Republican Debate VIII: The Shindy in St. Petersburg


The Grand Old Party is scrapping again tonight in Florida at 8pm eastern time on CNN: The questions have been submitted via YouTube and host Anderson Cooper will do some amending and following-up.

Does it seem like ages since the last GOP debate? That's because it was held back on October 21. Back then Ron Paul had only raised $2.4 million for the quarter and Mitt Romney held the one-day fundraising record. Mike Huckabee was polling in the low teens an Iowa for a respectable third or fourth place showing. Children and small animals cowered in fear of the Fred Thompson juggernaut. So, things are different.

I have an unbreakable committment and might turn on the debate a bit late, so consider this an open thread for anyone watching it.

8:11: I show up 11 minutes late, and… nothing happens. At the Ron Paul debate-watching party I'm at in DC, the doctor's arrival onscreen is greeted by "There he is!" (Future comments from the party will be in parentheses.)

8:12: Rudy… claims New York wasn't a sanctuary city?

8:13: Ever-credible Mitt, who presided over three sanctuary cities in Massachusetts, righteously

8:14: Rudy's new attack line: Romney owned "Sanctuary mansion!"

8:15: Romney's "outrage" software is engaged! ("How did it get to be just them?" "Don't worry, if a debate breaks out they'll stop it.") Romney asks, rhetorically, whether he should hound people who show up for work with funny accents. The irony tickles.

8:16: Duncan Hunter asks if he can "jump in here." No. No, you can't. But the crowd is heckling Giuliani for trying and trying to get the last answer.

8:17: Carlos the Jackal (via video) asks if the Republicans will veto amnesty. Ooh, the hard questions.

8:19: Thompson attacks… sort of. One fun thing we've learned in Campaign '08 is that Thompson is unlistenably dull without a script.

8:20: McCain wades in. ("The fire's gone out of him." "Why is he even in this?")

8:21: McCain runs down the government failures that have made him so righteously angry. ("Campaign finance reform!" "All the failures I helped enable!")

8:22: Tancredo is delighted that we're having a Scary Meskins round. ("His nose should be red.") "Everyone's trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo!" ("That's a verb?")

8:24: "I reject the idea that there are jobs Americans won't take!" ("Would you hire Tancredo to clean your gutters?)

8:25: Ah, the Ron Paul party gives Hunter the esteem he deserves. ("Congressman, my question is: Where's your neck?"

8:26: ("Next question… for Ron Paul!") The next question actually goes to Huckabee. It's a good one about whether, as a guy who gave scholarships to illegal immigrants, he'd do the same for the kids of illegal alien military vets. (Everyone heckles Huckabee for addressing the giant YouTube screen as if it's alive.)

8:28: Huckabee explains that he gave scholarships to kids who were smart, didn't do drugs, earned it, dancing elegantly past the issue that they weren't citizens. ("The best students in Arkansas?")

8:30: Romney punches back and Huckabee pours on the saccarine. "If I didn't get an education, I might be picking lettuce!" ("Who'd rather have Mike Huckabee picking lettuce?" Every hand goes up.)

8:32: The room gets ice cold when Paul gets a question on whether he believes in a North American Union. He handles it as well as he possibly could, framing it as "a conspiracy of ideas." He's been prepped on this: He hasn't always been so adroit. ("He can't cut off those guys who believe in it.")

8:34: McCain complains about power changing the GOP. ("I just feel sympathy for him at this point.")

8:36: Giuliani will "strengthen the dollar" by not filling every open federal job. ("Is he serious?") "Twenty-two percent are found not able to evaluated."

8:37: Emily Ekins is apparently an Institute for Human Studies seminar alum: She asks what three programs Thompson and Paul would scrap. "It's a target rich environment." (There's some squabbling about whether he's referencing Top Gun.) He swerves into his well-rehearsed Social Security answer. ("So… we're abandoning the target metaphor.")

8:40: Paul shoots, Paul scores. "That comment about government changing 'us'–I don't think government changed me!" He hits the three I've heard him talk about: Education, Energy, DHS.

8:42: McCain takes the chance to demogogue at Paul on the war, a warm wave of applause gushing over him like a deleted scene from Behind the Green Door. "I spent Christmas with the troops!" ("OK, Ron needs to knock this out of the park.")

8:44: Grover Norquist gets into it! He asks them to sign "the pledge" never to raise taxes. Everyone says yes. Paul: "I have never voted for a tax increase and never will!" Hunter: "I've voted for more tax cuts than anyone on this stage." ("That's because you've been there for like 50 years!")

8:47: Terrible, terrible answers on farm subsidies. Romney and Rudy ("We have to support Archer Daniels Midland EVERY DAY!")

8:48: Rudy gets asked about the Ben Smith story on his under-the-table, end of mayoralty expense reports. "There were… threats against me." ("9/11! 9/11!" "What, did someone threaten his mistress?")

8:50: Duncan Hunter wants us to "buy American" so when "our veterans come back" they'll have good jobs. You lost your legs in Mosul: You've earned the right to assemble LED screens for PS2s.

8:52: I love that Thompson's YouTube ad was just cribbed from other, better videos using Romney's and Huckabee's own words to garrotte them. Cooper's pissed: "What's up with that?" Thompson: "I want to give my buddies here a little extra air time!" A funny joke that he sort of steps on by running out of words and saying "Uhhhhh."

8:53: Some comedy from Romney about how he was wrong about infanticide before but now MA Citizens for Life like him. ("I only gave them $15,000 and put my wife on their board, but…")

8:56: Great ad from the coal industry. ("Who wants coal for Christmas now?" Every hand goes up.)

9:00: Hunter gets a softball about the second amendment from a Californian with a handgun and he… makes fun of him for his handling. Let's cool it with the comments about how he's a brilliant man who deserves to hit the first term.

9:03: A Fred Thompson answer lulls my room into a nice, mellow place. He's poking the right holes in Giuliani's gun answer, though.

9:04: Did… they… skip over Paul to get an answer from Hunter? So he could wink and ramble about the gun he's already talked about? Also, breaking news: John McCain served in Vietnam.

9:06: A question about how they'd stop the crime epidemic and rescue black people goes to Romney, who says government needs to strengthen familes. ("Can we import parents from Mexico?" "Watch out, Romney wants to rear your child!")

9:07: Giuliani can cut crime because he cut it Harlem. ("We got black people out of Harlem! That reduced crime.")

9:09: A good question on what women who abort their fetuses should be charged with goal to Paul… which makes sense since he's a doctor who's seen an abortion performed, but doesn't make sense in that he's obviously going to leave it to the states.

9:12: Hunh. Giuliani grabs a lifeline on abortion by nabbing Ron Paul's answer.

9:15: The death penalty: "What would Jesus do?" Huckabee soars with a lot of friffery about how hard it was to make the decision. ("Shorter Huckabee: I'll kill people but I'll cry about it.")

9:17: Rudy Giuliani: Not William Jennings Bryan. Some of the Bible is figurative, some literal. ("It's a good answer." "It's the only answer.")

9:18: Oh, God, watching Romney pander on this is like watching the Fantasia Hippos dance ballet. "Uh… yes, I believe it's the word of God." But it's not what Anderson Cooper thinks is the word of God. (Because Cooper believes in the whole thing?)

9:19: God likes Mike Huckabee.

9:20: Commercial time. ("My favorite moment was Tancredo restraining himself and not telling the woman to deport her Chinese daughter.")

9:23: Giuliani's YouTube ad is nice and crazy. He saved New York from King Kong! He stopped the snow from falling!

9:26: McCain: "I'm the only one on this stage who said the Rumsfeld strategy was doomed to fail." Didn't he just try to kneecap Ron Paul?

9:27: "When you were suffering from starvation and disease we brought you food and medicine." (My room groans.)

9:29: Romney is shameless on torture. ("Waterboard him and ask the question again!") McCain smacks him across the podium.

9:30: This is the stuff that exposes Romney's inner Dukakis. "I'm not going to say what methods I'll use." Oh, and he'll ask for McCain's counsel.

9:31: "Life is not 24 and Jack Bauer."

9:33: How long will we stay in Iraq? Thompson is… noncomittal.

9:35: "We never lost a battle in Vietnam!" (There's a fight about this in the room.)

9:37: It's moments like this when I'm sorry I'm collapsing from the onset of… something. (Flu? We'll see.) Paul and McCain lock horns over Vietnam and I have some trouble following it. I'm going to sign off for a bit… have at it.

9:59: A great moment from the Ron Paul party. A black YouTuber asks of black support for Republicans: "Why don't we vote for you." ("Well, have you read the Bell Curve?") This was asked in jest, of course.

10:07: I like how they coupled a questioner who says "Ron Paul, you won't win the nomination" with one who says "Fred Thompson, your campaign is going down in flames so hot I could cook a turkey with them." Wait…