5:58pm (All times probably Mountain) At long at, ABC News is going over to New Hampshire. On tape delay here in Colorado. Am I still live?
6:02pm Emergency fixes ongoing with WordPress. This Drunkblog may experience some delays.
6:03pm OK, it looks like we’re good to go. WordPress seems to be working, and I’ve got a martini poured, large and strong.
6:05pm ABC News — I forgot George Snuffleuffugus would be there. I see him enough watching Sesame Street with my son.
6:09pm Mercifully, the debate hasn’t started yet. Painfully, ABC is providing more stirring pre-contest content than an NBC Olympic event.
6:10pm Gibson says he wants real candidate-to-candidate debating. "This isn’t about me asking questions," he said. If he can make it work – and stick to to it – this could be a refreshing change.
6:10.5pm And STILL more video set-ups. What the hell? Enough Bush, let’s get to the current candidates.
6:12pm Huckabee is talking slowly, sounding calm, and not answering the question. Where’s the easy charm he’s displayed in all the previous debates?
6:14pm Thompson is speaking at Huckaspeed — but it seems to suit him better. I think he’s going for "safe pick" after all the drama of Iowa.
6:16pm Rudy thinks the military is too small, and McCain approves of the Bush Doctrine. No surprises so far, and no fireworks, either. In fact, the candidates have barely registered that there are other people in the room. Boring.
6:19pm Even Paul is speaking slow and low tonight. Although he’s still spouting nonsense. And am I interpreting right? Does he think we should only fight big, rich countries who would have a better chance of shooting back?
6:21pm Maybe I’m still too sober, but Romney sounds 50% less slick. What’s up with all this apparent sanity amongst the Republicans tonight?
6:22pm First Thompson, now Giuliani — it’s gang up on Paul time. Well, it’s not like he doesn’t ask for it.
6:24pm Paul thinks it’s wrong for us to export democracy. Ah, yes, if only fascism had survived in Japan and Germany. Oh, and our Saudi airbases constituted an "invasion." Also, his voice has gone up to its customary Pursuing the Dog Vote range.
6:27pm Huckabee says he doesn’t want to be elected to Bush’s "third term." Well, as another big-spending Southerner, would we really notice a huge difference?
6:29pm Romney almost had a Dole-like "quit lying about my record" moment. He came across as desperate. The mask is slipping.
6:30pm Rudy is giving Paul a nice little history of Islamic terrorism, and Paul looks lost.
6:33pm Finally, McCain. He looks OK and doesn’t sound too tired, but you have to grade McCain on a generous curve on those two items.
6:35pm Romney is speaking in Strong Family platitudes again. This isn’t the swing-for-the-fences performance he needs to save his campaign.
6:38pm If this debate keeps up like this, and McCain wins New Hampshire as expected, then we’ve got a weird race. Paul is the effective Third Man, representing anti-war Republicans and independents willing to pick up a Republican ballot. But who will the Second Man be? Rudy? Fred? Romney? It’s wide open.
6:39pm Rudy is talking principles and Reagan. Huckabee is finding Jesus in the Declaration of Independence. I need another cocktail. Be right back.
6:45pm OK, what did I miss? Yet another ABC News report in the middle of a debate, that’s what. Why does ABC feel the need to do that? It’s annoying and wastes time.
6:47pm The question is, who is going to help people buy the most health insurance? Was I gone so long we’re now watching the Democratic debate? Now here’s where I’ll fall in love with Ron Paul all over again. (I’m not kidding, folks.)
6:49pm Romney is explaining his mandatory health care thingy like a Democratic policy wonk — he could be Taller Dennis Kucinich right now, for all I can tell. Would Gibson <i>please</i> let Paul tackle this question now?
6:51pm Well, shoot. Paul isn’t taking a proper libertarian stance, telling us that the government has no business in health care. Instead, he’s talking about the war — and how we should be "spending the resources here at home." In other words, he’s tossing his principles aside, making it sound like he’d expand government health programs. It’s a sad moment for Paul fans.
6:53pm Paul also seems to be against outsourcing medicine to India or wherever. And he claims to be for free trade? Does he have a principle he’s unwilling to trade away for a good quote tonight? I’m supposed to love his libertarian domestic policies, but where are they?
6:55pm Where is McCain tonight? New Hampshire is supposed to be his state, but Gibson is treating him like Tom Tancredo.
6:56pm Is Romney really still talking about health insurance?
6:57pm Huckabee is talking all about "wellness" or something. Next thing he’ll be proposing mandatory doctor visits, just like John Edwards. I’m telling you, this guy is no conservative.
6:59pm McCain got a big laugh, trying to get Gibson to notice him. I’m pretty sure it’s not my imagination that McCain has been pretty much shut out tonight. Is this another case of the MSM trying to make a more exciting horse race?
7:02pm Finally, someone had the stones to defend the pharmacutical companies who, whatever their faults, make modern health care possible. That someone was Mitt Romney. Why wasn’t it free-marketeer Ron Paul? Well, after watching Paul’s performance so far tonight, I’ll tell you why: Paul knows that he’s already lost libertarians like me, and is counting on nothing but the anti-war vote. It’s that simple, and that craven.
Commercial break. Time to call for pizza.
7:06pm For Round Two, Gibson says we’ve got tally lights. So this coma-inducing "debate" will now shave 20 points off your IQ, too.
7:08pm McCain says he’ll require border state governors to "certify" that they’ve secured their border with Mexico. That’s red meat for the Secure Borders people — and a sure sign that McCain realizes just how badly he got spanked in the Grand Compromise on Immigration last year.
7:09pm Romney has come out completely against any kind of amnesty. But I wonder if 10-12 million illegals will really touch-back on the south side of the Rio Grande. Touchback sounds to me like an empty promise.
7:11pm Rudy talks sense about deportation (touchback, whatever), but I think he loses 10,000 conservative votes every time he uses the phrase "tamper-proof ID." That sounds too much like "national ID." And again, I have to wonder, why Paul isn’t sputttering against national ID cards. Again, I think he’s selling out his libertarian credentials in order to keep the left wing anti-war voters he’s counting on.
7:14pm If memory serves — and it probably doesn’t on a cocktail-laded Saturday night – tonight we’re seeing the most (if not "best") Republican debate on immigration. It’s a shame I’m such on agnostic on this issue, or I might get some real enjoyment out of it. Although I am getting a kick out of the shouting going on now between Thompson, Romney, and McCain.
7:17pm I take it back – Rudy just stole the Big Pander Award away from Paul. He wins for the line, "If Reagan were here tonight…" I’d like to remind the Republicans that this isn’t 1980. And later I’ll remind the Democrats that it isn’t 2004, either. Bush and Carter are <i>not</i> incumbents in this election.
7:19pm We’ve been talking immigration for almost 15 minutes now. Yet I can barely remember even two questions using the word "Iraq." The War on Terror is off the radar. Maybe it’s the booze, but it seems ABC wants to talk about Iraq even less than the Democrats do. And I can tell you why in just one word: Surge.
7:23pm FINALLY, Paul is talking his principles. He’s taking a stand against the national ID card in general, and the welfare state in general. I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong.
7:24pm Meanwhile, Romney interrupted to say how swell he likes <i>l</i>egal immigrants. Or, if I may translate, "Please vote for me, Latino peoples. Even though I am pasty and have religious ways strange to you."
7:28pm We’re talking Barack Obama? Wow — his victory was *huge* in Iowa.
7:30pm Romney just told McCain that the "personal barbs are cute but unnecessary." Cute? Occasionally. Unneccesary? Dude, have you ever watched one of your debate performances? The barbs are the only thing keeping people awake.
7:32pm We’re still talking Obama? This guy is going to get more name-time at the Republican debate than he will later at the Democratic debate. And what does that mean? He’s either the flavor of the day — or the next President of the United States. We’ll know more in just a week or two.
7:35pm Gibson wants to know if it’s "intellectual dishonesty" for the President not to admit to the American people that oil prices are going to stay high. Why is it the President’s business to tell us about prices? Isn’t that what we have markets for? Meanwhile, Paul is telling people we went to Iraq to "take the oil." Um, dude — we’re buying the freakin’ oil. A real War for Oil would make Iraq look like Disneyland.
7:37pm Thompson sounds good, and he makes sense. But he still isn’t acting like a guy who thinks he ought to be the next president. I think he’d make the best candidate in this weak field, but I don’t think he can win this nomination.
7:39pm I’d like to propose a deal. Presidential candidates will stop talking about replacing oil with some magical technology, and I’ll stop talking about my 13-inch penis. Enough internet myths already, folks.
7:40pm Best line of the night? Gibson: "Before we run out of time…" It’s almost over!
7:42pm Gibson just brought out the Democrats to join the Republicans on the stage. I’m sure they’ll sing Kumbaya. I’m also sure I’ll throw up. What a pointless debate.
7:45pm Another commercial break, another cocktail for moi. Then we’ll be back with the Democrats. For those watching on non-tape delay, please don’t tell me how bad it is — or I might turn off the TV and look for the giant bottle of expired sleeping pills.
7:52pm Where’s that damn pizza?
7:55pm ABC News viewers wanted the Republicans to talk more about the economy and the environment. If that poll is at all representative, it doesn’t bode well for Republicans next fall.
7:58pm Before we get into the Democratic side, a couple quick observations, related. The Republican debate might have seemed so awful because it — and the New Hampshire vote next week — won’t have much bearing on who the nominee will be. But tonight’s debate could very well spell the end of Hillary Clinton’s campaign — which makes tonight very interesting, indeed.
8:04pm First question to the Democrats concerns nuclear terrorism, and it’s preceded by… yet another ABC News report. Yes, ABC, we want to see more of your useless reporters and less of the people contending to become President.
8:06pm Barely paraphrased: "How aggressive would you be in pursuing al Qaeda?" Softball, anyone?
8:08pm Obama is taking the easy lob, and looking good doing so. He’s got an easy command of the facts, even if he sounds a LOT more like Bush than any good (or bad, bar Lieberman) Democrat would ever admit.
8:10pm Edwards: "If I were President, and knew were bin Laden was, I’d go get him." Which is like me saying, "If I were John Holmes and had a 13-inch penis, I’d be nailing a lot more porn starlets." The first two parts are wishful thinking, making the third part unlikely in the extreme. And, sorry, I know I promised to stop talking about my giant penis.
8:12pm Richardson looks lost, talking about Pakistan. Worse, he sounds like Jimmy Carter on ecstasy.
8:13pm Finally, Clinton is given a chance to talk. She should have spent more time warming up back stage — she looks and sounds hesitant — which is the last thing she can afford right now.
8:16pm Watching Richardson talk about Pakistan is like watching Giuliani talk about family values. And yet Gibson lets him go on and on and on. Is Gibson just a sadistic mother-blanker, or what?
8:20pm Now we’re talking about a terrorist nuclear strike on an American city, giving even Edwards a chance to sound tough. Hell, he sounds like he’s trying to run to the right of Clinton. Interesting, though, that the question was yet another softball on an important national security issue. During the Republican debate, the questions were phrased as, "How would your policies differ from Bush’s failures?" The Democrats are getting asked, "Just how much Chuck Norris-fu would you unleash on the bad guys?"
8:22pm I take part of the last comment back. Gibson asked Clinton the tougher, more nuanced question. "If we get nuked, how do you respond against stateless actors?" And instead of a tough guy sound bite, Clinton is forced to sound all triangulatey. I think the MSM smells blood in the water, and don’t real care if it’s pouring out of a Clinton.
8:24pm Jeebus, the people of New Mexico haven’t seen this much of Richardson in the last six years.
8:27pm Now Gibson is asking Clinton to defend herself for some very mild questions she’s asked about Obama. I’m telling you: When the press smells blood, they attack. And the vaunted Clinton Attack Machine is nowhere to be seen. If you’ve sold Clinton share short on Intrade, you stand to make a lot of money over the next few days.
8:30pm Clinton’s defense switched the issue from national defense to health care — where they both sound like wonks, arguing over exactly how much of the health care industry they’d like to effectively nationalize. I’m yawning — which is good news for Obama and bad for Clinton. She needs to steal the momentum, and generating yawns is not going to do the trick.
8:33pm Six minutes later, and the real issue here is still… Barack Obama. One way or the other, this is his night, just as much as Iowa was on Thursday. I said before I think Obama could win the first four primary votes. Right now, I don’t see how Hillary can win the fifth or sixth — or the nomination, either.
8:35pm Even Edwards is talking Obama, trying to present himself as kind of "the other" agent of change. IE, relegating Clinton to a distant third place. Now, I don’t think Edwards can keep a hold on second place in any state not named Iowa. But his play shows where the action is.
8:36pm Clinton sounds desperate, talking about "35 years of change." That’s like bragging about "six seconds of the status quo."
8:38pm Richardson asks, "What’s experience, some kind of leper?"
8:39pm I half expect Clinton to jump on that line, and make some claim about her experience with change.
8:41pm More talk about national security, including the word "surge." But first, yet another ABC News video interrupting the proceedings.
8:44pm Of course, the Surge question is framed in terms of, "It hasn’t worked yet, has it?" I swear, I would like to see some national security questions asked in some form other than a slow lob. Although Clinton sounds bad, saying she can’t see "any reason" to keep the troops in Iraq "beyond… (scanning the crowd)… today." Before, she said maybe they’d come home by 2013. Richardson is an idiot (talking now) is an idiot, but at least he’s a consistent idiot.
8:47pm Ask, and ye shall receive. Gibson pressed hard just now, on the good effects of the surge. Obama here is showing an almost disgraceful knowledge of how COIN operations work, but no one is calling him on it. Of course, given where the other candidates (and ABC News) stand on Iraq, they can’t call him on it.
8:49pm Edwards says he would listen to his generals "directly." I’m not sure what his point is.
8:50pm Oh. Now I see his point. It’s a hedge on his promise to pull out in 9-10 months.
8:52pm Richardson is talking about the "dysfunctional relationship" between the President and the Congress. He sounds like a spoiled child who came across a copy of the DSM-IV. I can’t believe I ever once thought I wanted to vote for this guy.
8:54pm Clinton is talking about this "complicated enterprise." In other words, she’s trying to scare people into thinking they need her experience. Her experience with change. It’s a shameless ploy, stolen directly from Bill’s playbook. But Bill Clinton would have given us that guilty schoolboy look, and bitten his lower lip in apology for it. With Hillary, all she gives us is the ploy.
8:55pm Another commercial break, another cocktail. Yea!
8:58pm The question is something about "experience versus change." Enough already! Can’t we talk about competency or principles or whether Britney’s real problem is due to drugs or mental illness? Just one thing we care about, please.
9:00pm Did you know that Hillary has experience? Experience with change? Change that only her experience, her experience with change, can bring about? And that she’s a woman, a woman bringing change with her experience of womanness? Yeah, me neither.
9:01pm I half-expected Richardson to claim to have womanly changes, too.
9:02pm Damn Obama! SPOILER ALERT: Barack says the Redskins lost. I might as well just turn off the TiVo now. Also, he’ll bring more change, by bringing us together, changingly.
9:04pm Maybe it’s the vodka, but I see Vikings in a British diner, chanting, "Change, change, change, change, change, change, change!"
9:05pm "Change! Wonderful change!"
9"08pm (Paraphrased) "Governor Richardson, weren’t you a failure as energy secretary? So why should we trust you now?" Blood in the water, kids. The MSM wants an Obama v. Edwards race, and it’s looking more and more like they’re going to get one.
9:09pm "Change! Wonderful change!"
9:10pm Edwards says he’s never "taken a dime" from nasty awful people. Can someone armed with Google please fact check his ass on that claim? Also, did his father ever actually work in a meeyil? And what the hell is a meeyil?
9:12 Couldn’t Edwards have paid for that girl’s liver transplant, just with the money he could have saved by turning down the heat in one of the smaller wings of his giant mansion? I know that’s not his job, but his complaints about her case don’t jibe with his claim to have "taken it personally." If it’s personal, then act that way.
9:15pm Barack wants a "working majority." Some sort of bipartisan thing, I think. And Clinton immediately committed a Mike Kinsely Gaffe* by asking for a "reality check."
*Defined by Kinsley as "telling the truth in Washington."
9:17pm Listening to the Dems take on "special interests" is like listening to Dick Cheney take on Haliburton.
9:18pm Clinton says that, "change is hard, but change is possible." Provided, of course, that you have womanly experience with change.
9:22pm So I stepped out again to refill my martini glass, and when I came back, Edwards was shouting nice things about Teddy Roosevelt. I have a two-year-old at home — I don’t have the energy to deal with four years of that man’s constant shouting. I think that’s half the reason Obama is doing so well — if you don’t like Clinton’s changing womanliness and can’t stand Edwards’ shouting, then you’ve got to support Obama. Or not, provided that you can respect Richardson’s vagina envy.
9:25pm Richardson doesn’t like carbon taxes, but he does like mandates. Nothing like those top-down solutions from bottom-heavy ex-energy secretaries!
9:26pm Obama likes the cap-and-trade system. I’m more about the shake-and-pour approach.
9:28pm Clinton says we’re approach a recession, and she’s probably right. What’s telling is, her one statistic: The unemployment rate has increased to five whole percent. A modern recession is better than a 1970s growth period. Cool.
9:30pm These people are really starting to dampen my buzz.
9:35 Bill Richardson just claimed that he "runs" the "state economy" of New Mexico. I can see him with his eyeshades and pencil, determining the markdowns at Safeway and the wage increases at Los Alamos National Laboratories.
9:36pm For the first time, Hillary has spent more time attacking her fellow Democrats than the Republicans. That’s a major change in strategy, and it speaks volumes. Big, womanly volumes of experienced change.
9:38pm Edwards: Hillary "looks terrific tonight." So do you, pretty boy. So do you. Love the hair.
9:40pm It’s over! If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to top off my martini and write up my post-debate wrap for Pajamas Media. Look for it there around midnight Eastern.
Or maybe tomorrow sometime, assuming you have a life.