The GOP candidates are debating right now in Des Moines—starting at 2 p.m. ET—right when I'm looking at 5 p.m. deadlines. So, sporadic liveblogging, but go ahead and use this as an open thread if you're watching.
The debate's being run on CNN right now and will be re-run later. Liveblogging by Jim Geraghty—who's always been good, but has gotten really spectacular at this ungentlemanly art—is here. Stock ticker blogging by Marc Ambinder here.
Ah, it's online here.
2:01: Yes, that's Alan Keyes on stage right. The Des Moines Register asked only that a candidate be filed with the FEC, have staff in Iowa, and be polling at or above 1 percent in the state. Alan Keyes fits the bill. Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich do not. (Keyes did get 14 percent in the 2000 caucus.) Sadly, one-trick Tancredo and the buffoonish Duncan Hunter also made the cut.
2:10: If that first round is any guide, this is going to be terrible. Thirty-second rounds (in order to keep time for the Tedious Trio?) and every candidate squeezing their talking points like nursing home pillows. How do you deal with the debt? Giuliani fires people, Ron Paul saves the currency, Mike Huckabee makes us fat, etc.
2:28: I've got a hunch this format will be unkind to Obama. He's terrible at soundbite answers and he'd benefit from Gravel and Kucinich flinging dung at the rest of the candidates.
2:33: Hm, Thompson and (to a lesser extent) Romney are wailing on the moderator. She asks for a show of hand shows. Thompson: "I'm not doing any hand shows!" Romney applauds. "Can I get more than 30 seconds to answer?" Thompson asks. The moderator says no. "Then I'm not gonna answer."
2:35: Good blogging at the Corner here, and some from the AmSpec crew here. And even I'm yelling at the moderator now. Don't ask Alan Keyes a question if you don't want five minutes of incoherent free verse. Good jab from Ron Paul, though. (Keyes rambled about politicians' "hot air" and Paul grumbled "Doctor, heal thyself.")
2:36: Some scary National Greatness Conservatism from McCain, tempered by the fact that he'll probably trail Ron Paul in this state.
2:28: Huckabee, on climate change, refuses to admit it's happening while poaching McCain's popular conservatism: "We need to be better stewards of the earth."
2:47: And then he talked about "Weapons of Mass Instruction."
2:49: Alan Keyes: "They got a minute. Why do I get 30 seconds?" Because you're Alan Keyes.
3:08: Giuliani promises an open government like the one he ran in New York. Ouch—I think I heard the lawyers of the NYCLU spontaneously combust.
3:26: And it's over. The only solace I can take is that the moderator looked and talked eerily like Garance Franke-Ruta.
UPDATE: I'm checking the video now and just realized that Alan Keyes elbowed in and interrupted a question meant for Ron Paul. If his campaign actually had a phone line or e-mail address, it'd be beseiged right now.