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Live Blog: The GOP Debate

Winner: Romney got his shots in and stayed on messge. Loser: Gingrich looked and sounded subdued. Not clear whether this changes much though.

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Gingrich gives meandering answer about presidency. Gingrich uses his question about American greatness to shift to economic agenda. He’s certainly staying on message. The debate ends without Santorum or Paul getting a closing question.

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Romney asked what he’s done to advance conservatism. His answer his family and his business and being elected governor of a liberal state. Not quite the red meat the right wants. Newt lists a life of conservative activism. Santorum tears into them both as liberals on health care and cap and trade. Best moment of the night for him. Paul then explains the difference between conservatism and libertarianism. He’s the latter, not the former.

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After so many debates it’s hard to compare them but if there was a more boring one than this, I don’t remember it.

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Gingrich defends Bush tax cuts.

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Romney says space program should be a priority. Gingrich says we should offer prizes to space entrepreneurs like Lindbergh’s flight to Paris.

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Are they really asking about the Schiavo case? This case hurt Santorum politically when he ran for re-election. His reply is succint and to the point. Then follow-ups with Gingrich and Paul. Hard to believe they’re wasting time on this. Ridiculous. Actually Ron Paul makes a good point about the necessity of having a living will.

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At the third break, Gingrich still hasn’t found a moment when he could go off on the moderators or his opponents. Not his night so far.

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Not sure many people understood Gingrich’s answer on sugar subsidies. Romney more straight forward but then shifts to attack on Obama.

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Romney says if illegals can’t work because of crackdown on documentation, they’ll self-deport. Santorum says illegals continually break the law if they work.

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Romney and Santorum say they’ll veto Dream Act. Gingrich says he would change it to only help vets. Romney says he agrees with that.

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Gingrich asked about English as the national language. Says the language unites the country but there’s nothing wrong with campaigning in other languages. Good answer. And Romney agrees.

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Santorum asked about off-shore oil drilling. Says tourism is hurt more by bad economy than spills. Says tankers are the threat not oil pipelines like the ones cancelled by Obama.

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Santorum says Obama’s Iran policy has been a failure. Says theocrats there can’t have nukes. Iran already has committed acts of war.

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At the second break, Gingrich has recovered a bit but it’s Romney’s night so far.

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Gingrich rightly answers about war weariness by saying America never wants war. Says Obama shows weakness. Then says Obama cancelled joint exercise with Israel. But sources in Israel says Barak did it. Romney says the answer in Afghanistan for dealing with the Taliban is to beat them. Another good moment for him.

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Romney asked about Straits of Hormuz and then turns question into one about Obama’s defense cuts, especially the shrinking navy. Another strong moment.

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Williams asks Romney what he’ll do if Castro dies and a flood of refugees comes. Romney answers Castro should go to his maker and then makes strong point about advancing freedom in Cuba. He was prepared for that. Gingrich answers by matching him and raising him by mentioning covert operations to overthrow communists. Competition for the Cuban exile vote is fierce. Ron Paul wants free trade and says cold war is over. Santorum pushes back against Williams comment about why we don’t do the same for Chinese exiles and rightly says China is not 90 miles off our coast. Santorum then mentions Islamists making leftist allies in Latin America. Strong answer.

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Romney chimes in with an attack on Dodd-Frank. Gingrich dittos. Romney says market wasn’t over-regulated. It was poorly regulated.

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Santorum says defaulting home owners need help. Ron Paul says the government owed them a free market. This is one of those issues where he’s in the right. But then he starts in on the Fed again.

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Santorum finally gets to talk again and references his opposition to Fannie and Freddie runamuck at the time.

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After a half hour, it’s clear that it’s a two man race. Santorum and Paul barely got a word in edgewise.

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At the first break, it’s clear that Romney is on the offensive and scoring points consistently. Gingrich is on the defensive and not doing nearly as well as in previous debates. He keeps trying to turn argument around on Romney but can’t.

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Gingrich asked about Freddie Mac lobbying. Compares his consulting with Romney’s consulting. Romney laughs. Gingrich spins and says its sad that he’s forced about this. Romney reminds him that he said he was paid as a historian. Says historians don’t get paid that kind of money. Gingrich says he was paid for strategic advice based on his historical knowledge. Romney won’t let go of his advocacy for Freddie Mac. Newt keeps trying to compare it to Bain. Gingrich seems momentarily flummoxed. Then says stop acting tough on me as you did with with McCain and Romney. Then says he was proud of his advocacy of Medicare advocacy. Says he did the same thing as any citizen. Romney points out he was paid by drug companies.

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Santorum hits Romney and Gingrich for backing the bailout of the banks. Good populist line even if not realistic.

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Romney talks about creating jobs in his career and not apologizing for free enterprise. This is his best argument.

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Gingrich says he doesn’t want to raise Romney’s taxes but lower everyone else’s. Good answer.

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Romney gets asked about the tax returns. Mitt says no surprises. We all know he’s rich. Romney tries to turn the question into one about the people’s taxes. Says he pays a lot of taxes but not more than he owes.

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Ron Paul says Gingrich didn’t resign out of principle but because he didn’t have the votes to be re-elected speaker. He should know. He was there.

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Ron Paul admits he doesn’t dream about the White House. That’s smart.

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They finally get to Santorum. He starts bragging about his Pennsylvania victories again. 2006 landslide defeat goes, as always, unmentioned. Brian Williams mentions it. Santorum answers and says he stood up for what he believed. That’s true. He did go down fighting for the issues he cared about. But he did go down.

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Gingrich says Romney’s a poor historian and then goes on to whitewash his own record.

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Romney gets to Freddie Mac. Says Gingrich can’t win. Points out Republicans threw him out of the speakership.

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Romney comes out swinging saying Gingrich left Congress in disgrace and has spent his time since as an influence peddler, backing Nancy Pelosi on cap and trade and attacking Paul Ryan. Gingrich replies that it’s all false but won’t answer now. Unfortunately, it’s all true.

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Gingrich takes credit for the achievement of Congress under his speakership and says he took responsibility for his party’s defeats. Good answer if slightly misleading.

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The first question is electability. Newt gets to respond to Romney’s attacks. His response: compare himself to Ronald Reagan. Does he really think he’s another Reagan?

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Is Brian Williams ready to get attacked by Gingrich?

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The latest GOP debate is about to begin. Will Mitt Romney get aggressive and attack Newt Gingrich head on? Will Gingrich be able to keep attacking the media and dodging questions about his record? Is there anything Rick Santorum can do to get back into contention? And how many times will Ron Paul talk about the Federal Reserve or go into his isolationist rant? We’re about to find out!



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