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Live Blog: The GOP Debate

Biggest winner of the night: Gingrich, who lost no ground during his first debate as frontrunner. Romney loses ground. His $10k bet line will haunt him even if he was right about Perry misquoting him. It’s clear that Romney picked a bad time to have his worst debate. Gingrich weathered the storm of being the center of attention well. Santorum was the best of the also-rans which might help him get a respectable showing in Iowa where he’s been working so hard.

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Debate ends. Last word went to Bachmann with her win-win-win nonsense.

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Gingrich gives Santorum credit for speaking out on Iran. He’s right. Santorum made it a central issue in his 2006 re-election campaign. Unfortunately, he’ lost in a landslide.

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Perry says Ron Paul got him interested in the Federal Reserve. Scary thought.

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Santorum recalls that he was inspired to get into politics by listening to Newt Gingrich’s tapes. Reminder of Newt’s central role in GOP  conservative politics in the 80s.

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Perry repeats his ridiculous idea about a part-time Congress. Like making them do it in half the time will improve their performance.

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Paul: All government power is the use of force. Gets to the heart of libertarian ideology.

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Gingrich ignores pointed question about when he changed his mind to oppose the individual mandate and sticks to constitutional objections to a government having the power to make people buy anything.

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Back to health care and the individual mandate. Romney reiterates his states rights defense of Romneycare.

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Santorum turns the question into one about the importance of two parent families.

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Ron Paul: My wife worked my way through medical school. Hysterical.

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Romney: I didn’t grow up but my dad did. Does that count? Then makes up for it by saying he saw how families were hurt by unemployment.

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Question from the public about when was the last time you had to cut back? Perry leads off with memories of hardscrabble childhood. Did they have log cabins in Paint Creek?

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At the second commercial break, it’s clear Gingrich has got the Likud/ZOA vote locked up. Bachmann a respectable second. Romney scoring with the sober American Jewish Committee types.

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Bachmann won’t take sides between Gingrich and Romney but says Salam Fayyad fibbed to her about Palestinian textbooks no longer teaching Jew hatred. Wonder how many in the audience knew who she was talking about. (Yes, I’m talking about you, Herman Cain.)

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Santorum one-ups Gingrich by saying the West Bank is Israeli land.

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Gingrich says its time for America to have the courage to tell the truth about the Palestinians. Says his statement is no different from Reagan calling the Soviet Union the “evil empire.” Bull’s eye. Romney says he’s making trouble for Israel and Bibi.

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Romney says he agrees with Newt on everything except the “invented people.” Then switches to blaming it on Obama.

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Gingrich simply says what he said is historical true. Right on that. Responds to Saeb Erekat’s statement by saying how he could tell the difference between his group and bin Laden. Blasts Palestinians for spreading hate about Jews.

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Time to talk about Gingrich saying the Palestinians are “an invented people.” Ron Paul responds first reminding us why he’s no friend to Israel.

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Romney swings hard to the right on immigration. He has to wonder why conservatives haven’t made Gingrich pay for his plan. Answer: Gingrich is still a “not Romney.”

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Time for Newt to defend his immigration amnesty plan. Says it’ll be like a draft board. What he says makes sense and is moral. It doesn’t make sense that conservatives killed Perry for his deviation from orthodoxy on this issue but if they forgive Newt for this, it’s real progress.

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Newt plays defense on the infidelity issue by saying he made mistakes and that he asked God for forgiveness. Implies if God could forgive, what’s your problem?

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Romney defends the ad with his family. Says he needs to define himself and not let Obama do it. Reminder that Obama fears him most of all the GOP field.

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Paul says marriage vows are important but so is the oath of office. Can’t argue with him about that.

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Santorum says character counts but admits it’s not a disqualifying factor since people make mistakes. Camera pans to Newt who is working hard not to change his expression.

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George Stephanopolous opens up the marital fidelity issue. Perry talks about his vow to God as well as his wife: “If you cheat on your wife, you’ll cheat on your business partner.”

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At the first break, one thing is clear: so far this has not been a good night for Romney. Bachmann and Santorum looking feisty. Gingrich looking confident. Romney holding on by his fingernails.

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Bizarre moment. First commercial break in the debate shows 2008 GOP contender Fred Thompson trying to hornswaggle senior citizens into getting a reverse mortgage. Who knows where this bunch will be in four years? Selling insurance?

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Santorum takes credit for sending Dan Rostenkowski to jail 20 years ago. Newt probably thinking who remembers him even being in the House then?

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Santorum reminds Newt that not all conservatives backed the individual mandate in 1994. True.

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Santorum reminds Newt that not all conservatives backed the individual mandate in 1994. True.

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Romney cornered by Perry on his defense of health care bill in his book offers him a $10,000 bet that he isn’t right. Not his finest moment.

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Romney defends Romneycare as the epitome of the 10th amendment. Then compares his mandate to Perry’s mandatory vaccine. Uh, not quite the same thing, Mitt.

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Newt tries to refute Bachmann on his support on the individual mandate. But she’s right about his record. Romney seems to enjoy the fact that she’s put Newt in the same Obamacare doghouse as him.

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Bachman blasts Newt Romney. Tries to brand them both as RINOs.

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Ron Paul hits Gingrich hard on his Freddie Mac loot as a lobbyist. Ouch. Gingrich’s response doesn’t quite answer it.

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Concerning his 94 defeat, Romney gets a laugh by saying if he had made it to the NFL he’d have been a football player. Then reinforces his identity as a private sector guy who learned better lessons there for the presidency than he would have had in the Senate.

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Newt’s rebuttal of Romney’s litany of his dumb ideas is calm and effective.

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Newt’s right about the “career politician” charge. If Mitt had beaten Teddy Kennedy in 1994, he’d be finishing his 17th year in the Senate.

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What does Gingrich believe in that Romney doesn’t? Lunar colonies. Mitt’s intent is to emphasize Newt’s goofiness. Cheap shot but effective.

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Ron Paul wants to cut federal spending by dismantling the embassy in Baghdad? Self satire.

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Romney gets in the first shot of the night at Obama’s golf vacation.

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Bachmann plays the adult in the room by insisting that the payroll tax cut is financial nonsense.

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Bachmann: “When you open the general treasury, the only things that come out are moths and feathers.”

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Diane Sawyer is easily the most unctuous debate moderator we’ve had yet.

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Santorum leads off with an attempt to remind Iowans that he’s been spending most of the last few months hanging out there. Doubles down by concluding with a mention of the needs of rural regions.

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Perry reminds us he’s an outsider. Bachmann reminds us Herman Cain isn’t there and then replaces his 9-9-9 with “win, win, win.” Huh?

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The candidates are wisely avoiding Sawyer’s attempt to trap them in a number of jobs they can create.

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Gingrich and Romney start off with safe attacks on Obama and taxes.

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Newt leads off with the first mention of Ronald Reagan and class warfare.

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People are telling Diane it’s time to choose? No kidding. And they’re interested in jobs? No!

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Why is Diane Sawyer speaking as if we’re supposed to sympathize with the candidates because they’ve been working so hard?

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The debate is about to begin. Interesting difference between ABC and the cable debates: no pregame show.


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