Debate One For The Gipper! A Debate Night Diary

The first presidential debate I remember watching is the one where then-President George Bush looked at his watch in the midst of an answer by Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. The first debate where I felt the pangs of a staffer was when Bob Dole used his intro to tell viewers the score of the Padres-Cardinal playoff game. With no horse in the 2012 Republican presidential primary, I decided to keep a diary/live blog of this evening’s debate at the Ronald Reagan Library. So, lots of love for the Gipper!

7:52pm – Looks like the sound crew is crossing the background of the pre-debate Politico show. With so many debates in this month, it gets me wondering, are these guys staying on the road. Are they campaign roadies? Do you think they have their own dynamic? Like Romney’s guys is on a blue tooth 24/7, Cain’s guy hates pizza, and Gingrich’s roadie – ha, just kidding, its Newt.

7:54 – The sound was way off the video. Like poorly dubbed movie bad. I’m sure this will lead to at least one or two moments where Mitt Romney will be possessed by the voice of Rick Perry during the debate.

Take That Millard Fillmore Presidential Book Annex - Via thegraduates.org

7:56 – No matter what your thoughts are on Reagan as a president, kudos to the Reagan library for getting Air Force one in their facility. Talk about presidential. Maybe the debate should be held in the plane?

8:01 – After seeing some junior production staff on camera and a green screen with no sound in the minutes leading up to to the debate, switch over to MSNBC. Way better. Politico may win the morning, but they have lost this evening.

8:02 – Rick Perry reminds me of Governor Ritchie from West Wing. Will I be validated? Will he answer a question by saying, “[Insert issue here], boy, I don’t know”? Perry seems kind of jittery in his first answer. Big stage, first time in the fire. No mess-up though and he managed to stay on message though.

8:05 – Romney says if he was a career politician, he wouldn’t be running for president. Is it because he finally checked out his winning percentage when it comes to campaigns? Nope, it would be due to the fact that he wouldn’t have lived in the real economy.  Ron Paul would like that fake economy, I hear there is a gold standard.

8:07 – Man, Brian Williams really wants Romney v. Perry to be the title fight. Perry lands the jab but still real shakey on the first zinger. He sure did land that Dukakis jab. Congrats to all those who had Dukakis in your Drinking Game’s “Pick-A-Liberal-Stereotype From the 80’s” pool.

8:10 – Hey guys! Rick Santorum has a plan. He really likes it and wants some Democrats to like it too! It just a bunch of tax cuts. Man, what a plan tease.

8:11 – Herman Cain’s tax code plan sounds like a pizza deal. 9-9-9.  Or those long distance code commercials before we all had cell phones.

8:12 – Huntsman had me until he said Ronald Reagan flew Air Force One. Got me back with his solid argument on China and ability to drive home the answer. Let’s see what happens when he get something not in his wheelhouse. Not like any of these other candidates was an ambassador to China or anything.

8:14 – Rick Santorum can’t stop nodding during Michele Bachmann’s answer on Obamacare. God, I hope Brian Williams gives Santorum’s note to her during Study Hall. Bachmann crazy embraces the argument that every job lost or not created is because of ObamaCare. Take that for what it is worth.

Welcome to the Jungle Ron Paul, we got fun and games and some really gross stuff - Via Capital Century

8:16 – Wouldn’t Ron Paul would be the most popular curmudgeonly economics professor at the University of Chicago? He seems a lot like the libertarian version of this economic professor I had in college, minus the smelling of whiskey part. More importantly, Brian Williams asks Rep. Paul about regulating the drug industry after he gets nowhere on car safety and air traffic controllers. The gist of Paul’s answer is that the lobbyists run amok and foul up the system so what point is there in the government trying. And that market will determine who is safe and not. Seems very defeatest and intellectually dishonest. Lax ethics and lobbying laws create the situation and folks like Paul throw up their hands and say, “See, I told you, the government shouldn’t be involved.”

8:19 – How bout that? Newt Gingrich had us all there for a second, sounding like a real candidate until he gets after Obama for being all about class warfare. I’m sure that message is going over well in Hawaii!

8:20 – Rick Perry voluntarily said individual mandates do not work in this country? Could this be an unforced error at some point? Somebody is going to attach that to other mandates, right?

8:21 – Romney just said 100% of people are covered by Obamacare. Somebody better tell my employer they don’t need to provide my coverage.

8:22 – Perry is asked why his state was dead last in health coverage. His response was to give block grants to the state to allow for innovation on the state level. No one is calling these types of answers out. Other states, dealing with the same restrictions as Texas, did better than the Lone Star State. Why should a state that ranks dead last be trusted with the job of innovating when they are the last of the pack. Perry’s nerves haven’t gone away. Or is this just how he sounds when he is debating?

8:25 – Huntsman’s response to health care could have been stronger. Waited too long to go after Romney. If you’ve got a zinger, got it make sure it comes first or you are under time when you are going to throw it on the table.

8:26 – Bachmann will not only bring gas down to $2 a gallon, she is going to elect 13 more Republican senators. Would love for Bachmann to explain how ObamaCare is socialized medicine since you know, there is no government option!

Newt's efforts to divorce climate change were ultimately unsuccessful - Via FreeRepublic

8:27 – Gingrich goes after the moderator for highlighting real disagreement between Romney and Perry. Wow! Gingrich made the moderators not only the enemy but a wing of Obama for America. Is this the same guy who shared a counch with Nancy Pelosi for an ad about climate change?

8:28 – Herman Cain also against individual mandate – No one cares.

8:31 – Rick Santorum seems deeply passionate about the issue of poverty and welfare and human dignity. Talks about how poverty was its lowest in 2001. Wonder who took over that year. Better chance of Mark Foley getting mentioned approvingly in this debate I guess.

8:32 – Rick Perry just referred to Santorum as the other fellow or something similar. Perry platitudes on the economy question. God, he is either having an off night or this is his typical performance. Either way, if he makes it into the general election, those debates are going to epic. They should be scheduled on Friday or Saturday nights so folks don’t have to call in sick due to drinking games gone awry.

8:34 – Twitter questions. The plebians speak! 140 characters for you!

8:34 – The Marcellus Shale according to Romney could be done by Obama. Actually, NY is in control of that. Man, Romney is doing a lot of things in Day 1. Wonder if he realizes there is a lot of pro forma stuff to go through. Like W-2 and getting a work buddy.

8:35 – Bachmann claims gas was $1.79 when Obama came into office. I’m sure there was no context like it being winter or anything else to off-set that cherry picked piece of information.

Phone break!! I missed 12 minutes of the debate. Oh well, I’d rather talk to my girlfriend. This is just a civic duty for all five of my readers – all of whom probably watched the debate on a TV!

The Pride of Kenosha, Wisconsin!

8:49 –  I come back and Rick Perry is saying that social security is a ponzi scheme. Wow! Would have been impressed if he called it a Fonzi Scheme! Has this post jumped the shark yet?

8:50 – Mitt Romney is the candidate who will save Social Security. Will Perry force Romney to be the adult front-runner in the room. If Perry and Romney keep mixing it up on this issue, that looks like it will happen by default, but what a boring figurative fight that would be. Heads-up, when they ask about COLA, they ain’t talking about Pepsi or Coke.

8:51 – Rick Perry on social security sounds like the guy who heard some stuff on the radio or in USA Today and believes all of it validates what he believes.

8:52 – Herman Cain wants to save Social Security by embracing the Chilean model which allows young folks to keep their money out of the system. In America, we call that killing social security by defunding it.

8:54 – Bachmann comes out against government mandating parents to inoculate children. Look, maybe there is some gray area in the way Texas went about the HPV debate and that will allow other candidates to score points off of Perry, but coming out against all inoculations is dangerous. The reckless claims of Jenny McCarthy and her ilk have led to a re-emergence of polio. Is Bachmann saying we should run the risk of having kids be exposed to TB, measles, mumps, rubella, and polio? Get real.

8:56 – Always err on the side of saving lives. Probably Perry’s best line so far tonight.

8:58 – Romney handles the Perry/HPV question nicely compared to the other candidates. The problem with Romney in these debates is that he always seems so uncomfortable even when what he is saying sounds good. Is it because he has had so many different positions on these issues? Or is there something else?

8:59 – Ron Paul just seems like an old grandpa at Thanksgiving when it comes to airport security. “They gettin’ sexual at the airport!” Not really a quote. Paul says the airlines should provide security. This is a legitimate question, but who was providing it before TSA and DHS? Was it the market place? My experience with the free market and security guards leaves me to believe that most places go for the cheapest option out there. Not to say TSA is doing a great job, but lets be honest on all fronts here.

9:03 – Ron Paul seems uber shocked that Herman Cain agrees with him.

9:04 – Huntsman comes out against the fortress security mentality that developed post-9/11. Finally! This is a true wedge issue. Something that will appeal to Ds, Rs, and independents.  And then he pivots to unemployment ably. Solid answer.

9:06 – Newt Gingrich likes Barack Obama’s position on charter schools. Charter schools are part of class warfare. Newt Gingrich is a class warrior (during school hours only!) See how I did that?!

9:08 – Perry wants a two part system when it comes to immigration. Security and then talking about those who are here and fixing the immigration system. Right, because these debates operate in a two part system. Well, sort of, I guess, but seems like an easy way to get around saying something impolitic.

9:09 – Romney wants a fence. Even though he goes on to say fences won’t work. Right on employers who hire illegal immigrants are a magnet. Wrong on penalizing the children of parents who committed the crime of crossing the border illegally, especially to children who were born here and are citizens by birth. No amnesty from Romney!

9:11 – The thing about Newt Gingrich is that when he talks about the past, he sounds logical. When he talks about threats to America or Obama he is a loon. Reminds me of the Batman villain, Two-Face.

9:13 – Santorum asked about the 11 million who are here. Says he’ll talk about it later. Um, you are running for president. You should answer that now.

9:14 – Bachmann’s answers get loopier and loopier. When asked about the border, she says failing to erect a fence means we are surrendering our sovereignty to narco-terrorists in Mexico. First off, she is terror mongering. Second, these folks are drug kings, not narco-terrorists. They are business man who look at the bottom line. Our War on Drugs helps them. Only Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, and maybe Jon Huntsman are willing to admit that.

9:17 – Come on Huntsman! First you bring up Zombie Reagan, referring to him as if Reagan was at the debate, and then talk about fixing the legal immigration system and pointing out the boom in Vancouver, British Columbia. Talk about walking a tight rope.

9:18 – Ron Paul’s wheelhouse – Border and Real ID cards and this fence business. He saw the hanging curve coming down the pipe and swung too hard. Ends up closing on the fence will also keep enterpreneurs and the rich in. Right, because they are all fleeing to Ciudad Juarez right now. Not one of these candidates said anything about how putting the federal government on the border is an expansion of the federal government. Man, the US is just like Hotel California.

9:22 – Campaigns asked NBC/Politico for no lightning round. Instead just get some thunder.

Mitt Romney Supports Any Tea Party With Earl Grey - Via Country Living

9:23 – Mitt Romney is for the Tea Party if it is for what he stands for. Romney’s most honest answer.

9:25 – After candidates are asked if they would change their previous answer on tax cuts/revenue enhancements in a budget deal, Bachmman claims Reagan would join them. Really? On taxes? Safe to say she is no longer a serious challenger. Not even a Huckabee level threat anymore to be honest, unless Perry folds like a cheap suit.

9:26 – Man, I may disagree with Huntsman but I like his messaging.

9:27 – Huntsman talks about nation building at home. He sounds like Bernie Sanders. Mentions that Afghanistan is an asymmetrical counter-terror effort. He wants to get the nation’s core fixed. Talk about a brainy answer. If Huntsman can find a way to get into the general election, Obama has to be worried about that match-up.

9:28 – Romney just pales in comparison to Huntsman. I know everybody thought it was going to be Perry that Romney needs to worry about, but I think it will be Huntsman. Romney is not going to compete for Perry’s votes. Huntsman could take from Romney. He doesn’t just look like the adult in the room, Huntsman sounds like the adult in the room.

9:29 – Rick Perry approves Obama’s efforts with Osama Bin Ladin. And then says Keynesian economics is dead. Did Seal Team 6 kill that too? Seriously, though, Perry just seems hesitant and unsure throughout this entire debate. It gets to the point where you start to wonder if there is any room for growth here or is this all that there is. Don’t forget, he dodged debates in the general election in 2010.

9:30 – Perry says Americans don’t want to see adventurisms in military. He won’t say what an example of that is. It is an either or deal, right? Afghanistan or Iraq? Sounds a lot like to Iraq to me.

9:31 – Bachmann’s sense of geography and International Relations makes Ollie North look like a Rhodes Scholar. First, she says Obama has weakened the military. Her argument: there are calls for military budget cuts. So, Republicans say efficiency can come to other parts of the government by budget cuts through trimming the fat. When it comes to DOD, that is a non-starter. Give me a break. It gets even better when she says Obama has weakened Israel against a potentially nuclear Iran because of the president’s call for Israel to go back to the 1967 borders. Besides her willful misrepresentation of Obama’s Israel policy, the two have little to nothing in relation. Bachmann is a mighty wind filled with meaninglessness

9:34 – I mentioned to a friend earlier this evening that I think our political parties are dure for a realignment, mostly from the center, center-right and right. One of the main areas will be on foreign policy. The right diverges greatly. You have the isolationist view point represented by Bachmann and then the theology infused neo-con perspective brought to you by Santorum. Both slam the president but from very very different perspectives.

9:36 – Huntsman gets asked about his comments calling some folks in the Republican party cranks and crazies. He parries it pretty well.

9:37 – Perry seems so wholly unprepared. Compared to Huntsman, he seems to be winging it 100 percent.

9:38 – Would be interested in why Perry’s state lowed those toxin levels and how they did it.

9:39 – Bachmann just claimed Obama is following a political agenda, not a scientific agenda on environmental issues. All after she mentions he rejected increased EPA standards. She can’t even get her attack lines straight. Call Marcus!

9:40 – Gingrich and Bachmann have brought up the money infused into the economy by unleashing completely the energy industry. No mention of where these studies are from or how much the increases in production would hurt our health, cost us in medical bills and other consequence costs.

9:42 – Romney implies that people should support our war effort by taxes. I would like to know if that means he is opposed to the Bush Tax Cuts.

9:43 – Everybody loves bashing Bernanke, but it seems like folks forget he was a Bush appointee

9:44 – In a question to Rick Perry, 234 folks have been executed in Texas during your governorship, says Brian Williams. The crowd applauds. Sad.

9:44 – Rick Perry thinks all executed prisoners were guilty. The most damning example of his wrongness is here.

9:46 – Herman Cain says his tax plan would level the playing field for all businesses. I guess part of the 9-9-9 deal is if you don’t get your tax break in 30 minutes, you get…..?

9:48 – Ron Paul is opposed to the mandates. At least the Republicans are opposed to mandates and Man Dates too.

9:49 – The market takes care of people. Take a look at 2007, Mister Paul.

So the only super serious candidates with a shot of winning are Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman. Romney continues to look like central casting’s presidential stereotype, but the only time he sounds enthusiastic is when he is trying to reign in the discussion from going off the rails and with Huntsman around, he gets less opportunities to do that. Perry, for all his bluster, looked and sounded like the guy who crammed before the test and wasn’t entirely comfortable. Previous first debates from him have been equally lackluster. In the past, his follow up debates have been better, but there is one difference between now and then. He isn’t the incumbent anymore. Huntsman went after the status quo without rabidly going after Obama. He sounded mature, he bantered with Romney and Perry while holding off some sort of sinus infection. The last time someone in Utah handled a sinus infection this well in a clutch situation, they were pushing off of Byron Russell before making the winning shot.

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