Debate Thread: The Battle for Goffstown

Here’s your livethread.

8:01: Total number of children cited by candidates so far: 12. 35 if you count foster children.

8:04: We won’t see any flashing lights tonight, warns King – I think this is because they don’t have any effect on half the candidates. (You can determine which.)

8:06: The first question goes to Cain! He’s at the far end of the stage, sure, but still – he rose from obscurity rather quickly.

8:07: Santorum led by talking about executive experience, continues by talking about the energy exploration “we’re going in Pennsylvania.” Someone half-listening to the intro would think he was governor of the state.

8:08: Romney’s first argument: Pure competence. His first mention of another candidate is a positive reference to the Obama bills Pawlenty

8:10: Gingrich cites the “Reagan recovery,” which, of course, happened after a tax cut followed by years of tax increases, including FICA tax increases.

8:11: Bachmann opens with a gimmick: Just today, she filed her presidential paperwork. Unfortunately, those of us in the media room can’t see whether anyone’s eyes roll.

8:14: Bachmann gimmickry, continue! For the second time, she “makes an announcement” from the stage, although this one – she’ll repeal the PPACA – is a year old.

8:16: Another me-too from Romney, who has up to seven times as much polling support as the rest of these guys.

8:19: Ah – just as he did on the campaign trail , Pawlenty refuses to go further on his “Obamneycare” line – he seems downright regretful about using that. Romney grins like he just watched this guy, the “anti-Romney” hopeful, tumble on the ice.

8:22: Very honest of Gingrich to point out that “Obamacare” won’t be repealed unless Republicans pull off insane gains in the House and Senate.

8:24: Sorry for continuing to focus so much on Bachmann, but wow is she ever playing to the cameras. Her lines are familiar to anyone who’s seen her at a Tea Party or Americans for Prosperity rally, and they’re just that – applause lines meant to psych up a few thousand people.

8:28: Ron Paul’s response to an economic question – easy opportunity for a blue collar pander – is a lesson about the value of being a reserve currency. This is why I love him so.

8:31: Gingrich is staying away from mentioning any other candidates. All of his answers, instead, are jabs at the premises of questions. Is John King incapable of asking about the “fundamentally” important questions.

8:38: Romney’s history of the auto bailout only makes sense if your problem with the bailout was that unions got off unpunished – a good answer for Republican voters.

8:42: I always expected that Bachmann’s experience in the House – five years of “no” votes – could be spun into gold in forums like this. Sure enough, she’s able to say that she was working against TARP “behind closed doors” – at a time when she was a freshman with a fairly low profile.

8:46: If the government’s so bad at managing space research and travel, why do we have so many flags on the moon?

8:48: Cain’s going to need some boost to regain his moment as a candidate. With Romney in the room, the business talk is covered. With Bachmann in the room, there’s a contender for the Outsider job.

8:50: Actually sort of surprised that Gingrich answered the TV show question. Anyone else remember when he refused to entertain the “boxers or briefs” question that irritated Clinton?

8:53: No one’s going to attack Romney over “Romneycare”? Really? That’s quite weak.

8:55: Among the features of Tim Pawlenty’s plan is that it won’t be called “Paul Ryan’s plan.”

8:57: Gingrich heads back to the Ryan plan thicket. What is the meta point, exactly, of saying a party shouldn’t endorse a plan if you haven’t won over Americans yet? You’re running for president! You’re winning people over, aren’t you?

9:00: Cain returns us to the golden days of 2005 and proposes private Social Security accounts in the style of Chile.

9:02: It would actually answer the points on Romney’s debt ceiling answer if Obama raised the debt ceiling but talked a whole lot about why – leading, and what have you.

9:05: The unspoken part of Bachmann’s debt answer is that instructing the government to pay debts first basically means slashing Social Security checks like Zorro with a chainsaw.

9:09: Oh, yes: A chance for Cain to grapple with the moderator over a question Republican voters are totally with him on. There won’t be any sharia under President Cain.

9:11: I do like Newt Gingrich’s storytelling answers, complete with dramatic pauses. No disloyal terrorists will make it past HR in his administration!

9:17: Goodness: A charming joke from Mitt Romney, who tells the crowd the hockey score. Be afraid, Jim Messina.

9:19: One implication of Paul’s answer on marriage – keep government out of it – is absolutely no tax incentives for marriage.

9:21: Pawlenty says he’d “take the lead from the commanders” on DADT, after telling Bryan Fischer once that he’d look at bringing it back, and refuse to fund implementation of repeal. What an odd litmus test question.

9:29: You know, in 2007, we were on the cusp of actually passing immigration reform. Now – no, not close, not happening. And yet: Lots of questions about it.

9:31: How is “let the states control their borders” a sane answer? Arizona had to sell off its Capitol and lease it! None of these states have the money to do this. 

9:34: For the second time, I feel like Pawlenty has performed well enough and gotten totally left out of the narrative of the debate. This happened to Barack Obama all the time, of course, but there may be a difference between Pawlenty and Obama.

9:42: Romney says that America can’t fight a war of independence in Afghanistan. It feels like a million years ago that Ron Paul was criticizing imperialism and getting no back up – getting treated like a crazy person for pointing out the Bush doctrine didn’t even used to be Bush’s.

9:46: How is it possible for Bachmann to 1) oppose intervening in Libya, 2) mock the president for letting France take the lead, and 2) say America shouldn’t lead from behind? Would this have meant the United States totally opposing anyone else intervening in Libya.

9:50: And we have a Bachmann email pitch already:

9:57: As this wraps up, my basic thoughts: Pawlenty failed to break out, again. Even his hockey reference was less of an easy applause line than Romney’s. Bachmann, who’s always underrated, was as poised and quick as she’s ever been. Herman Cain suffered from the presence of buzzy candidates and from a lack of new things to say. Gingrich didn’t live up to his promise as the guy with the out-of-the-box ideas everyone else has to ponder. And Romney won.