Some liveblogging here, although at this point the McCain-Romney-Huckabee-Paul contest is far less dramatic than the Clinton-Obama clash of the titans. A humble prediction: Ron Paul will get less than 25 percent of the questions.
The debate will run live on CNN from 8 until Romney buys the Reagan Library and kicks the other guys out.
I had to restart my PC to recover from a wireless meltdown, hence the brief delay…
8:02: Romney refuses to answer a straightforward question on whether people are better over than they were pre-Bush by bragging about what he did in Massachusetts.
8:04: Good, Cooper slices through Romney's bullshit. "Are you running for governor or are you running for president?"
8:06: Not that McCain sounds much better. He's a little lost on economics. "We have problems with the subprime mortgage housing… problem."
8:09: McCain lets his hatred for Romney flare, craning his neck over and bragging that he was endorsed by both Boston newspapers: "The people who knew you best." And "I bet that the Arizona Republic will endorse me." Extremely petty straight talk.
8:16: I think Romney's losing as long as he's defending his record in Massachusetts—he's trying to introduce himself to California, and he's doing it from a crouch—but he proves McCain is basically smearing him from a place of low information.
8:19: We're still talking about Romney in Massachusetts? This is reaching 1972 Olympics basketball finals levels of unfairness.
8:28: Cooper cuts Paul off for trying to answer a previous question: He'll get another chance! "I promise you. Coming up in, like, two minutes." Start your watches!
8:30: Huckabee's big ideas sound awfully stupid when they're pitched back to him. His super-awesome mega-highway 3000 will save America because people will use their tax rebates to shop more while getting 32 extra minutes to cuddle their kids. Then he dashes it all and admits it was a huge pander. "I said that when I was in Florida. Today, we might look at a Western highway!"
8:32: McCain on mortgages: "It's tough in California, it's tough in Arizona, it's tough [pause to think of more Feb. 5 states] all over." The solution: "There are some greedy people on Wall Street that perhaps need to be punished." Your conservative candidate, ladies and* gentlemen.
8:34: McCain talks as if the crisis is ongoing, but those punish-worthy companies have pretty much already taken their hits or collapsed or started facing investigations.
8:36: Maybe I'm being mind-controlled by Hugh Hewitt but I'm seeing signs of general election doom as McCain rambles about how he understands spending because "I was there with Jack Kemp." The response to Democrats who'll be calling either for 90s restoration or a 21st century New Frontier shouldn't be "remember the mid-1980s? Man, they were swell."
8:40: Huckabee's pander to NumbersUSA is complete: We'll build a fence within 18 months! While letting undocumented workers get their citizenship papers started and hold their heads up into the sunlight! Romney's looking at him like he's speaking in tongues.
8:43: Romney, back on one of his worst issues. "Illegal immigration? That's gotta end."
8:45: McCain says not to worry about his support for comprehensive immigration reform: "The American people have made it clear they want security first." They didn't "trust" the Senate, so it's okay to cave on the straight talk. Also: "I come from a border state where we know about building walls."
8:47: A weird moment as Anderson Cooper waves his hand over an original Reagan diary: "I'm a little worried about even touching it." If you open it, does a ray of light shoot out and imbue you with superpowers?
8:49: Do the candidates think Reagan was right to choose Sanda Day O'Connor? Huckabee whiffs: "I'm not that stupid!" Paul says "no," starts talking about the Constitution, is cut off with a sharp "Senator McCAIN?" McCain, looking exhausted, is sad that O'Connor's husband has Alzheimer's. Romney would have fired up the DeLorean and travelled to 2005 to bring Alito back to the past.
8:57: Future questions from Anderson Cooper: "Is Iraq better off than it was eight years ago? Is CNN's prime time lineup better off than it was eight years ago?"
8:59: Romney boldly defends Bush for battling "Washington" (which the president looks down at from a height of 3000 feet in a titanium-plated hover-fort) and "keeping us safe."
9:00: Has Ron Paul been asked that question about conservatism yet?
9:01: Romney bitches about McCain attacking his apocryphal statement about Iraqi timetables. This won't go well.
9:02: McCain picks up the ball and bashes Romney in the head with it. He wanted to surge, he blocked the timetable votes. "I was out there on the front lines." (Of Sunday show green rooms? Sometimes, they didn't even have peanut M&Ms!)
9:04: This is the most we've ever heard the word "weeds" in a presidential debate. I'm willing to be proven wrong, but I doubt I will be.
9:07: It's legitimate to ask why Romney's swerved around on his war positions, but Jesus, the last six minutes have been basically planted by the McCain campaign. This was a controversy they started. Watching the way this is being stacked you'd think Romney was ahead by 20 points, not about to get thumped by McCain in that many states.
9:09: More gratuitious Romney-bashing from McCain, making fun of Romney's attack ad budget. "It's your money, you can spend it all!"
9:10: McCain keeps lecturing about how Romney should have talked about timetables and withdrawal. "That was the Iraq Study Group. That was what the Democrats wanted to do. You should have said no."
9:11: What had Ron Paul been doing during the eternal Romney-McCain smackdown? Apparently, injecting steroids. "They're arguing technicalities of a policy they already agree with!" He's collected, pissed off, and there's no Rudy Giuliani to tell him to shut up.
9:13: I was at the McCain town hall where he gave the "100 years" quote and he's actually right: He's talking about keeping troops there after the war is over.
9:16: Huckabee begs (rather pathetically) for a question and gets one: What does he see in Putin's eyes. "I'm not good at looking into people's souls!" He's not good at talking about foreign policy without running at light speed to boilerplate crap about a "strong army."
9:18: Romney's answer sounds more like a Foreign Policy essay, with a digression urn them towards modernity!"
9:20: What makes McCain more qualified than Romney to fix the economy? "I led the largest squadron in the United States Navy." Really. I had to check the question to see if I had heard it wrong.
9:22; Romney's basically right on the economic question. If this primary's narrative wasn't "heroic man of iron versus flip-flopping loser" he'd be winning this round.
9:23: Romney sounds… less good on the military question. "One of my great regrets is not serving in the military. I would have loved to." What was stopping him? "It's not like checkers. It's more like three-dimensional chess." He'll play against Spock?
9:25: This is probably Paul's best debate performance: He actually gets Romney nodding when he says "the president isn't supposed to manage the economy."
9:27: That's enough jokes from Huckabee about how he wants more questions. He sounds like a whipped, whining puppy.
9:29: Good, Huckabee finally gets called on his odious line about looking like the guy you work with, "not the guy who laid you off." What's he mean? "I mean you have to care about how your decisions affect the guy at the bottom." No, you don't. You mean "Mitt Romney looks like a polo-playing douchebag." Just admit it.
9:32: "Would Ronald Reagan endorse you?" Mitt Romney says yes. McCain says he wouldn't endorse Mitt Romney. Ron Paul says, well, he endorsed Reagan, but he's not going to speak for Reagan now, although Reagan endorsed the gold standard. (This is a fact.)