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Live Blog: GOP Presidential Debate

Debate ends. Winner: Romney. Loser: Gingrich who, despite strong performance, gives Romney big opening to savage him on amnesty for illegals. As for the others: Bachmann does well. Perry doesn’t make a mistake but Cain flounders as usual. Ron Paul probably helped himself by getting so much time to answer though he was clearly out of step with his own party.

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China just getting mentioned as a throwaway line in final questions.

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Paul’s rationalization of the Taliban is disgusting. He forgets they were the 9/11 killers hosts and defenders.

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Romney points out that Perry’s no-fly zone makes no sense because Assad isn’t bombing his people, he’s shooting them. No drive zone for tanks? Also makes good points about convincing Alawites to abandon Assad. Again, sounds presidential and knowledgeable.

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Romney finally gets a chance to talk about American exceptionalism and the contrast between his vision of an American century and Obama’s globalist view.

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Ron Paul appears to be getting more time than many of the other contenders.

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Cain won’t support no fly-zone proposed by Perry in Syria. Says we should stop the export of oil from Syria. Guess he was dozing when he got the briefing that mentioned that Syria doesn’t export much oil. Ouch. First real gaffe from him tonight.

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Finally getting a question on the Arab spring. But still nothing on China.

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Perry, who was killed on immigration over in-state tuition issue, looks pleased to see that someone else has just stepped on the immigration land mine. In response, Romney sticks to his position against amnesty for illegals. This is going to hurt Gingrich.

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Bachmann challenges Gingrich’s liberal stand on immigration. Gingrich makes sense but how does this well-considered position jive with idea that he can flank Romney from the right? Romney predictably answers by denouncing amnesty and drawing distinction between legal and illegal immigration. Gingrich may have just given Romney the opening he needs to remind conservatives that Gingrich is to his left on a lot of issues.

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Blitzer reminds Gingrich he once supported amnesty for immigrants. He answers that immigrants with graduate degrees should be encouraged to stay. Says he and Romney were both snookered by plan that was also supposed to secure the border. Wants selective service-style board to review illegals giving those with long ties and good record a pass. That isn’t what right-wingers want to hear but it makes sense.

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Ron Paul doesn’t a war on terror or a war on drugs. Libertarian catnip but irrelevant in a serious discussion of foreign policy.

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Perry wants a 21st century Monroe Doctrine on infiltration of Latin America by terrorists. Says fence along border with Mexico isn’t enough. Security cooperation requires more than that. Good point.

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Bachmann says budget debate isn’t about “Monopoly money.” True but it’s hard to argue that her stand during debt ceiling crisis in which she seemed okay with default was realistic.

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Santorum says Obama has “poisoned the well” in Congress and made bipartisanship impossible. Good point but his bragging about his achievements in the 1990′s reminds us that it’s been a long time since he won an election.

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In denouncing Obama for his lack of leadership, Perry cites his experience as “commander-in-chief” of the Texas National Guard. Lines like that show how his goofiness can come out even when he’s making good points.

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Huntsman says foreign policy should be “driven by economics.” For a guy who claims to be running on his international experience, that’s a pretty cynical stand.

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Gingrich again says we’ve got to get serious about Iran, says bombing campaign that leaves Islamist regime in place won’t work but as a last resort won’t leave Israel alone to face nuclear threat. But he then seems to say that Israel intends to use them. That’s a misstatement.

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Ronney points out that the money that will be cut on defense will be spent on Obamacare. He answers Ron Paul’s cynicism about defense by mentioning programs that will be cut. Points out the failure of Obama because he’s left Israel alone to face Iran. Higher gas costs hurt but not as much as a nuclear Iran. Then pledges his first foreign trip will be to Israel to show the U.S. cares. Good moment for him.

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Santorum answers Paul Wolfowitz question about aid to Africa and other foreign aid by pointing out the importance of expanding US influence in the world and that money spent on it is saved on military expenditures.

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Bachmann turns question about helping Israel bomb Iran around by pointing out that Iran wants to eradicate Israel and chides Obama for wasting time on pointless diplomacy with Tehran.

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Gingrich says if we were serious we could shut down Iran’s nuclear program in a year.

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AEI’s Danielle Pletka poses intelligent question about the futility of sanctions on Iran. Perry answers by speaking of the need to sanction Iran’s Central Bank. Then chimes in with his idea about a no-fly zone in Syria and Obama’s weakness.

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Herman Cain gives a clear answer about supporting Israel in an attack on Iran. Ron Paul says no and quotes retired Mossad leader and Netanyahu critic about why it would be stupid. Says Israel should take care of themselves but “suffer the consequences.” As always, his basic hostility to the Jewish state shines through his isolationism.

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At the first break, Gingrich, Romney, Bachmann and Santorum all have scored points. Perry and Cain not so strong. Paul enjoying being the dog in the manger. Huntsman tries to be in both the security and the isolationist camp and only demonstrates just how marginal he is in his own party.

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Santorum reminds us war is being fought with Islamist terrorism not Islam. Then zaps Huntsman for articulating position that validates Islamist boast that they can wait out an impatient and tired U.S.

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Gingrich takes on Fred Kagan’s comment about bin Laden’s killing hurting relations with Pakistan. He says it should have. Big applause line.

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Huntsman seems to be saying that we need to declare victory in Afghanistan. Romney claims precipitate withdrawal will undermine what we’ve already achieved.

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Romney posed a question on the financial cost of Afghan war. He rightly answers by speaking of the investment in blood and the necessity not to let it fall back in the hands of the Taliban.

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Bachmann is schooling Perry on foreign policy. His anti-Pakistan/foreign aid stance is inherently popular but she’s the one who’s sounding presidential.

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Michele Bachmann shows off her Intelligence Committee info in answer on Pakistan. Interesting that her views on aid to Pakistan are as nuanced as her stands on the budget are simplistic.

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Herman Cain struggles to spit out a coherent answer about profiling but then calls Wolf Bliter “Blitz.” Funny moment.

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Ron Paul’s views are marginal within the GOP and the nation but as the only one arguing against fighting the war on terror, he’s enjoying the spotlight.

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Rick Santorum talks about the need to profile potential terrorists. He’s right but this is the sort of thing the mainstream media will kill him on. Mention of Muslims will not be forgiven.

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Rick Perry takes a shot at the TSA unions. Nobody who flies likes them.

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Romney draws a crucial distinction between war and crime. There is a war going on against terrorists that must be treated as one.

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Huntsman tries to sound authoritative but it doesn’t disguise the fact that he basically came down on the same side as Ron Paul. This again illustrates why he is a marginal figure in the Republican Party.

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Bachmann scores with answer that says Obama has turned the CIA into the ACLU on interrogations of prisoners.

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Ron Paul’s rant against security just gives Gingrich a softball to hit out of the park. Good opening for him.

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Opening question on Patriot Act from Ed Meese gives Gingrich opportunity to sound presidential as well as to sound a scary note about terrorism.

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Michele Bachmann scores points with opening that pays tribute to vets and current servicemen and women.

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Herman Cain tries a little too hard to sound as if he cares and knows about foreign policy.

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Isn’t Mitt Romney’s real first name Willard?

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Rick Perry commemorates his first date with his wife in his introduction. Sweet. But, as always, with him. Goofy.

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Wolf Blitzer promises to give all the candidates equal time. Good luck with that.

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The singing of the national anthem at the debates makes you wonder what’s the model for this kind of show: reality TV or sports?

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CNN starts off with footage from America’s conflicts over the last 65 years. Interesting film montage of American presidents and events. It’s a reminder that from FDR to Obama, the nation’s experiences with leaders have run the gamut from inspiring (FDR, Reagan) to appalling (Jimmy Carter) and all those somewhere in between.


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