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Live Blog: The GOP Debate

The debate ends. Winners: Santorum and Romney. Loser: Gingrich. Paul: barely there.

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On electability, Romney says the question is whether the US will become more like Europe or remain strong. Says he’s a DC outsider and a businessman and that’s what the American people will want. Gingrich says he won in 94 and that he’s running for his grandchildren and that only big ideas can win. Santorum calls out Romney and Gingrich on global warming “hoax” and the bank bailout. Says he’s the one who can win Reagan Democrats.

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Question about faith prompts defense of religious freedom from Mitt and attack on anti-religious bigotry from Newt. His first moment where he’s giving the right what they want to hear. Santorum knocks it out of the park with answer on the connection between faith and the rights guaranteed in the Declearation of Independenc.e Constitution is the how of America, Declaration of Independence is the why. Declaration mentions the Creator and the rights that came from the Creator.

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Puerto Rican statehood? Are they kidding? Santorum answers it’s their own choice.

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Gingrich sees Romney’s support for Israel and attack on Palestinian leadership and raises him one move of the embassy to Jerusalem! Both gave strong answers denouncing Obama’s failures and putting the onus for the lack of peace directly on the Palestinians.

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So far virtually nothing about the economy. I was about to say nothing about Israel but then a Palestinian asks the question. Romney answers why no peace in the Middle East with strong answer about Palestinian desire to destroy Israel. Vows solidarity as opposed to Obama throwing Israel under the bus.

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Santorum makes strong point about not giving up the fight for a free Cuba. Paul dissents. Romney and Gingrich largely agree.

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Gingrich wins on being closer to Reagan than Romney. But he misses an opportunity to hit Romney on his conservative credentials. He’s having a bad night at exactly the wrong time.

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All the candidates, including Newt, do nicely praising their wives. Romney and Santorum win this question though.

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Question about which Hispanic leaders would be appointed to the Cabinet is an invitation to pander. The candidates don’t disappoint. Blitzer then says after the break there will be a question about first ladies. Ridiculous. Twitter lighting up with jokes about which wife Gingrich will mention. Ouch. A

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Santorum then nails Romney and Gingrich on their past support for the individual mandate. Gingrich tries to draw a distinction, Romney forced to defend his health care law again then promises again that he’ll repeal Obamacare. Santorum won’t let him off the hook though. Says GOP can’t give away the issue. Another strong moment for Santorum. First weak moment for Romney. Says it’s not worth getting angry about. But Santorum continues to hone in on the comparison with Obamacare.

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Question from the audience about health care insurance. No real disagreement among the candidates. All for lowering costs and empowering individuals and opposing Obama and Obamacare.

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Paul nails Gingrich on his balanced budgets in the 90s. Santorum then attacks Gingrich for his unrealistic ideas which he compares to Obama. Bad night for Newt continues.

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Gingrich defends his “grandiose” idea about a moon colony becoming a state. He enjoys this sort of argument but it’s not working for him. However, his line about abandoning space being a sign of national decline isn’t totally wrong. But Romney is right about corporate America not being interested in space colonies. Romney then nails Gingrich on pandering in every state. Gingrich answers that he’s going around learning.

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Paul gets a laugh about sending politicians to the moon. But libertarians don’t want to pay for the rockets.

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Romney asked about Gingrich moon station idea. Says its too expensive then punts on future of NASA while saying he supports manned flights. Gingrich makes some sense about the future of the program but he won’t win with his moon colony idea. He knows it’s just an idea that can’t be paid for.

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Blitzer wastes time asking a question about the release of medical records.

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Santorum says he opposes zeroing out capital gains tax. Ron Paul says he wants to repeal the 16th amendment — the federal income tax. Welcome to libertarian fantasyland.

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Gingrich tries to deflect Blitzer question about his attacks on Romney by blaming moderator. Blitzer doesn’t let him get away with it this time. Romney then says it would be nice if people wouldn’t make attacks they won’t defend at a debate. Romney then demolishes the attack again. Another great moment for Romney. Newt’s not looking like the Lincoln-Douglas guy tonight.

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At the first break: Gingrich attacks on Romney haven’t worked so far. If he was hoping for a repeat of last week, he’s falling short. Romney holding his ground. Santorum did well when given a chance to talk. But that came too seldom.

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Santorum scores big point by saying that attacks on Gingrich’s lobbying and Romney’s money are a giant distraction.

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Gingrich answers by saying that Romney owns Fannie and Freddie Mac investments and Goldman Sachs. Romney answers his investments are in a blind trust made in a Mutual Funds not stocks. Then adds that Gingrich has the same kind of investments. And that it’s not the same as promoting them for money as Gingrich did. Gingrich then says Romney should have given instructions to his blind trust. This attack fell flat.

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Romney starts in on Freddie Mac and says they needed a whistle-blower not a horn-tooter as Gingrich was.

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Wolf Blitzer calls Romney on his “language of the ghetto” ad aimed at Gingrich. He recovers quickly by asking whether Newt said it. Gingrich says it’s out of context. That saves Romney a bit.

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Santorum tears into this topic with passion attacking Obama for not being willing to stand up for democracy and to combat the threat of radical Islam. This is one of his best issues.

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Question about Iran and Islamists infiltrating Latin America. Ron Paul answer: free trade, including with Cuba. Translation: He’s not that interested in what Islamists do.

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Santorum and Paul wondering right now whether they’ll ever get back into the debate.

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Gingrich backs up his “anti-immigrant” charge at Romney. Romney demands an apology and accuses him of being over the top. Big applause from the audience. First blow landed. Gingrich asks how else would you describe his position. Romney calmly says that being in favor of enforcing the law doesn’t make you anti-immigrant. Romney: Our problem isn’t 11 million grandmothers. Romney wins the exchange.

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Gingrich criticizes Romney’s stand on “self-deportation” and then mentions his selective service idea for amnesty again. Not exactly a stinging blow. Those expecting him to come out snarling disappointed so far. Romney reiterates his ideas about stopping the illegals. No blows landed on either side.

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Starting off with an audience question on immigration. Santorum answers with his grandfather’s story and his usual routine about illegals being law breakers. Getting so that most of the audience knows these candidates set answers as well as they do.

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Santorum gets the good son award by mentioning his mom in his intro. Newt gets the Navy nod by mentioning a carrier battlegroup. Romney talks about his numerous family as usual. Ron Paul grimly goes into his isolationist rant.

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Seems like the CNN staff did a good job riling up the crowd at the debate. Expecting a lot of fireworks.

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CNN’s John King just rehashed the story about Gingrich’s lie about offering competing witnesses to ABC last week to rebut his ex-wife on the air in the last few minutes before the debate started. Payback. Double ouch.

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Given the nastiness of a lot of the exchanges between the candidates in the last two days, a lot of people are expecting some bitter attacks about Bain, bank accounts and Freddie Mac. I wouldn’t bet against that.

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We’re waiting for the debate to begin. On CNN, Alex Castellanos just compared Gingrich to Goldwater to explain why many conservatives fear his winning the nomination this year. Of course, a lot of conservatives wouldn’t be upset by this comparison. David Frum follows by pointing out that Gingrich’s winning opening at the CNN debate a week ago was based on a lie. Ouch.



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