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Live Blog: The GOP Debate

The debate ends: Winners: Romney, Santorum, Gingrich. Losers: Paul, Huntsman, Perry.

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Gingrich and Santorum lose points by not knowing that they’re now playing football, not basketball. And the college championship isn’t being played now, guys.

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Closing with yet another stupid question. Who cares what they’d be doing if they weren’t here.

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Huntsman back to making nice with Beijing. It’s enough to provoke Romney into his first attack of the night when he reminds viewers that Huntsman was working for Obama while others were working to elect Republicans. Huntsman responds by using a Chinese phrase. Does he really think he’s gaining with this exchange?

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Santorum denounces use of the term “middle class.” Says we are a country with middle income citizens and we shouldn’t use class to label people. Good moment for Santorum.

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Gingrich wryly observes that Obama’s effort to create a European-style socialist economy is sincere. Good line. Then goes back to attacking Romney as a tepid alternative to Obama.

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Romney tries to make the big picture argument for his American century and exceptionalism. Unlike his competitors he’s thinking about November.

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Perry makes a pitch for right-to-work in New Hampshire. Tepid applause even if most Republicans agree.

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Huntsman ponders how much better off we would have been if there had been a different president elected in 2008. Guess that also means he wouldn’t have been ambassador to China.

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Gingrich started off slamming Romney. That flopped but since then he’s sounded strong.

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The next question is about infrastructure. Does anybody remember that the economy is supposed to be the main issue this year?

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After one hour: Romney isn’t being attacked as much as in previous debates. It’s almost as if they’ve conceded he’s going to win.

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Santorum is showing again why foreign policy is his strong point. Good response to Ron Paul about Iran.

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Gingrich’s arguments about the importance of changing the regime in Iran and energy independence that would mean no US president would have to bow to a Saudi king are on target. Those weeks without debates really hurt him.

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Perry is right to criticize Obama on Iraq. But promising to send troops back is not exactly a winner of an issue.

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The love fest between Gingrich and Santorum is pretty amazing. They’re almost a tag team.

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Gingrich changes the topic from Afghanistan to Iran and Egypt. Rightly says it’s a regional problem.

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Huntsman makes the case for bugging out of Afghanistan. But then says he wants to keep 10,000 there to fight terrorists.

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Paul preens when asked about a 3rd party run. Wants a candidate who’s as obsessed with the Federal Reserve and isolationism as him.

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Gingrich turns the gay question around on moderators. Should the Catholic Church be discriminated against because of its principles. Good applause line. And he’s right.

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Romney gets the gay couple in a living room question: Says long-term committed relationships are good but they don’t have to be called marriage. Manages to sound nice but to maintain opposition to gay marriages.

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Santorum says marriage is a federal issue. Says adoption by gay couples is a state matter.

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Huntsman speaks up for civil unions and equal rights for gay couples. That won’t hurt him in an open primary.

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Santorum draws a distinction between Griswold and Roe v. Wade and 4th amendment. Asking the question this way enables him to come off as reasonable rather than a hard-core right-to-lifer.

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A state right to ban contraception? Romney says the question is silly since no state would ever do it. Right. But then says there is no federal right to privacy as in the Griswold v. CT and Roe v. Wade decisions.

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At the first break, there’s no question that Romney is managing to stay above the fray and thereby winning. Santorum looks strong too. Ron Paul pathetic.

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Ron Paul keeps saying he “didn’t write” the racist newsletters that went out with his name on it. Then tries to play the liberal on race relations. No credibility.

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Gingrich attacked as a “chickenhawk” by Paul. Appealing to his vet supporters as the anti-war vet. It’s not fair but there’s no defense against it.

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Romney is on cruise control: the only one not attacking the other candidate. But he’s wrong about Ron Paul being better than Obama. Courtesy to an extremist shows he’s got his eyes firmly on November.

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Romney on Huntsman’s qualifications: He’d be a lot better than Obama. Damned by faint praise. Then makes a strong argument about the president’s failures on Iran.

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Perry’s entrance into the debate is a bit silly, claiming that he’s an outsider as against insiders Paul and Santorum. Stephanopolous rightly calls him on it. And Perry claiming again that he was “commander in chief” of the Texas National Guard is absurd.

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Santorum’s defense of his post-Senate career is effective and Paul is a good foil for him. A good moment for Santorum.

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Santorum looks relaxed and confident as Ron Paul tries to smear him as corrupt with what he calls George Soros-funded groups attacking him. Says he’s a conservative but not a libertarian. Reminds Paul about his own earmarks.

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Gingrich opens up with an assault on Romney for his Bain Investment record. Does he really think bashing Romney for being a capitalist pursuing free enterprise will hurt him among Republicans? Romney answers that his companies created 100,000 more jobs than were lost. Gingrich’s claim that he hadn’t seen the attack ad is disingenuous. And hypocritical considering his whining about ads attacking him.

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Santorum is asked to take a shot at Romney as a CEO rather than a leader. He obliges. And then goes straight to the question of Iran. Santorum clearly thinks his advantage is on foreign policy, not economics.

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Diane Sawyer opens the debate asking about the good news about unemployment. Mitt Romney’s answer: Obama doesn’t deserve the credit. It’s like the rooster taking credit for the dawn.

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The debate is about to begin. Let’s see what happens.


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