Liveblogging The Debate At 4 PM EST

I will be liveblogging the debate today at 4 PM. Feel free to head over to RWN and watch the debate while you refresh for new commentary.

* This will be Fred Thompson’s first debate, so it is sure to generate a lot of chatter.

(4:00) What a time for my webhost to barf! People can see the page, but I can’t update it. I am writing this as I go along and will post when my host allows.

(4:01) 2 things to keep in mind:

1) The top tier contenders have a huge advantage because they get so much more time to speak than the 2nd tier contenders.

2) Most of these debates hinge on one liners and people’s opinion going in.

So, if you’re in the top tier, unless you screw up, you’re in great shape.

(4:02) Fred’s first answer is excellent except for a weird pause in the middle of it.

(4:03) Why the angst? Fred says: pockets of the country are having problems and the country isn’t being told about it. He should have zinged the media, too.

(4:04) Everyone has to fix the problem in Michigan? That sounds great, especially in Michigan, but the unions are destroying the Big 3 automakers. How do they fix that?

Great lines from Mitt about Granholm raising taxes, improving education, and working on trade.

Very good answer from Mitt.

(4:05) “The unfettered free market is the most destructive force in modern America.” — Hillary Clinton.

That’s who Rudy was referring to — not sure why he didn’t say that.

Otherwise, solid answer.

(4:07) So, we are in a recession and everyone knows about it but the rich and all of our money is counterfeit because of the military industrial complex. Great. Someone give Ron Paul his meds and let him take a nap while the real candidates debate.

(4:09) Johnny Mac’s turn: The straight talk reference sounds so old and dated. Otherwise, hammering on spending, talking about the pork, slamming Schip — he sounded good. We want to get everyone to smoke so we improve children’s health care? That doesn’t make sense.

I liked the answer.

(4:12) Huckabee gets to talk about the Fair Tax. It’s good that the GOP can talk that up and promote it, but it can’t be passed through Congress. I like the line from Huckabee about how we pay taxes, but the Fair tax makes sure that the pimps, prostitutes, and drug dealers have to pay, too.

(4:13) Dunc is the sponsor of the Fair Tax in Congress. He is also hammering on trade — which is a great issue for Duncan (my former employer). Duncan was actually up to 7% in Michigan in the last poll I saw.

(4:15) Fred says free and fair trade is good for America. He’s right. He’s right that if we turn our back on free trade, we’d be less prosperous.

(4:16) Sam likes an optional flat tax — I like it, too. 16 countries have gone to the flat tax and none of them have gone back because it creates growth in the economy and more revenue. Good answer.

We need to apply Brack process to spending. Good idea.

(4:19) Tanc’s answer is kind of muddled. There are good points in the middle of a lot of unclear comments. He’s right, though; we do need to fix Medicare and Social Security.

(4:22) Mitt slices Rudy on the line item veto.

(4:23) Mitt and Rudy beating up on each other isn’t that presidential. It’s great when they pound on Hillary — not so great when they smack around each other.

(4:25) Oh boy! Rudy beat Clinton and because of that, he saved lots of pork. Yee-ha! Give him a cookie.

(4:26) Duncan is deliberately picking a fight with Fred — he seems to be anyway — and he’s winning it.

(4:27) The old “graduate from high school, get a manufacturing job, and make a good living for your whole life” lifestyle is dying. The world has changed and there are some things we can do to preserve manufacturing jobs, but that world isn’t coming back. That’s why education is so important.

McCain is doing well tonight. In all fairness, he’s good on spending — not so good on taxes — but good on spending.

(4:28) Tanc — 20k per illegal and they pay 10k in taxes. Applause line. Nice.

(4:29) Oh, good grief, this idiot is implying that trade is bad for America with his question.

Mitt always sounds so smooth when he talks and he emotes well.

(4:32) Free trade is already a losing political issue and I think the GOP is getting closer to becoming protectionist. That’s bad for the country and I am glad to see Rudy defending free trade.

(4:34) I really think Duncan had a lot to do with the shift from the GOP on trade issues. Before he started talking about it, no one cared. But, it is a big issue.

(4:35) We will pay a heavy price if we become protectionist. McCain is spot on about that. He’s sounding as good tonight — so far — as I have heard him.

(4:36) By the way — Fred better get off at least one really good one liner tonight so people will have something to focus on. If not, he will be bashed a lot.

(4:37) Dunc says “no.” Dubai sent triggers to Islamabad. I don’t agree with Dunc, but I bet you the audience agrees more with him on this sort of thing than his opponents. I agree with “mirror trade” — match the tariffs from other nations.

(4:40) Tanc sort of “me, too’d” on Dunc’s position.

(4:40) Wow, Fred is tall. When they show Rudy and Fred together, Fred just towers over him. Lower taxes and lower tax rates grow the economy. Exactly! Fred’s answers have all been solid so far, but a little more pep would be nice.

(4:45) Fred Thompson: Islamic fascism has declared war on us. They intend to bring down America, Western civilization, and kill millions. The average 20 year old serving in Iraq knows more about what we should be doing on foreign policy than the average 20 year veteran on Capitol Hill. That was Fred’s best offer.

(4:47) I still like Rumsfeld, John Mac.

(4:48) Ron Paul: We probably wouldn’t have gone to war if not for oil. We have an empire — Gah, I loathe this guy! He’s just grating…

(4:49) Sam Brownback (about going to war in Iraq for oil): I don’t believe that in the least. Ugh – the three state solution. Technically, they have federalism there now. If you don’t literally cut them into three states, I am not sure what Brownback’s point was.

(4:51) Matthews tried to take Fred out of context. What do you expect from Matthews, I guess.

(4:52) Technically, you don’t have to get permission to bomb Iran. If we invaded and stayed longer, we would need it. So, it’s optional. Whether you do or not — I think not (for Bush anyway).

(4:53) Mitt sounds good smacking around Ahmadinejad.

(4:53) Duncan Hunter: If the target is fleeting, the President doesn’t need the permission of Congress. Iran is moving towards building a nuclear device. We should stop them.

(4:55) A lot of things totally baffle Ron Paul, I’m sure. It’s all war propaganda! Gleefle glarg boodeyleedoodley! And the Ron Paul nuts in the audience applaud him.

(4:56) Huckabee: it depends on how much time you have. But, don’t let politics get in the way of stopping a nuclear device. Good applause line. I agree.

(4:58) McCain hints that we may be nearer to bombing Iran than people realize. Quite right.

(4:58) Fred Thompson: In any close call, you should go to Congress whether you need to or not to make sure the American people support you.

(4:59) Rudy splats Paul, then goes on to hit Hillary a bit. Sounded forced. Yes, we will stop Iran from getting nukes.

(5:01) Question to Rudy: How will we become energy independent? Truthful answer: We won’t. We would need a technological leap forward to make that happen.

(5:03) Sam Brownback is honest enough to admit we’re not going to be energy independent in the short term. Good deal. Now, if someone would say solar, wind, and ethanol are crap, I’d be thrilled.

(5:04) Tanc: oil causes the trade deficit and we send the money to countries that want to kill us. Good message, poor delivery.

(5:06) Johnny Mac: slaps Putin, Iran, and Chavez. Nice.

(5:07) Huckabee is asked about biofuels. The truth is that what we have is crap. The stuff that isn’t crap is sugar. We can’t grow it here without massive subsidies and we’re not letting other nations import it because we don’t want to undercut the sugar growers that can’t exist without being protected by the government.

(5:09) I don’t think Fred has had an applause line tonight although he has been solid and steady.

(5:11) Ron Paul: We are over taxed and over regulated — agreed. We have to stop bailing out farmers and supporting ethanol. Good answer — most of it. Don’t agree with him on the currency part.

(5:12) Huckabee’s answer was uh….sort of substance-less.

(5:13) McCain is right about spending and — uh — arggghh — another straight talk mention. So….tired.

(5:14) Mitt sounds optimistic — which is the right way to approach it.

(5:15) Fred: Nobody believes anything coming out of Congress anymore. We need to spend more on military. We are spending too much. We need to own up to it, but it’s not gloom and doom. Pretty good answer.

(5:16) Rudy has definitely decided that taking some shots at Hillary is a great policy. He’s right. The Hillary bond — Hillary has lots of ways to spend. Good job.

(5:17) Dunc hits the bad trade deals — which is a good point, but has been said a lot of times before. It would be good for him to have branched out and covered some other things.

(5:18) Sam Brownback: This place rocks! Yes it does. Sam isn’t doing great, but he sounds better.

(5:18) Tanc hammers illegal immigration. He sounds fired up, no pandering — why are we getting better now that we’re in the minority? He made that work purely with his enthusiasm because he sounds muddled.

(5:23) Fred: We will not have Social Security and Medicare as we know it in the future. We are eating our seed corn. To fix it:

1) We need a growing economy, less spending.
2) We need to let people provide more of their money for retirement.
3) We should index benefits to inflation instead of wages for future retirees. (We should definitely do that — Jh)

(5:25) Tanc: Sigh — Tanc ties CAFTA back to immigration. I love Tanc, but he should be working harder not to be a one issue candidate.

(5:27) Mitt should be talking health care all the time. It’s a hot issue, he has done something with it before, and nobody else is addressing it very effectively.

(5:29) Unions: Paul and Huckabee. Lame answers.

(5:30) McCain — Unions played an important role. The key to do so is that people have a right to join, but not an obligation to do so. Not bad answer.

(5:30) Can’t these guys be honest and say how much unions that are out of control are damaging companies? Michigan is a big union state; so they don’t have the guts to point out how the unions are destroying the Big 3 automakers.

(5:32) Fred against secret ballots, for right to work — good answer all around.

(5:32) Rudy is actually lauding the United Auto Workers. GAG!!!!

(5:33) Dunc and Sam love unions. Why is it that all the Republicans love unions and yet all the unions slavishly support the Democrats?

(5:34) Sigh….Tanc brings it back to illegal immigration.

(5:36) McCain — we have to bring down health care costs to help the automakers. True. Republicans should spend more time talking about health care issues. Johnny Mac slaps ethanol and plugs sugar. Wow!

(5:37) Fred Thompson points out the rather obvious point that we shouldn’t step in on a strike. “That’s your opinion, Christopher!” Ha! That was his best line of the night.

(5:39) Rudy: How would he police the internet? No taxes on the internet. Good. No new agencies to police the net — good again for Rudy.

(5:43) Huckabee: What about the SCHIP. Would you veto it? Huckabee hasn’t been on tonight — and he didn’t answer the question. Huckabee just failed a gutcheck.

(5:45) Mitt: How would Mitt change the fact that some Islamists feel there is a bias against them since 9/11? We welcome all people, but don’t like terrorists. Ok!

(5:46) Fred: What are the dangers of a weak dollar? This was an attempt to trip him up a bit. He answered it OK.

(5:47) Rudy: missed it. Fluff question anyway.

(5:48) Sam Brownback: Who would your economic adviser be? Milton Friedman if he were alive? Thomas Sowell — he seems to like Greenspan. Eh…

(5:48) McCain: Nice dodge.

(5:48) Ron Paul: I won’t support the Republican nominee unless he abandons the war! Argle flarp floop!

(5:50) Tanc won’t pledge to support the winner either. Great! Way to be a team player, Tanc.

(5:50) Brownback and Hunter will support the nominee. Good.

(5:51) Rudy: Of course London isn’t going to replace New York! Get your head up! Good answer ! We need to fix Sarbanes-Oxley.

(5:52) Mitt: No way on London and he will support the nominee. Another good answer. Funny answer from Mitt.

(5:53) Fred: “I thought I was going to be the best actor on the stage.” Good line.

(5:54) Huckabee: How do we fix the airline industry? Honestly: Some airlines go out of business? The Jetsons/Flintstones answer was good. Huck has been at his best on this question.

(5:56) McCain — nice line about France.

(5:56) The greatest long-term threat is the lack of optimism? Greater than the budget deficit? Greater than our poor education system? I don’t think so.

(5:57) The breakdown of the family is a huge problem, but is it an economic threat, Sam? Technically, I guess it is, but it seems to be shoehorning in a pet issue of Sam’s into the conversation.

(5:58) Rudy says education is the big problem — good job! If we do HillaryCare, Canadians will have no place to get health care.

(5:59) Fred Thompson: “I have to admit it was getting a little boring without me.” Good line!

Analysis: The winner? John McCain with Mitt as a close runner up and Fred/Rudy tied for third.

The loser: Ron Paul, who probably appealed to the same people he always does and appalled everyone else. I would probably have to stick Tanc in the 2nd to last spot because even though he was passionate, he came across as unprepared. He has that problem a lot in these debates.

A few other notables.

* Mike Huckabee seems off tonight.

* This was Brownback’s best debate, but he still wasn’t all that impressive.

* Hunter scored a few points, but lightning didn’t strike for him in the debate.

* Alan Keyes wasn’t allowed to participate — which is too bad. You can make as good of a case for including him as Ron Paul or Sam Brownback.

Now for the question most people will be asking: How did Fred do?

Maybe he had jitters or maybe he was just getting his sea legs, but he was steady, but not spectacular early on. However, as the night wore on, Fred’s performance improved significantly and he seemed funnier and more comfortable. All in all, even though he didn’t win the debate and could have used a bit more pep, I think he showed that he has the requisite amount of personality and speaking skills to carry the GOP mantle in 2008. Does that mean Fred added a lot of new converts with this debate? Probably not. But, I think a lot of people who were on the fence about Fred will be reassured enough by his performance to feel comfortable about supporting him now.

Who won the debate?
Sam Brownback
Rudy Giuliani
Mike Huckabee
Duncan Hunter
John McCain
Mitt Romney
Tom Tancredo
Fred Thompson
I didn’t watch it.
Free polls from

Who lost the debate?
Sam Brownback
Rudy Giuliani
Mike Huckabee
Duncan Hunter
John McCain
Ron Paul
Mitt Romney
Tom Tancredo
Fred Thompson
I didn’t watch it.
Free polls from

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