If the Republican Primary has been wacky, then today was downright Charlie Sheen-esque. First, with polls showing Newt Gingrich closing the gap on Mitt Romney off the momentum from his performance in a debate earlier this week and could be in the lead. Rick Perry drops out and endorses Gingrich all before lunch time. Then, clips from ABC’s interview with Marianne Gingrich, Newt’s second wife, using the phrase “open marriage” in an interview to discuss their divorce. On top of that, Rick Santorum won Iowa!!
While all this is happening, Mitt Romney has taken a whooping on his taxes, his record with Bain, and his thinking that his six figure speaking fees weren’t a lot of money. That sets the stage for the debate! To South Carolina!
8:01 – I’m done with this whole “First In The South” nomenclature. Give me a break. What next, “First in the Mountain Standard Time” for Nevada?
8:02 – The Fight for the South screengrab is going to be priceless! Very Confederate States of America CNN! Classy!
8:03 – Unconfirmed rumors out of Charleston suggest that Newt hopes his podium tolerates him spending time with other podiums.
8:07 – After both Santorum and Romney talk up their families, there is noticably no mention of Newt’s family when the candidates were introducing themselves. Shocking!!
8:09 – So this is how Newt Gingrich turns the open marriage issue into a boon for him. By going after the media and the nature of personal politics which just so happens to be the blood sport he helped create.
8:12 – This has the feel of a pep rally more than a debate where we are going to learn about important issues. Beat Central this weekend!
8:13 – Rick Santorum sounds like he is a guy who wants you to think he killed a man in Reno just to see him die, when he actually just spilled some milk once.
8:15 – I’d like to know what Mitt Romney is actually thinking during Ron Paul’s sound finance economy.
8:18 – Wow, Mitt Romney slams President Obama for crony capitalism. He really is going to make this race about capitalism with his Richy Rich tone-deafness?
8:22 – Santorum has gotten better in his debate performances in the simple sense of him being far less whiney at these debates. And his discussion of the economy included a very sharp, smart attack on Romney.
8:24 – Just had a crazy though: what if Newt Gingrich weathers this storm, Santorum gets his own momentum and Romney floats downward and we have a tight three-way race on Saturday where Romney could finish third?
8:28 – Hey Mitt Romney, do you understand how the DOD works? Why have the states dole it out? Lets give it to 50 different states to run? Really? Shouldn’t the military be the one to help veterans?
8:30 – Really? At a South Carolina debate, CNN’s first audience questioner is from Tennessee? Poor form.
8:34 – Remember when Barack Obama got shit as a candidate for not having a flag pin on his suit jacket? Now the only candidate on the stage with a flag pin is Santorum. Romney and Paul have none and Gingrich has what looks like Lean Sigma Six.
8:36 – Santorum is giving a pretty solid electability argument against both Romney and Gingrich on health care. Somebody ate their Wheaties this morning.
8:39 – Romney can’t get out of his own way on Medicaid. If it take him this long to deliver his punch against Santorum, he will get schooled by Obama
8:41 – Took 41 minutes for Gingrich to mention a website!
8:41 – Lots of blood on the floor after the whole health care wrestling match. Ron Paul got to stay out of it and now come in as the doctor in the room, literally!
8:44 – Ron Paul goes from an anti-intervention poster child to Greece bogeyman in a few seconds!
8:45 – Gingrich releases his tax returns during the debate! Like a ninja! A very portly ninja!
8:50 – Santorum keeps hitting on electability – now with Gingrich for his call to get him out of the race. Santorum: Steady and Solid – Is he running for office or selling a truck?
8:51 – Newt Gingrich’s logic – Want to change DC? Send someone who has been there since 1974!
8:53 – Wow! Santorum is taking it to Gingrich, but now I think he is getting too far into the weeds for people outside the room who are eating it up who had to wait till the end of his attack to find out – sort of – it was about the Congressional checking scandal in the 90s.
8:55 – Hey CNN, where is Ron Paul?
8:56 – Romney and I are on the same wavelength about Gingrich and DC? Yoinks. Mitt Romney knows the street. Is that like Backstreet?
856 – Somebody in the crowd really liked the idea of a birthing suite
8:57 – Mitt Romney couldn’t remember the question – kind of like Rick Perry but they all just get going.
9:00 – Mitt Romney stumbles over the tax return question. At one point, he tries to turn it on Obama. When did the GOP start hating presidential rounds of golf.
9:02 – Romney says he won’t release last year’s taxes because it might help the Democrats. Really?
9:04 – Well played CNN with the comment from Romney’s father. First boo’s of the night go to Romney’s response about releasing them on his own schedule.
9:06 – Santorum’s manufacturing tax to zero is intriguing but I wonder how much he and his campaign factor in the salaries of those employees compared to what it costs in the US and what it costs in Asia. That being said, this issue sounds like it is playing well in South Carolina.
9:10 – Ron Paul’s lengthy answer is like an Intro to Econ 101 Lecture.
9:11 Kudos to the crowd for booing SOPA!
9:15 – Stop the presses: I agree with the Republican candidates on SOPA! Job well done to the internet grassroots and corporations that protested SOPA.
9:21 – Mitt Romney makes his one funny joke of the year about getting 25 more votes in Iowa.
9:23 – Watch out Rick, this isn’t the Final Four. Also you don’t want to the guy who is happy to be there.
9:25 – No one trusts the government but Newt Gingrich wants to have them expand along the border. When it comes to the penalizing employees on the issue of immigration, Gingrich sounds reasonable.
9:30 – If nothing else, Santorum continues to draw a strong distinction between himself and Gingrich and Romney.
9:33 – I’d never ever vote for Ron Paul but he does bring a certain intellectual honesty and fresh air to the debate. I do miss Huntsman’s corny dad jokes though.
9:36 – Yea, John King botched that question hard about Romney’s pro-choice dabblings. Well, Gingrich sure doesn’t buy into subtlety with the use of the phrase of “Pro-Abortion.”
9:37 – Romney seemed very tense about being attacked personally. That could come back and get him in the fall if he ends up winning the nomination.
9:39 – Did he say he doesn’t have a litmus test on judges?
9:40 – I’m betting that pro-life whisper bit killed at debate prep at Team Santorum. Or the candidate loved it and the communications team hated it.
9:43 – Rough night for John King! Crowd got Ron Paul his chance to answer. Wait, the 60s created pornography? Or is that when Ron Paul discovered pornography?
9:45 – While Ron Paul’s pro-life answer is weak, he does knock Santorum down a notch or two with his quip about being overly sensitive.
9:50 – John King keeps talking about the state’s history – elephant in the room is Fort Sumter.
9:52 – And then Ron Paul starts by talking liberty and private property rights. Woof. Most of the folks most pumped about Ron Paul are either really young or not don’t look like your typical GOP folk. Interesting.
9:53 – Newt Gingrich thinks Obama was more dangerous than Richard Nixon? A man who broke this country’s laws? Newt wants people to think he is the smartest guy in the room.
9:55 – Romney’s a mad lib comment of Republican catch phrases. Free Enterpirse/ City on a shining hill/capitalism.
9:56 – Anybody six months ago think CNN would end the last debate before South Carolina votes with Rick Santorum? And he keeps hitting at the electability. Santorum sounded like he was channeling some Friday Night Lights.
Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are the clear winners at tonight’s debate. The surge that Gingrich has experienced over the last few days will probably be stymied by the Marianne Gingrich news but it probably won’t stop bring him down. The question is where does the surge that one would expect Santorum to get from winning Iowa and performing very well tonight come from? Do the undecided split more towards Santorum? Does he get Perry’s supporters? Can Santorum peel off some of the people who are the newest folks on the Gingrich and Romney campaigns? In a little over 12 hours, the field of play in SC and in the GOP’s presidential primary has radically transformed. There is 35 hours till the polls happen. Buckle up.