into Florida in a couple weeks where Newt is a strong second!

Actually, that’s thinking just far ahead enough to make me give MItt some respect.

7:35PM I can’t tell you how much I need this commercial break.

7:38PM Juan to Mitt: Why do you hate gun owners?


7:39PM Mitt: “We should not add new legislation.”

For or against gun ownership?

7:39PM OK, Mitt came around and clarified FOR gun ownership.

7:39PM Mitt: Must kill moose and elk!

7:41PM To Santorum: Do you hate gun owners?

Santorum: I supported legislation that was crafted.

Pardon my French, but Rick Santorum is a slippery little shit sometimes.

7:42PM I trust Ron Paul a lot more on guns than I do Rick Santorum.

7:45PM Newt: I’m so right to life, I’m carrying Roo in my pouch right now.

7:46PM MItt to Newt: Your SuperPAC ad on Bain was “as accurate as BigFoot.”

Welcome to 1978, Governor.

7:47PM MItt hates McCain-Feingold? I just got a little love for MItt.

Do you know what that takes?

7:49PM Perry: Border crossings are low because of Obamanomics.

Well, yeah.

And where was this Rick Perry since he declared?

7:50PM Newt on NCLB: “It’s a failure.” Maybe not on the same scale as Newt-last-month-collapse, but still a failure.

7:51PM And that’s it. Fini. Das ende. Mercy. A quick wrap four you in just a few.

8:01PM Rick Santorum understood that the object tonight was to go after frontrunner Mitt Romney tooth and nail. And he did just that, for nearly the first 20 minutes of a nearly-two hour debate. Then, like the rest of the candidates, Santorum let himself fall into the GOP-on-GOP free-for-all.

So, yes, Santorum got in some effective digs on Romney, early on, where they’ll be mostly forgotten.

Ron Paul put in an embarrassingly bad performance. I’m no fan, but I had that initial reaction confirmed by a Paul supporter who I know and trust. Paul was just not on his game tonight. His demeanor makes me think he just doesn’t care enough anymore. And after working so hard and polling so poorly, I can’t say I blame the guy.


Newt had the most to win, and he won some of it. But not enough.

Perry had… his best performance to date. Such a shame he wasn’t putting in performances like tonight’s late last summer.

Santorum. I can’t judge him fairly, because he makes me want to chew through my own forehead. But I tried like hell to give him credit where it was due, and I hope you appreciate the fact that doing so cost me more brain cells tonight than all my cocktails, combined.

Romney was the man to beat. Tonight was not nearly his best performance. He was taken off-guard, and a couple times he was visibly rattled. Still, he’s far-and-way the likely nominee. So I’d like to see him seriously rattled again on Thursday night. Because I have the feeling that these GOP debates are coming quickly to a close, but what Romney has experienced to date is nothing compared to the general election.

Romney needs to take his hits now, so he’s ready for the really bruising battle next fall.

8:03PM For deeper analysis, please see Bryan Preston. I’m pretty sure he’s more sober than I am — which isn’t saying much. But I’m darn sure he’s one of the sharpest operators out there. Anyway, click the link for something deeper and smarter than I can manage right now.

8:03PM For deeper analysis, please see Bryan Preston. I’m pretty sure he’s more sober than I am — which isn’t saying much. But I’m darn sure he’s one of the sharpest operators out there. Anyway, click the link for something deeper and smarter than I can manage right now.

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