Commentary Magazine


Live Blogging the Republican Debate

Editor’s note: All of the live-blog posts from the Republican debate in Greenville, South Carolina, are collected here for easier reading.

Luntz’s Focus Group Liked the Pizza Man

Frank Luntz’s focus group on FOX News is going nuts about Herman Cain. More proof that focus groups are ridiculous.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 10:37 PM

Tough Choices, but Doable

Gary Johnson says our country faces “tough choices that are doable.” What does that even mean? Can you do a choice?

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 10:30 PM

Herman Cain Announces that God Is Blessing America

Now I know who I’m voting for.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 10:28 PM


She might as well run.

John Podhoretz 05.05.2011 – 10:27 PM

Oh, Good—the Obligatory Reality TV Question

Gary Johnson says he would not crawl on his hands and knees like Sarah Palin. “I’ve run thirty marathons,” he boasts modestly. “What are you running away from?” Bret Baier asks him with a straight face.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 10:27 PM

Bachmann Eclipses Ron Paul Just by Not Showing Up

“Has Michelle Bachmann eclipsed you?” Shannon Bream asks Ron Paul. “She isn’t here tonight,” he quips. His fans go nuts.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 10:25 PM

The Missing Candidates

FOX is getting even with the candidates who didn’t show up by asking the losers who did to comment about them. That’ll teach ’em.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 10:23 PM


I can’t believe I passed up the reruns of NCIS on USA for this.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 10:22 PM

The Winner of the Debate…

…is Fox News. The questions have been spectacularly good—quick, sharp, to the point, well-prepared. Bret Baier is a terrific moderator. The breakout is Shannon Bream, who gives the lie to the idea that the women of Fox News are dumb blondes.

John Podhoretz 05.05.2011 – 10:22 PM

Unbeatable Obama?

The audience boos the idea that Obama might be unbeatable. If Obama or any Democrats are watching this debate, they have to be convinced that they can’t lose next year.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 10:18 PM

Some Women Like to Work Outside the Home

And others “feel a calling for them to be a wife and a mother,” said Santorum. He tried to save himself by saying he wants society to affirm women working both inside and outside the home, but totally bungled the argument.

Alana Goodman 05.05.2011 – 10:17 PM

Republicans for Heroin?

Ron Paul gets the biggest applause of the night with his rant about opposing drug laws. Alana’s right. The organizers of these debates need to bring in some normal Republicans to balance the libertarian extremists.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 10:14 PM

Ron Paul and Sascha Baron Cohen

I can’t help it; every time I see Ron Paul’s face I think of the scene in Sascha Baron Cohen’s Bruno when he comes to believe that Cohen’s character is making a sexual advance on him. “He tried to put a hit on me!” Paul rants on a cellphone as the scene ends (he didn’t know Bruno was a put-on).

John Podhoretz 05.05.2011 – 10:13 PM


Could anyone make heads or tails of Rick Santorum’s tongue-tied effort to disentagle radical feminists from working women?

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 10:10 PM

Rick Santorum, Friend of the Working Girl

Rick Santorum’s explanation of the line from his book taking a shot at working women is playing about as well as it did when he went down to a landslide defeat in 2006.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 10:09 PM

Cap and Trade Trap for Pawlenty

Pawlenty’s former support of cap and trade earns him some boos. His response is an attempt at sincere repentance. Good damage control even if it is not a small problem for him.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 10:08 PM

Pawlenty’s Problem

Pawlenty’s problem is not his previous views on “green energy” and “green jobs,” but the perception that he has flip-flopped to appeal to conservatives. He risks becoming the Mitt Romney-on-abortion of 2012.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 10:07 PM

Pro-Egg and Anti-Chicken

I have no idea what it means, but I like Tim Pawlenty’s farmyard metaphor.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 10:05 PM

Pawlenty on Intelligent Design

Pawlenty’s neutral position about teaching intelligent design will work in the primaries. Not in the general election.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 10:05 PM

A Speaking Gig

For Rick Santorum isn’t the presidential campaign merely another occasion to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk [zzzzzzzzzzzzzz].

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 10:04 PM

Appalling Santorum

He basically said that to believe in a “truce on social issues” is to “give up on America.” Good Lord.

John Podhoretz 05.05.2011 – 10:02 PM

Santorum Deplores “The Truce”

Rick Santorum says anyone who would call for a truce on moral issues doesn’t know what America is about. Mitch Daniels probably thinks Santorum doesn’t know much about anything. But this is Santorum’s wheelhouse. If he can get social conservatives to look at him as their candidate he moves up to the first tier. That is, if he’s taken seriously enough to actually make it to the primaries.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 10:01 PM

Santorum on Daniels’s “Truce”

“Somebody who calls for a truce on the social issues doesn’t understand what America is all about,” Rick Santorum says when asked about Mitch Daniels’s proposed “truce.” Yes, America is all about the unbridgeable Red and Blue divide.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 10:01 PM

First Boos

It was predictable that the first boos of the night would be for Gary Johnson for stating that he isn’t against abortion. He admits that he’s not getting the pro-life vote. He’s not getting too many others either.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:58 PM

Libertarian Free Love

Ron Paul wants the government to get out of marriage. Okay, but his explanation that his support of the Defense of Marriage Act was about federalism was ridiculous.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:56 PM

On Gay Marriage, Ron Paul Hypes His Forthcoming Book

And says (wait for it) that the government should stay out. “One area where it’s totally unnecessary,” he says. His fans go nuts.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 9:55 PM

Re: Ron Paul and the Audience

Paul’s loud and loyal contingent usually follows him to the major conservative conferences to ensure that he does well in the straw polls straw polls. But are his followers going to flood all of the GOP debates from now on? His grassroots supporters have been organizing for awhile to bring strong numbers to South Carolina tonight, and we can probably expect them to do the same in the rest of the debates. The question is, should other candidates start urging their supporters to do the same?

Alana Goodman 05.05.2011 – 9:53 PM

A Short List of the Missing

A short list of the people I miss hearing tonight: Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bob McDonnell, John Kasich, Tommy LaSorda, Chuckles the Clown. Someone with a personality if not a mind.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 9:52 PM

Is Ron Paul Pro-Israel?

Ron Paul says his proposal to cut all foreign aid will help Israel because we give a lot to the Arabs. True. But that would still leave the Jewish state with the odds stacked against it. I’ll go out on a limb and guess that the people applauding him on this were not pro-Israel.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:52 PM

Paul Avoids Israel, Blasts Foreign Aid

Juan Williams invites Ron Paul to bash Israel. “I think they’ve become too dependent on us,” he says—while allowing that Israel doesn’t need to ask American permission to defend itself. The Arab nations receive twice the foreign aid of the Jewish State, he observes. The bell rings. His fans go nuts.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 9:49 PM

Santorum’s on Both Sides With Pakistan

Pakistan is a complicated issue. But Rick Santorum’s attempt to be both for and against aid didn’t fly.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:48 PM

Pawlenty on Libya and Reagan

Pawlenty’s answer about Libya shows he’s actually read something about the topic. He also gets the prize for the first mention of Ronald Reagan. Scores points with both.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:47 PM

Real Clear National Security Strategy

Bret Baier asks Herman Cain about Syria. “We need a real clear national security strategy,” he replies, before intervening anywhere on earth—including Libya and Syria. Tim Pawlenty correctly observed that Gaddafi has American blood on his hands.

John is right. The loser of this debate—assuming, of course, that Gary Johnson and Ron Paul are irrelevant—is Herman Cain. The winner (so far) is Tim Pawlenty. “If the president says Gaddafi must go,” Pawlenty says, “he must go.” Admirably direct.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 9:46 PM

Cain’s Foreign Policy

Herman Cain should have just said that he didn’t know anything about Syria and Libya the way he did about Afghanistan.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:44 PM

A Comparison

Watching this debate, one is inclined to compare an early session like this to the minor leagues, or spring training, or something like that. It’s neither. It’s like the first three days of pitchers and catchers.

John Podhoretz 05.05.2011 – 9:44 PM

Sense on Immigration

Gary Johnson’s making sense on immigration. But nothing he says after his whining session will be listened to.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:43 PM

The Loser

I think the only real loser of this debate is Herman Cain. He had a chance, with a great performance, to take the place of Donald Trump as the businessman populist outsider candidate—which wouldn’t be enough to win but would be enough to give him standing and momentum to go through the race. Instead, Cain is dull and uncompelling.

John Podhoretz 05.05.2011 – 9:42 PM

Bye, Bye, Gary

The moderators are now openly laughing at Gary Johnson.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 9:41 PM

American What’s-the-Opposite-of-Idol

None of these guys is ready for prime time. Tim Pawlenty gets wonkish about school payments in Minnesota. Gary Johnson, in a whiny voice, complains about Medicare mandates. By now, Barack Obama has turned off the TV, giggling comfortably.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 9:39 PM

Ignoring Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson whined about being ignored. He should use the down time practicing not waving his hands around like he’s conducting an orchestra.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:39 PM

Pawlenty’s Budget

Chris Wallace sounded like he had Pawlenty cornered on leaving his state with an unbalanced budget. But his answer, that the projection of debt is based on spending that he opposes, sounds convincing.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:37 PM

Hey, What About Me?

Gary Johnson complains he’s not getting enough questions. As if this debate could get any more pointless.

John Podhoretz 05.05.2011 – 9:36 PM

Please Call on Me, Please

Gary Johnson pathetically pleads with Chris Wallace to ask him a question. Very presidential, sir.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 9:35 PM

The Drug of Government

Rick Santorum’s line about America being addicted to the drug of government is on target. But the way he says it makes it sound more extreme than it actually is.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:35 PM

Ron Paul and the Audience

It appears that the entire national audience for the film version of Atlas Shrugged is there in the auditorium screaming wildly as Ron Paul goes into his incoherent ravings about debt and money and the Federal Reserve.

John Podhoretz 05.05.2011 – 9:34 PM

Cheering Paul, No Matter What

If Ron Paul said, “Boomalacka! Boomalacka!” his fans would cheer wildly.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 9:34 PM

Militarism and the Debt

Ron Paul is off on another libertarian tangent about the debt. His attack on U.S. militarism would play better to a left-wing audience.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:34 PM

Pawlenty Is Not Breaking Out

. . . but he is slowly pulling away. Except for Ron Paul (who can’t be chased away), he is probably the only one on tonight’s stage who will still be in the running six months from now.

D. G. Myers 05.05.2011 – 9:30 PM

The Grown-Up

Tim Pawlenty is a successful, self-disciplined politician. Rick Santorum, who began by making a relatively recondite joke about being a Catholic and yet wanting a “reformation,” is giving signs of the undisciplined ruminator who helped bring down his own Senate career through foot-in-mouth disease. Pawlenty is positioning himself as the grown-up. It’s not the most exciting place to be, but it’s a place to be.

John Podhoretz 05.05.2011 – 9:27 PM

Paul Makes Sense about Tort Reform

Okay, Ron Paul doesn’t make sense on foreign policy but he’s right about tort reform. It is a state issue rather than a federal one.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:26 PM

Regrets About Free Drugs

Rick Santorum gets asked about his vote for Bush’s free prescription plan for seniors. He was never happy about that vote. But it still isn’t easy explaining how you end it.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:25 PM

Everybody Jump on Mitt

You can almost see the candidates salivating when the first mention of Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan was made.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:23 PM

This Debate So Far

Oy. Not good.

John Podhoretz 05.05.2011 – 9:21 PM

Pawlenty’s Mini Stump Speech

Tim Pawlenty is using a question about his jobs ideas to go into a snippet from his stump speech. Only idea is attack on Obama interference in local business. Good applause line.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:21 PM

The Eternal Return

And so here we are, debating waterboarding, with Ron Paul and Gary Johnson sounding like the Center for Constitutional Rights. I had a moment when I thought I was watching a Democratic party debate from 2003.

John Podhoretz 05.05.2011 – 9:18 PM

First Israel Mention Goes to the Pizza Man

Herman Cain wins the prize for the first mention of Israel, quoting Bibi Netanyahu on what the terrorists want: to kill all of us.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:18 PM

Pawlenty Pivots on Waterboarding

Pawlenty is coming across like the most professional politician on the stage. Not entirely a good thing. He’s filibustering before he gets to his answer to each question. It took him a full minute to answer whether he supports waterboarding but never said why he changed his mind.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:17 PM

Rick Santorum, Muslim Reformer

Rick Santorum is right that Islam needs a reformation. But does anyone think Muslims are interested in his opinions about what they should believe?

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:13 PM

The Balance

What’s interesting about this debate lineup is that it’s two libertarian isolationists (Ron Paul and former New Mexico Gov. Ron Johnson) against two hawks (Pawlenty and Rick Santorum) and a gadfly businessman who says he doesn’t have enough information yet.

John Podhoretz 05.05.2011 – 9:12 PM

Cain Is Clueless on Afghanistan

Herman Cain says he has no idea what he would do in Afghanistan as president, “because it’s not clear what the mission is.”

“It’s not real clear to the American people what our mission is,” he said. “Before I make a decision to send men or women into battle I want to know what our objective is clearly.” OK—but as Commander-in-Chief, wouldn’t the objective of the mission largely be his call? Cain’s able to avoid making a decision on whether to withdraw, but it was an embarrassingly obvious dodge.

Alana Goodman 05.05.2011 – 9:12 PM

Herman Cain, Confused CEO

Herman Cain’s explanation of why he doesn’t know anything about Afghanistan wouldn’t have gotten him anywhere in the pizza business.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:12 PM

Gary Johnson, Junior Isolationist

If Gary Johnson thinks he’s going to get anywhere being a faint echo of Ron Paul, he’s kidding himself. Real isolationists and radical libertarians will always go with the original.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:10 PM

Ron Paul’s Isolationism

Ron Paul’s answer about whether his isolationist policies would have dealt with bin Laden got applause but was utterly incoherent. Opposition to our invasion of Afghanistan is incompatible with a willingness to pursue bin Laden.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:09 PM

Pawlenty’s Maiden Moment

Jon, Tim Pawlenty handled his maiden moment on the national stage very well. Bret Baier asked him to account for a quote he’d given calling Obama “weak,” and he simultaneously congratulated Obama and said the killing of bin Laden “is not the sum total of American foreign policy.” It was elegantly done.

John Podhoretz 05.05.2011 – 9:07 PM

Four Out of Five Would Have Released the Picture

Only Herman Cain said he wouldn’t have released the picture of the dead bin Laden. Like to hear why.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:07 PM

Pawlenty on Obama Criticism

Tim Pawlenty leads off the GOP debate making an important point about Obama using the same techniques to catch terrorist that he criticized when George W. Bush used them.

Jonathan S. Tobin 05.05.2011 – 9:05 PM

Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!

Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
for full access to
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
Don't have a log in?
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.