Pre-debate thoughts: Thaddeus McCotter Gary Johnson (same difference) finally gets into a debate. It will be his first and last. However, a ninth debater was the last thing we needed when some candidates get one question and others another, giving the moderators too much control over who the candidates come across. I, for one, cannot wait until Huntsman, Newt, Cain, and Santorum follow the lead of Pawlenty and disappear into the sunset, joining forces with either Romney or Perry.

Live blogging after the jump! Refresh early and often.

9:00: (tagging in 5 minute blocks)
Have you ever noticed how Brett Baier looks like he’s about 25?

I’m shocked the FOX map of where the questions came from was so heavily weight toward the East coast, considering the general political distribution in the US.

9:05:
Texas does have a loser pays law in malpractice suits. It has made healthcare costs stabilize if not drop, rather than the double-digit increasing we are seeing across the nation.

The candidates are playing to their strengths early. Perry is running on his job creation record in Texas. Romney is driving for the general election, mention President Obama early.

Dumb question from Baier. How exactly do you define “rich”? The average income in the US is $47,200. So what is rich?

Bachmann gets a softball on how much should people be taxed. They did well with her appearance today. She doesn’t looks to plastic, especially her hair.

9:10

“Right to work” versus union membership requirement is a state issue, not a national issue, since it is not in the constitution. That would have been the right answer, Santorum.

Unemployment merely pays people to not work. Newt nailed the question. “People should not get money for doing nothing.”

Huntsman is an idiot. He still wants the government to pick business and industry winners and losers by continuing subsidizes.

9:15

More Cain 9-9-9 plan. The idea is right. But the last thing we should do is open the door to yet another federal taxing method (sales). However, “That dog won’t hunt.” Best line so far.

Ron Paul: “Veto every bill that violates the 10th amendment”. Then Chris Wallace eggs him on to use the rest of his time and he nails it. The federal government has no authority outside of what the constitution specifically allows. Everything else belongs to the individual states, per the 10th amendment of the constitution.

9:20

And Gary Johnson gives his opening campaign speech because he knows almost no one has ever seen him before.

So is anyone else sick of the “someone wants to chat with you in Gmail” chime yet?

9:25

Perry has to repeat what he said about everyone being close to social security having nothing to worry about, just as he said in the first debate because the media focused to the “ponzi scheme” part.

Perry vs. Romney on Social Security is getting old.

Wow. Perry’s research staff has been working overtime. They found a line about healthcare in Romney’s book changed from the hardcover to softcover version. Though Romney denies it. I guess we will have to wait for the “fact”-checkers.

9:30

Megan Kelly asks Romney to call Obama a Socialist and he does everything but call him one, including saying he has modeled his policies after the European Democratic Socialists. He is always playing the politicians.

Huntsman goes with this common line of essentially “we can’t raise taxes with the economy in its current state”. Doesn’t that imply that raising taxes always hurts economic growth? Are there times where we should hurt our own economy?

9:35

Cain would eliminate federal government departments everywhere. However, his focus on the EPA, despite it being out of control as he described, will not play well with voters.

Newt just essentially told Megan Kelly that she asked a stupid question. Classic.

Gary Johnson commits to eliminate the Department of Education. Santorum piles on with the facts that educational spending has only increased dramatically while results have decreased nearly as dramatically.

Ron Paul: “If you care about your children you’ll get the federal government out of the business of educating your kids.” I could not agree more. I have acted on this by taking my children out of public school and home schooling.

9:40

Perry takes a shot at Romney on his education question. Perry clearly knows where his competition is.

Romney responds with “nice try” then talks about other things entirely rather than refuting anything Perry said.

Bachmann: “What I would do as President is pass the mother of all repeal bills”. If only it were that easy….unfortunately.

Cain: Agrees with what every one else has said. The bad part of being in the latter half of debaters who are battling to be the most conservative.

9:45

Chris Wallace asks Bachmann an impossible question, “Should states enforce immigration laws since the federal government is not? And if the answer is yes, how does that square with the constitution?” Bachmann wisely stays away from it, rather than committing her enforce the law as President. But what a ridiculous question.

Newt calls for English to be named the official language of the federal government and gets a wide applause.

9:50

In the immigration debate, Romney sideswipes Perry talking about how the University of Texas gives illegals in-state tuition. This is a problem, but why specifically UT Romney? That’s not the only problem.

Perry says you don’t have heart if you don’t want everyone else to pay to education illegal aliens. Though I do agree with him that if the state wants to spend their money that way, they should.

Santorum makes a fair point that illegals are getting preferential treatment by getting in-state tuition, compared to legal students from other states paying more.

Perry: “You put the aviation assets on the ground.” (He said it twice!) I hope the aviation assets make it to the air. I’m just sayin’.

9:55

Paul: “Attack [illegals] benefits.” Then they will leave the country.

It is nice that Huntsman is not getting a disproportionate amount of time in this debate compared to his popularity in national polls.

FOX News’ in-debate online poll: “What government department should be eliminated?” The most popular answer was the Department of Education. People clearly are seeing that ever-increasing union-driven federal involvement on education is only hurting, not helping our children.

10:00
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Auto Care commercial cracks me up. My wife used to be an editor at a phone book company and she used to tell me about how several businesses tried to throw a bunch of “A”s in front of their names to be first in each category. That sort of stuff is real.

Romney is back to speaking to the general election audience. Yawn.

Romney and Cain support Israel. Shocker. One thing that amazes me. How do Jews generally support President Obama when he more or less ignores Benjamin Netanyahu and supports the Palestinian state?

10:06

Santorum wants to leave troops in Iraq. WHEN WILL IT END? There is no mission there. There is no reason to have our troops scattered across the world!

Newt: Why are we giving money to the UN if it supports countries that oppose us? Yet another no-brainer.

10:10

Hey, if you were wondering, Gary Johnson will submit a balanced budget in 2013. It’s what, the 3rd, 4th time he has mentioned it?

This is sad. Bachmann and Huntsman are both begging for time.

The debaters have realized the moderators aren’t actually holding anyone to the time limits. Huntsman just went over by at least a minute.

Santorum says we should fight wars to win, yet he want troops to remain in Iraq? Which is it?

Social issues. Why?

10:15

Bachmann invokes Thomas Jefferson somewhat loosely but makes the correct point that any separation of church and state (a term created by a court in the past 100 years) was intended to be no official church sponsored by the federal government, not that individuals cannot worship freely.

Santorm surprised me in saying sex has nothing to do with the military.

Ron Paul: “Only the moral character of the people will solve this problem [of abortion].” Exactly.

10:20

Perry makes himself sound like buddies with Obama. That won’t work with Republican voters.

Cain explaining how he likely would have died had Obamacare been in place when he was diagnosed with cancer really hit home with the audience. I think it connected well with Americans.

These YouTube video questions are of awful quality.

And is it just me, or is anyone else sick of the silly “word clouds”.

Huntsman goes for sympathy pointing out that his daughter has Juvenile Diabetes.

10:25

Huntman talks about letting the states “innovate” on healthcare, then he describes how he would make health insurance more affordable. So he wants to go with more of the same? How about not subsidizing 3rd the ridiculous 3rd party payer system and let the markets determine the best way to delivery healthcare?

Bachmann goes back on the attack on HPV. Perry comes up with a story about a 31 year old girl who had been affected. Then he went back to looking terrible on the question.

10:30

Perry looks once again like he is tired. His bedtime must by 10:30 EST, 9:30 Texas time. I never thought Fred Thompson could be so young.

Romney continues to mock Perry. “I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about.” He normally rubs me the wrong way, but tonight, Romney is really rubbing me the wrong way. He again repeats his pledge to submit an executive order to give every state an Obamacare waiver. So the constitution is only good for Romney when it works for him?

Perry responds by stumbling through several areas where Romney has flip-flopped.

Romney tries to hold strong saying “he knows what he believes and has written it down.” I wish Perry or the ghost of Ted Kennedy could have asked him, “which time?”

10:35

This commercial break isn’t so bad. After a day of fence-building, my hands and fingers are tired.

And the lightning round. How will you turn around the economy in 30 seconds candidates?

Huntsman: Blah blah blah

Cain: We need a leader

Bachmann: Repeal Obamacare

Romney: We need a leader

10:40

Perry: Pull back regulations, make America energy independent

Paul: Free the markets, fix the tax and regulatory system and the FED. Unleash the people.

Newt: Channels Reagan. Delivers the best line of the night: “When Jimmy Carter’s unemployed it’s a recovery.” American turns around when “Barack Obama loses on eelection night decisively”.

Newt appears to be running more for the Republicans than himself.

Santorum: Remove Obama

Johnson (he’s still on stage): “My neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this President.” Balance the budget, throw out the federal income tax structure, institute the FAIR Tax (a national sales tax).

Newt and Johnson clearly took this sound-bite driving lightning round.

10:45

Final question: “Who would you choose as your running mate from those on the stage?”

Johnson: Paul. Libertarians unite!

Santorum: Newt.

Newt: The first to not answer the question, which is the right answer at this point. It could be politically devistating.

Paul: Refuses to pick since he’s now in the top-tier, polling #3 in most polls.

Perry: “Herman Cain mated up with Newt Gingrich.”

10:50

Romney: Refuses to select, but says anyone on stage would be a better President than Obama.

Bachmann: Does not answer. Wants a conservative.

Cain: Proudly announces he will play the game. Says he will take Romney if he throws out his jobs plan in favor of 9-9-9. Selects Newt.

Huntsman: Based upon his tie and 9-9-9

Final thoughts:

Without pausing to think about the debate, my instant thoughts are that Herman Cain was the most likeable guy in the debate. His cancer survivor moment was unbeatable. Newt is still by far the best debater. If he didn’t have so much baggage, he would be a serious candidate. Bachmann disappeared again. She is done. Romney and Perry continued to beat each other up, but will continue as the leading candidates. They will certainly be fact-checked. Perry’s immigration stance may be a big turn-off for many. He clearly ran out of steam late in the debate again. Romney continues to defend Romneycare while saying how bad Obamacare is, which likely will not play well with voters. But Romney was smooth and strong overall.

All of this said, Cain wins, Newt makes everyone smile, and Perry/Romney hold as the leaders.

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