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Live Blog: The GOP Debate

The debate ends. Winners: Romney Important victory for him. Gingrich does well. Loser: Santorum. A terrible night for him that may put an end to his surge.

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Paul claims its a myth he can’t win. Dream on libertarians. Romney ignores question about misconceptions and sticks to his stump speech. Santorum ends with his main points but the smile is gone.

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Paul slaughters Santorum on the idea of his being a “team player” while in the Senate leadership. Santorum is right but it sounds terrible. Another bad moment for Santorum.

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Question about “No Child Left Behind” another bad moment for Santorum who is forced to apologize again for his vote on it. Romney takes shot at teacher’s unions and says he is for school choice. Gingrich tearing into educational system. Another strong moment for him. Paul: no reason for the federal govt. to be involved in education. He’s right about that.

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Paul blames talk about stopping Assad on “neoconservatives.” Always comfortable bringing up conspiracy theories.

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Santorum blasts Obama’s timidity on Syria. Blames it on  his fear of Iran. Gingrich says dependence on foreign oil is part of the problem and blames Obama for stopping drilling. Says we should have our allies covertly knock off Assad. Gingrich: under Obama, as long as you’re an enemy of the U.S., you’re safe. Romney, Gingrich and Santorum all agree on Syria and Obama’s weakness.

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John King poses question about Iran by saying do you agree with Netanyahu or Joint Chiefs. Gingrich rightly says that Pentagon was crazy to refer to think Iran is a rational actor. Gingrich presents a strong argument for preempting nuclear Iran. Romney says a nuclear Iran is a bigger danger than rising gas prices. Romney then says Iran has been Obama’s biggest failure. Gives laundry list of Obama’s record on Iran. Strong moment for Romney. Santorum says he was early to get in on the issue. Cites Biden’s opposition. If you want to know what to do on foreign policy, find out what Biden says and do the opposite. Talks about failure to promote democracy in Iran. Ron Paul defends appeasement of Iran. Shameful.

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Romney seems to be supporting women in combat. Pivots to criticize Obama on defense cuts. Gingrich says ask the military about role of women, not the social engineers. Says there are no more front lines in an age of terror. Good answer. Santorum sounds defensive about his “concerns” about the issue.

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One word bios: Paul: consistent: Santorum: courage; Romney: resolute; Gingrich: cheerful.

At the second break, it’s clear that Santorum has been put on the defensive and isn’t enjoying it. He could use some humor but instead has responded to attacks with his characteristic long-winded defensiveness. So far, Romney’s the clear winner.

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Gingrich parries question about Rubio’s concerns about GOP baiting Hispanics by saying that Obama has been a demagogue on the issue.

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Romney endorses Arizona approach to immigration. Santorum says states should be allowed to enforce the law against illegals.

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Paul attacks Santorum for voting for appropriation bills that included other vital measures. Absolutist stand putting Santorum on defensive. Romney nails Santorum as hypocrite on contraception funding. Santorum pivots and reminds everyone that the whole issue came up because of Romneycare that led to Obamacare. Romney blames Santorum for Obamacare because he supported Arlen Specter in 2004. Santorum answers saying Specter ensured nomination of Alito and Roberts to Supreme Court.

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Romney cites his record defending the Catholic Church on adoptions. Gingrich attacks Romney on his record on forcing the church to pay for contraception.

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Santorum asked about his views about contraception. He answers by citing Charles Murray and the impact of promiscuity and children having children on society. Says the family is fracturing. His views on birth control are extreme but this is a powerful answer and speaks to a real issue. Says the difference between him and the left is that just because he’s talking about a problem doesn’t mean he wants a govt. program to fix it. Paul says don’t blame the problem on the pills. Romney agrees with Santorum.

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Crowd boos John King for asking a question about birth control. Newt seizes control of the moment by attacking media for never asking Obama in 2008 about infanticide. Romney chimes in by saying the question came up because of Obama’s attack on the church. Says the issue is religious freedom.

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At the first break, it’s clear that Romney is doing his best to pound Santorum. Santorum holding his own but just barely. Romney ahead so far on points but not by much. Gingrich sounds okay but the format and his subdued attitude tonight making it hard for him to rev up the crowd as he has done in the past.

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Santorum says bailout of airlines after 9/11 was not comparable to Wall Street bailout or the auto industry. Gingrich chimes in with Romney to say that auto bailout was a gift to the UAW.

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Santorum states the conservative case against bailouts. Lucky for him, he wasn’t in the Senate in 2008 to vote for TARP. Romney defends his record of opposing auto bailouts but supporting TARP because it was the responsible thing to do.

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Gingrich says Congress needs to reserve the right to hamstring the president, especially if he’s named Obama. Agrees that Romney is being a hypocrite on this issue. Paul defends earmarks because if they are gone, the executive gets more power.

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Santorum has a losing hand defending earmarks on any ground no matter how transparent the process. Romney’s being very aggressive.

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Santorum talks about the earmarks that helped put the 2002 Olympics in the black. Defends the idea that there are good earmarks and bad ones. Says earmark saved vital defense project under Bush41. Good answer but he went on too long.

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Gingrich looks subdued. Claims he and Paul are close in terms of their desire for change. A reminder of the fact that the pair are fighting to avoid last place.

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Romney tries to explain why he was a “severely conservative” governor of Mass. Silly phrase and also a bit disingenuous because we know that being a conservative in Mass. means being a liberal in red states.

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Santorum says he had the most conservative record on spending in the Senate and notes it was harder to do it while serving Pennsylvania.

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Paul calls Santorum a fake. Santorum striving to keep his patience. So far succeeding.

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Romney attacks Santorum for spending in Congress and for voting to raise the debt ceiling. Santorum answers that Romney was in favor of voting to raise the debt ceiling last summer because government has to pay its bills. Strong rejoinder. Also says he never voted to raise taxes. Romney shoots back that he only favored the increase in the debt ceiling under certain conditions which were not met.

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Santorum answers a question about the debt by talking about entitlements and Obamacare. Says he’s the one who has the experience to deal with the problem. Claims if you think the defense budget is the problem, you need a class in remedial math. Differentiates himself from Paul Ryan by saying he will tackle entitlements now not in the future.

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Santorum starts off the evening smiling. He’s going to need to keep that upbeat mood to survive the evening. Romney quotes a Seinfeld character and Gingrich gets applause about not bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia.

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We’re just a few moments away from the start of the Arizona GOP debate. Santorum, and Romney all have a lot to prove tonight with the polls showing them neck and neck in the next crucial Michigan and Arizona primaries. Gingrich is hoping to get back in the battle and Ron Paul will still be there advocating his extreme libertarian beliefs. Let’s see what happens.


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