5:56pm (All times likely Mountain) I’d have started earlier, but I don’t get paid enough to watch the Lou Dobbs Friend of the Working Man™ Hour. However, I do have most of a martini in me, which makes five minutes or so of Lou almost tolerable.
5:58pm Steve Egg is also blogging, but I don’t know about his alcohol consumption.
5:59pm I’m also not getting paid enough to watch moderator Anderson Cooper. But he’s the moderator. What can you do? I’ve had an idea. Since the candidates don’t answer the actual questions, why listen to the questions? Mr Cooper, meet Mr Mute Button.
6:01pm I think CNN is holding the debate in the “hangar” of the Reagan Library for one reason: To taunt the candidates with that giant Air Force One as if to say, “None of you is ever gonna fly this bad boy.”
6:03pm CNN continues to insist on holding photo-ops during the debate, instead of off-camera before the big show. Why?
6:05pm If you like, you can vote on Politico.com for what questions you’d like to have asked. You can also upload videos of your kitties to YouTube, for all the good it will do this thing.
6:06pm Romney: People were better off after four years of me in Massachusetts, and screw whatever Bush has done. Cooper insists Bush’s record matters to Romney. Again: Why? I’m not yet drunk enough to understand. Also, Romney says he didn’t raise taxes. Untrue?
6:07pm Cooper said “no rules,” and I think he meant it. He let Romney talk as long as he wanted to. That’s promising.
6:08pm This is not the McCain who won Florida yesterday. He sounds medicated. Maybe he’ll wake up as the thing goes on, like he often does.
6:08.5 McCain also looks puny next to Romney, scrunched down over his mic while Romney, the Six Foot Human Male Penis, sits totally erect.
6:09pm CNN’s audio is ever-so-slightly out-of-sync. It makes all the candidates look as otherworldly as Ron Paul.
6:10pm Paul is wearing too much Pan-Cake makeup tonight. Also, he thinks the economy is worse off… and he’s trailed off into accusations of “empire.” And did you know America “used to have a middle class?” So sayeth Ron.
6:11 Romney, so far, is the only one tonight who even looks presidential. Never thought I’d say that.
6:12 Every time Romney says “McCain-Kennedy” or “McCain-Lieberman,” take a shot. Ol’ Mitt is gonna tie McCain up with Democrats but good. Plus, Romney asks what kind of Republican gets endorsed by the New York Times?
6:13pm McCain comes back swinging, pointing out the Romney’s conservative hometown paper, the Boston Herald, endorsed none other than John McCain.
6:14pm First martini is empty. Break time.
6:17pm What’d I miss? Mitt’s talking health care? Man, did I pick a good time to pour another drink. Although I do notice Paul on the side, with that look that says, “Why won’t they talk about the North American Union? It’s a conspiracy!”
6:19pm Huckabee believes in smaller government and lower taxes. Just not for Arkansas.
6:20pm You know what rocks about the 21st Century? I can drunkblog and order a pizza on the internet all at the same time. Of course, I have to rely on somewhat more primitive technology to get the pizza to me from the front door to the bedroom — but Melissa is used to that by now.
6:21pm Romney is talking health care again. If he’s going to tie McCain to the Democrats, I guess it’s only fair he gets tied into HillaryCare.
6:22pm McCain was just forced to take a side between The Governator and Bush. Guess which way he went? Can you guess? Is it too tough?
6:25pm McCain sounds sensible on the environment, almost Instapundit-ish. His theory being, even if the climate isn’t changing, it makes sense to clean things up and act green. Given the times, that’s about as good as we’re going to get from a politician.
6:27pm Romney wants to get us off of foreign oil. And here I was thinking that Huckabee and Paul believed in the fairy tales.
6:29pm “I think California should do what they want,” says Paul. And it’s good to hear him talk about property rights in regards to the environment — but he didn’t tie them together. He just kind of used the words “property rights” as a non sequitur. And then he changed topics again, before getting cut off by Cooper. Why can’t Paul state a thought? Why is Cooper suddenly enforcing rules he said don’t exist? This is a bad debate.
6:31pm Huckabee understands California. And Harvey Weinstein understands Arkansas. Not.
6:33pm Everybody wants to invest in infrastructure. Well, good. Romney can start by getting my cul-de-sac plowed in a timely manner. First candidate to promise that gets my vote.
6:34pm Paul is on his bombing bridges rant again. And his trillion dollar foreign policy rant. And… you know the drill by now.
6:35 Paul is a weird federalist. Isn’t foreign policy one of the few things the Constitution gives the federal government almost unlimited license to pursue?
6:37pm How many times is McCain going to be asked to defend his vote against the Bush tax cuts? I know I’m burned out, having watched almost all these debates… but, jeebus, it’s not like there isn’t news more recent than 2002.
6:38pm I’ll also vote for the candidate who promises free robot livers for everybody.
6:40pm Romney has taken one of the sane pages from Paul’s book (“sane pages?” -ed.), and is talking entitlement reform. That’s always been a losing issue, which says nothing good about the future of the Republic.
6:41pm They’re letting Huck talk again. Isn’t that cute?
6:43pm Everybody has a plan for immigration. Paul wants a wall. Romney wants everybody to form a nice, orderly line back to the border. McCain wants you to ignore the man behind the curtain. And Huckabee wants whatever McCain or Romney wants, depending on who wins.
6:44pm Shhh, Reagan was for amnesty.
6:45pm The lady with the cartoon hair asked McCain if he was maybe kind of hiding his past support for a “pathway to citizenship.” Truthful answer: Yer damn right, sister!
6:47pm Let’s be honest here. The INS can’t handle simple visa requests in a timely manner. Any candidate who claims we have the means to do anything about illegal immigration on a case-by-case basis is flat-out lying. And I’m pretty blasé about illegal immigration, and am a big supporter of greatly increasing legal immigration. Can you imagine what regular voters should feel about these lies?
6:51pm Now we’re talking pro-life stuff, and I’m thinking, “Where’s that pizza?” Honestly, why are we talking about Sandra Day O’Connor? She was appointed 20-some-odd years ago, and no longer sits on the court. She’s retired. If you want a debate about history, buy a couple rounds of drinks at a college bar. Without a doubt, this is the worst debate yet. And that’s saying something.
6:52pm Stephen (no relation) Bainbridge is liveblogging, too. And if I know him, he’s got half a wine bottle of something nice in him by now.
6:56pm What commercial am I watching in prime time? Old people talking about diabetes. Well, I guess we know Anderson Cooper’s real demographic.
6:57pm “30 minutes left to go,” Cooper threatens.
6:59pm “Is the Republican Party better off than it was eight years ago?” That’s Cooper, channeling Peggy Noonan. And it’s a fair question. Romney is tackling it, and kind-of-sort-of defending Bush for “keeping us safe” since 9/11. Mitt uses that to segue into Iraq, and from there into spending. And now there’s a something about the “house that Reagan built.” It started off as a good answer… he needs to learn when to stop talking. (Pot, meet kettle. -ed.)
7:01pm Man, Romney is getting lots of screen time. Although to be fair, he deserves it to defend himself against McCain’s “Clintonian” accusation that Romney supported a timetable on Iraq. I still don’t like or trust Romney, but on this one he’s been wronged.
7:03pm I find it hard to believe that, during the commercial break, McCain’s manager didn’t whisper in his ear, “Sit up straight.” Although I find it very easy to believe that McCain didn’t listen.
7:05pm “Sound and fury, signifying nothing.” McCain and Romney are shouting over who really meant what over the whole timetable issue. It’s like watching Clinton and Obama argue over whose health plan covers that extra .01%.
7:08pm We’re still going on with this? I’d rather hear Paul talk about the Fed, or Huckabee tell the story about that time he gave Jesus a ride to 7-11.
7:10pm “Your negative ads have set the tone in this campaign.” That’s McCain to Romney.
7:11pm Paul… is shouting… about everything… all at once… and the hardcore faithful applaud him.
7:12pm Iraq “never committed aggression,” says Paul. Tell Iran, or Kuwait, or the Kurds, or the marsh Arabs, or the Saudis, or… well, don’t tell them. They know Paul is as crazy as Saddam.
7:14pm “We are succeeding” in Iraq, says McCain. I don’t pray, but I do very deeply hope he’s right.
7:16pm Huckabee doesn’t like Putin, and judges him “by his actions.” For once, Huck doesn’t sound Carteresque. It’s too late, of course, except in an ass-covering make-me-your-vice-president way.
7:18pm The closest thing we have to a real foreign policy thinker on this stage is Ron Paul, and he’s dead wrong on everything past the water’s edge. This is a sad, sad group.
7:19pm It’s the martinis talking, I know. But what I want is the Frankenstein Candidate — half Paul, to cover the domestic stuff, and half Nixon to bomb the crap out of anyone who needs it.
7:21pm McCain doesn’t need any “on the job training.” Hillary is running on “experience,” too. I’m not sure it’s a winning play.
7:22pm I do like Romney when he talks about his business experience. But there’s something about him that strikes me as “First thing we do, consult all the lawyers.”
7:24pm Crap. Earlier, I forgot to actually link to Steve Egg’s liveblog. Also, it’s true: Guys named Steve do the best liveblogging.
7:25pm “He bought and he sold and sometimes people lost their jobs.” McCain, talking about Romney’s business experience. That was a cheap line.
7:26pm Paul: “People are supposed to run the economy… the government should provide solid money and low regulations.” See what I mean about my ideal Frankenstein candidate? Sadly, Paul is a lot more the Creature and a lot less Dr. Frankenstein.
7:28pm Huck wants equal time. But it’s almost time for the final curtain.
7:30pm Four minutes left, threatens Cooper.
7:31-34pm The question is, Would Reagan endorse you?
Mitt: Absolutely. And then a lot of words about how he’s just like Reagan.
McCain: Reagan wouldn’t endorse Romney. But he’d endorse me because I stick with my principles, especially when they include using the word “footsoldier” for the fourth time tonight.
Paul: I’m not sure, but he liked me in ’78, and he also liked the gold standard.
Huckabee: I think it would be incredibly presumptuous and arrogant… but I endorse Reagan.
Huckabee wins the final round.
7:35pm I’ll have a final wrap-up in just a bit, over at Pajamas Media.
UPDATE: My bad — the wrap will get posted right here at VodkaPundit, and in just a few minutes.