Ron Paul

Welcome to the 22% Libertarian GOP Presidential Debate Open Thread!

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By popular demand, your open thread for tonight's GOP debate. Some conversation starters:

* Ron Paul's new ad:

* Gary Johnson's:

* Lucy Steigerwald sets the scene with "Some Reactions to Another Double Helping of Libertarianism."

* Brian Doherty's epic live-blogging of the prior Johnson-participating debate.

* Transcript of said debate (hint: heroin, heroin, heroin!).

* Right after that 40% libertarian exercise, explanations of why it's awesome to have them both from Jesse Walker and Nick Gillespie.

* Links to transcripts of more 2012 GOP presidential debates.

* Links to the 21 GOP debates for the 2008 nomination; including this Maryland forum for you fours-years-ago-this-week obsessives.

* Reason's topic pages on Ron Paul and Gary Johnson.

* Follow Reason & staffers on Twitter, where there'll be some choice commentary tonight:

Reason: @reason
Nick Gillespie: @nickgillespie
Matt Welch: @mleewelch
Jesse Walker: @notjessewalker
Katherine Mangu-Ward: @kmanguward
Tim Cavanaugh: @barteldarcy
Peter Suderman: @petersuderman
Damon W. Root: @damonroot
Mike Riggs: @mikeriggs
Lucy Steigerwald: @lucystag

And if you're REALLY REALLY NICE, there might just be some live-blogging here tonight from yours truly.

9:06: It's Perry & Romney, then everyone else. Perry's already running out the clock, Romney's already refusing to answer the question, already making numbered lists.

9:09: What do you consider rich? Read the Reason-Rupe Poll on how your answer to that question affects your ideas about taxation!

9:11: Rick Santorum deftly (and correctly, IMO), pivots right-to-work question to the issue of public sector unionism.

9:12: Newt Gingrich hearts government re-training, and "mandatory training component"!

9:14: Chris Wallace continues to be the best questioner of this election cycle. Huntsman continues to sound like he's getting the remote feed, one or two seconds off.

9:17: First question to a libertarian! And a Tenther, too! "Veto every single bill that violates the 10th Amendment," Ron Paul says, simply. "No authority to control us as individuals with what we do with our personal lives."

9:21: Gary Johnson pivots from Ron Paul question, stresses limited-government, veto-making bonafides, then pins his hopes on a consumption tax.

9:26: Let's go to some Twitter. Greg Gutfeld: "i also started a one man handyman business. That's what I called it." Mark Hemingway: "Gary Johnson is actually a really impressive guy. Unfortunately, he's also kind of a weird, jittery guy." Jennifer Rubin: "Good grief- do we care who's a better libertarian?"

9:32: More Twitter, since I missed the "I actually wrote my book" exchange. Todd Seavey: "Now might be a good time to mention that #Romney playing the Great Defender of #SocSec has only led me to vow not to vote for him."

9:35: Let's eliminate department! Herman Cain votes the EPA off the island. Read Reason on "How to Slash the State." He then switches to a Chile-style Social Security privatization. Going for the Todd Seavey vote!

9:37: The sun rises, the sun sets, Newt Gingrich pointlessly bitch-slaps a reporter, then promotes a new Contract!

9:39: Gary Johnson doing well appealing to fiscal conservatives. We're 40 minutes in, and Ron Paul has been asked one question.

9:41: Rick Perry pronounces "school choice" as if he's just discovered this great new thing. Then weirdly attacks Romney, who swats it away with a "nice try." Paul got a question in there, using the phrase "opt out." Whoops! Good follow-up question reveals Romney's biggest flaw—he is an inveterate flip-flopper who is finely calibrated to swat away legitimate questions about his record.

9:46: Whoopee! Here comes the fence-building part. Bachmann goes for the "every inch" approach. Also wants to "end the magnets" of, presumably, emergency room care and public education for illegal immigrants, since that's about the only "welfare" left.

9:48: Gingrich: Outsource e-Verify! So techno-tastic. I can't wait until I never see him on television again. Though he did say "modernize the legal immigration system," which is more than 95% of English-firsters bother with.

9:50: Romney–e-Verify, fence, Border Patrol, no magnets, workplace verification.

9:51: Rick Perry–"I don't think you have a heart." It'll be interesting to see how that plays. Crowd boos.

9:53: Santorum asks the right follow-up question: Why should those students be subsidized? The question deserves an answer. Not currently getting one.

9:56: YES! Ron Paul gets the fence-me-in question. And attacks national ID card. And attacks "blam[ing] illegal immigrants for everything." Nice to hear a different point of view.

10:01: Quick check of Twitter shows I missed Perry's "aviation assets on the ground" crack, and Ron Paul's implied reference to birthright citizenship. Also, the Angels got out of a two-out jam that coulda ruined their slim playoff hopes.

10:02: I JUST REALIZED THAT THE LITTLE G-CHAT SOUND THAT HAS BEEN DRIVING ME CRAZY ALL NIGHT IS COMING FROM THE FREAKING DEBATE ITSELF, AND NOT THE LITTLE MAN IN MY EAR. FIE, GOOGLE, FIE.

10:04: Mitt Romney would totally bomb Iran. Also, he really, really wants to be president (that's Peter Suderman's line, but that's the last time I'm crediting it).

10:06: Every part of Rick Perry's body between his chin and his thumbs is paralyzed. He's being a real trooper, considering.

10:08: There have been some lively, valuable GOP debates this season. This ain't one of them. You've GOT to structure this in some other way besides "OK, how much do YOU love Israel and building a border fence and hating Obamacare?" Bad show, Fox.

10:10: "Some kind of investment approach" to government-directed foreign aid has, if anything, an even worse track record than direct aid, FWIW.

10:11: Whoa…. Gary Johnson busts a 43% reduction in military spending.

10:13: Bachmann, who hasn't talked in hours, cuts in to make sure Americans can't travel to Cuba. I won't miss her when she's gone, though I'd vote others off the island first.

10:14: Huntsman steals the America-should-save-America shtick from Ron Paul and Gary Johnson!

10:17: A couple of people in the crowd boo gay soldier who could totally kick their asses. Nice question. Santorum calls it "tragic." Somewhere Dan Savage is cracking up.

10:19: Ron Paul: "We have too many laws already, how are we going to police the day-after pill?"

10:21: I would be willing to sponsor a consitutional amendment to ban word clouds, BTW.

10:23: Though Katherine Mangu-Ward points out, "Have there been any word clouds that didn't include marijuana?"

10:26: Bachmann finally asked about HPV vaccination. Answers it like she's been studying Mitt Romney very closely.

10:30: Big winner tonight: Sarah Palin.

10:32: Rick Perry seems WAAAY too tired to bust Romney on flip-flopping. 

10:33: "I know what I stand for, I've written it down, words have meaning." Oh, Mitt Romney, didn't you realize that this debate is being sponsored by GOOGLE???

10:37: Mike Murphy: "Wow. That last Perry bit was painful; looked like The Great Walender trying to cross the high wire after a three day meth bender."

10:38: "HOW ARE YOU GOING TO TURN THIS COUNTRY AROUND????" REALLY??? This is a t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e job of moderation. Reason needs to get into this racket.

10:39: Mitt Romney seems unfamiliar with the concept of kitchen tables.

10:40: Wait, NO OTHER people in the world put their hands on their hearts during the national anthem, Mitt Romney? I'll take the over on that bet.

10:41: Rick Perry should never agree to debates after 6 pm.

10:43: Crowd goes nuts over Barack Obama defeat that looks increasingly less likely as the evening wears on.

10:45: Gary Johnson gets biggest laugh line of the night. Was not expecting that. Then claims consumption tax's elimination of corporate tax will create "tens of millions of jobs." I'm skeptical.

10:47: Gary Johnson picks Ron Paul as his veep: Liberty, freedom, monetary collapse.

10:48: Though I hate Newt Gingrich more than I love life, I do appreciate his clown-nose act on this type of stuff.

10:50: Ron Paul, awkwardly, refuses to take the bait. But he also stakes claim as a "top tier" candidate. Which he is, IMO.

Wrap: Well, America lost tonight. By which I mean the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (very upsetting). And especially Fox News and Google, who cooked up a real turd of a debate, especially compared to Fox's previous effort, which was boffo. At the risk of making way-too-premature analysis….

Mitt Romney's strategy is too look and sound very much like an acceptable-to-non-crazy-people frontrunner. Mission accomplished! Except that he's running to defend Social Security, is maybe even a bigger flip-flopper than his doppleganger John Kerry, and will not rest until every American suffers for his desire to chase the last illegal Mexican across the Rio Grande.

Rick Perry is both sleepy and stiff (I feel your pain, bro!), and at this point seems to be preparing for a vigorous run in 2016. No one cares about Newt Gingrich anymore, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain are early-primary novelties, and Michele Bachmann seems like she's headed that way. Jon Huntsman and Gary Johnson seem to be vying for the media/independent vote, and it will be interesting to see which one (if either) gains some traction in contrarian New Hampshire. Parochially speaking, I think Johnson almost certainly improved his chances of being invited to another debate tonight.

So you have a John Kerry-esque front-runner, a Fred Thompson-style fading favorite, and…this stubborn fella from Texas with the Austrian business cycle theory and the hand-waving and the Constitution. Is the GOP establishment so desperate and scared that they're going to coalesce around a guy none of them trust, let alone the grassroots Tea Party types who have provided 110% of all the political energy in this country the last three years? Is Josh Brolin going to reveal a B game, let alone an A game? What, in this fluid scenario, is Ron Paul's ceiling? And what will he do if he doesn't make (as he kept stressing in his awkward final answer) the "final two"? These are the questions I'm left with after tonight's shindig. Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.