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Live Blog: The GOP Presidential Debate

Romney concludes the evening with yet another small stumble but without anyone having laid a glove on him. He leaves the stage the way he entered it: as the clear frontrunner.

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Gingrich rightly skewers the sympathy question posed by Charlie Rose.

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Santorum finally gets back into the conversation with a great point about the importance of the role of the  breakdown of families in the increase of poverty. Unfortunately, Charlie Rose isn’t interested.

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Back to the liberal narrative about income inequality.

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99 minutes into the debate and Perry makes his first real pitch for himself as a job creator. Too little, too late. He’s lost again.

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Forget Obamacare. Hatred for Chris Dodd and Barney Frank appear to be the one thing that unites all Republicans.

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The Herman Cain-Ron Paul debate about the Federal Reserve is not helping Herman even if he does sound smart compared to Paul.

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Perry’s given another chance to talk about healthcare. But instead of honing in on Romney’s weakness, he goes into a rambling answer about what he’s done in Texas and various problems. Another weak moment. Maybe the problem wasn’t his lack of rest before the last debates. Maybe it was the candidate.

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Santorum launches another attack at Cain. He’s right but it doesn’t look like it’s hurting Herman.

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Romney’s decision to pose his question at Bachmann rather than Perry hurts the Texan. Bachmann is no threat to Romney. Perry left sitting there. Romney wins.

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Perry finally gets a chance to attack Romneycare as the model for Obamacare. It’s a telling point but Romney is so adept at defending himself on this that the damage is minimal.

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It takes an attack from Ron Paul to make Herman Cain sound like a reasonable voice on economics.

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If the candidate question segment is only going to be an ask Mitt Romney session, it only solidifies his stance as the frontrunner and presumed nominee.

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Romney dismisses Cain’s attempt to nail him about his economic plan’s lack of simplicity by pointing out that simple doesn’t always work. He then goes on to list his top 7 points. Point to Romney.

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Bachmann starts off the second half swinging away by blasting Perry for being a Democrat who supported Gore in 1988. He responds that Reagan started as a Democrat too. But he fails to nail her for being a Jimmy Carter supporter in 1976.

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At the halfway mark, it’s clear that rather than a Rick Perry comeback, the real story is the attention that Herman Cain is getting. Cain’s plan is faulty but he benefits from the attention since he’s never at a loss for a quick verbal comeback. His strength is his unflappability. Perry looks lost. And Romney looks likes he’s cruising.

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There are simply too many candidates for Charlie Rose’s conversational style to work. The result is that some of them spent much of the first hour just sitting there.

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Santorum mocks Cain asking how many people in New Hampshire want a 9 percent sales tax and how many think the federal income tax would stay at 9 percent?

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Perry’s touting of his China trade experience is a poor counter to Romney’s attack on China and demand for an end to its trade cheating. Perry falls short again.

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Huntsman tries to play the wise man on China in contrast with Romney. Instead he’s playing right into Romney’s hand. Mitt says others have been played like a fiddle by the Chinese. He mocks the idea of a trade war with China. Point to Mitt.

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Bachmann’s right when she says that when the government starts a tax, it never stops it. That’s the problem with Cain’s 9-9-9 assumption that he can initiate new taxes while doing away with others.

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Back to Cain’s 9-9-9. Cain says Bloomberg’s analysis that it won’t work is “incorrect.” But his blue skies assumption and premise makes it sound like he’s selling snake oil.

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Bachmann touts her leadership during the debt ceiling debate. She’s right about cutting spending but pretending, as she did, that a default wasn’t a possibility actually wasn’t leadership.

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Romney won’t bite on choice between cutting defense or raising taxes. Instead talks about cutting entitlements. That’s still the right line for the GOP despite Dems’ Mediscare tactics.

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Romney talks about the increasing share of the government in the economy. Good point and he is ready, as always, with statistics. And rather than just talking about cutting, he injects the idea of growth as the ultimate answer. Sounding an optimistic note is exactly what the GOP needs to do even in tough economic times.

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Clip of Reagan’s acceptance of higher taxes on upper incomes. Perry’s response was right about the fact that Reagan didn’t get the spending reductions that he wanted. Says that’s the problem about Washington. Good answer. But he still sounds tentative.

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If this was going to be Perry’s comeback night, why is he just sitting there like a bump on a log.

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Gingrich warms to the idea of a European meltdown. He loves this futurist stuff. Always has.

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Romney’s idea of good idea for a new head of the fed: Milton Friedman. Good answer. And it helps him to stop sounding defensive.

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Romney’s answer to hypothetical question about a collapse is that he won’t have to ask the Secretary of the Treasury how the economy works. And he doesn’t like bailouts. Back to the leader theme.

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Cain’s claim that his 9-9-9 consumption tax will pass because the American people will want it. That just proves again that he hasn’t the faintest idea of how Washington works.

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Cain says 9-9-9 is not the price of a pizza. Good news.

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Not that anyone cares but when Huntsman says his father is his model idea of an advisor it ought to remind them that his “businessman” claim just means he worked for his daddy.

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Bachmann says Obama wants to collapse Medicare and fold it into Obamacare. Another strong point. Mitt has to hope that they change the subject soon. As long as they’re talking about Obamacare, it’s not good for him.

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Gingrich gets the attention of middle-aged men by discussing the controversy over prostate cancer testing. Uses it to describe the problem of government intervention in medicine.

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Every time the camera focuses in on Perry for a reaction shot, he looks uncomfortable. If he doesn’t relax, it’s going to be hard for him to keep up his energy in the second half of the debate.

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Santorum says his plans are more realistic than Herman Cain’s because they can get passed. Maybe.

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Rick Santorum thinks heavy industry will come back to Western Pennsylvania. That sort of dreaming works in PA (though not for him in 2006). It won’t wash now. Deregulation is important but it won’t bring back the past.

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Tumulty takes up the liberal media narrative about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. Gingrich rightly draws the distinction between the behavior of the Tea Party and the left-wing protesters. Then starts in on Ben Bernanke and Dodd-Frank. Newt then says Barney Frank and Chris Dodd are the ones who should be investigated. Applause line for Republicans.

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Karen Tumulty wants to know whether Wall Street execs should go to jail for the recession. Michele Bachmann rightly answers that it was the federal government that causes the mortgage meltdown. Then talks about repealing Dodd-Frank. Excellent, substantive point. Good opening for Bachmann.

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Perry says he’ll lay out an economic plan over the next three days. Says Romney had a head-start in cooking up economic plans. Excuses won’t cut it, Rick.

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Romney’s answer is that we need a leader. Starting off playing it safe.

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Perry opens his economic solution by talking energy. His oil industry supporters will be pleased.

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Cain says he has a bold solution. What is it? His 9-9-9 sales tax plan plus the usual stuff about a balanced budget.

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Cain is not only in the middle of the table, he gets the first question. First tier respect.

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If that’s a kitchen table, then we’re talking about one big kitchen.

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The debate is about to begin with PBS’s Charlie Rose moderating. Will the interaction between the candidates change because they’re sitting around a table rather than at separate podiums?



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