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Live Blog: The GOP Debate

The debate ends. Winners and losers? Santorum wins on points. Gingrich’s anti-media tantrum is the highlight. Romney has a mixed night. Paul irrelevant as always.

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Newt says vote for me because I can beat Obama in debates. Gingrich mentions Saul Alinsky in bashing Obama. Romney says Obama is creating an entitlement society. Santorum says he will provide the clearest contrast with Obama.

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Audience demands and gets a Ron Paul response on abortion. He says change the culture as well as the laws. Santorum then says Paul has only a 50% rating on right to life issues. Says it’s no better than Harry Reid’s.

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Gingrich attacks Romney on abortion. Mentions Planned Parenthood twice in the same sentence. Romney says courts imposed abortion payments. Says charge about appointing pro-abortion judges misunderstands the issue. Says nobody (that means you Gingrich) should be questioning his integrity. Santorum says he’s the only one who makes the issue a priority. No argument there. Then hammers Gingrich for pushing social issues to the back of the bus.

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Paul’s comments about moving the army from Afghanistan to the border is the first mention of foreign policy so far tonight.

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Question about illegal immigration “amnesty.” Gingrich talking his way out of his own amnesty proposal. Romney says issue isn’t hard. Build a fence and enforce the law. Implies Gingrich plan is amnesty. Santorum says Romney has waffled and Gingrich is in the same position as Obama. Another strong attack from him.

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John King’s question about what candidates would do differently during the campaign is irrelevant and pointless. Gingrich responds about himself. Romney talks about Obama. Santorum says he wouldn’t change a thing He’s just grateful to make the “final four.”

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Newt is the first to respond to SOPA issue. Humorous reference to the fact that only left-wing Hollywood is for it. Says he’s for freedom. Right response. Romney agrees. Paul also agrees. Santorum says he doesn’t like the law but emphasizes effort to combat theft of intellectual property. Not comfortable with Internet free-for-all.

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Santorum grandstands on boosting manufacturing. Paul responds by pointing out that global trade works for everyone. Good, rational moment for a candidate who is often irrational.

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Romney heckled about how many years of tax returns he will release. Says he will release all the years of returns together. Says he’s earned his own money and can talk about a free economy in a way no other Republican can.

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Romney says tax return issue is just Democrats trying to attack people who are successful.

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Paul says he doesn’t need to release his tax returns because he’d be embarrassed to compare his income to the others.

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Romney nails Gingrich on the idea that Washington helped his business. His best moment in the debate.

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Romney, who enjoyed every minute of that exchange, now responds by saying this is why we need an outsider rather than a DC veteran. Romney says Newt deserves no credit for Reagan. Says he got one mention in Reagan’s diaries. Ouch.

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Santorum accuses Gingrich of “grandiosity.” Asks where Newt gets off asking him to get out. “These are not cogent thoughts.” Says he’s the steady, dependable conservative candidate. Newt responds by being proud of being grandiose: takes responsibility for Reagan and defeat of the Soviet Union. Santorum brings up Gingrich’s chaotic leadership and says his breaking open the House Post Office scandal had as much to do with 1994 as Gingrich’s plans.

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At the first break, the buzz is still about Gingrich counter-attacking the media for reporting his ex-wife’s charges. Secondary buzz: Santorum nails Romney and Gingrich on health care. Romney sounds okay but he has yet to score any points tonight.

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Paul expresses skepticism about repeal of Obamacare. Then says we were better off without Medicare or Medicaid. That’s libertarian ideology but not an issue that any major party can defend in November.

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Romney back to drawing distinction between his plan and Obamacare. It’s a strong argument but Santorum’s point about how Obama will attack Romney is right. Strong moment for Santorum. Helps him get back in the fight.

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Gingrich knows better than attack Romney but Santorum launches an all-out Romneycare. Makes it sound gruesome. Then turns on Gingrich with just as much venom.

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Romney is doing well denouncing Obamacare. Waiting for Gingrich or Santorum to talk about Romneycare. Gingrich passes.

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The debate turns to Obamacare. But John King wants Romney to talk about those who benefit from it.

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Newt rightly calls out Paul for not wanting preferences for veterans. The GI bill was crucial. And, oh yes, tax cuts.

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Unanimity about support for veterans. No controversy here.

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Ron Paul uses question about unemployed veterans to brag about military support.

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Santorum goes populist and says he’s for capitalism for working people but not “high finance.”

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Romney goes back to Bain. Says Republicans shouldn’t attack capitalism. Nothing wrong with profit.

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Romney ignores Gingrich attack for the moment and attacks Obama’s crony capitalism. Still focused on general election.

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Newt goes on the offensive against Bain Capital again. This is a less profitable avenue of attack for him.

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Still thinking about whether Gingrich will get away with diverting attention from his wife’s charges to media bias. Probably in the short run for a GOP audience.

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Santorum carefully parses his reaction to Gingrich’s life. Romney says let’s move on. No need for them to say anything.

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Newt claims his friends can prove Marianne’s accusation is false. How could they since they weren’t there when he supposedly asked her the question.

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Newt calls his ex-wife’s interview “trash” and lectures the moderator. We’d still like to know the answer to the question.

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Newt responds to pointed question about his “open marriage” demand to Marianne by attacking the moderator and the media.

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Santorum and especially Romney make prominent mention of their families in their intros. Newt on the spot.

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Why are the rules mandating shorter responses than on Monday with one less candidate?

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Only four men on the stage. A reminder that there were seven candidates only a couple of weeks ago.

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Speculation about where Rick Perry supporters are going isn’t insignificant. If the majority of his five percent goes to Gingrich, that could be the difference.

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We’re waiting for the debate to start watching CNN. The vulnerabilities of the two leading candidates are clear: Romney has to stay away from a discussion of his personal finances. Gingrich has to stay away from a discussion of his personal life.


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