Live Blogging of ABC Yahoo Republican Presidential Debate (FINAL CONCLUSIONS)

Here is live blogging of tonight’s economy-driven ABC Yahoo Republican Presidential Debate from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. All attention tonight will be on the new front-runner, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is zooming in the polls and the former front runner Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney who many believe must take off the globes to cut Gingrich down and build his own stagnant support. The other candidates will try to boost themselves as the new anti-Romney in case Gingrich self-destructs, as he has in the past.

My focus is on how the participants come across in the race and the possible impact on independent voters — who are not a monolithic group — rather than who I agree with or not. These are the reactions of an independent voter who has belonged to both parties. The most recent entry will be on top. There will NOT be entries on each question and comment. Only if it’s worth commenting on. Also: my actual conclusions are often NOT the same as my initial conclusions after a debate. The more I “digest” what I saw and heard, the more definitive my conclusions are. Here’s my initial reaction to the debate going on right now. ALL TIMES ARE EST..”

10:48: Quick final reactions. These could change as I ponder what I have seen, think about it, and read other reactions that challenge my own (I will sometimes read them and totally disagree or read one and realize it’s what I felt but could not articulate).

  • Gingrich is the clear front runner now.
  • Romney did not knock him out of the race and hurt himself a bit with one aside comments.
  • Gingrich may not appeal to independents but he will to many Republicans and his stumbles were not fatal ones here.
  • Best Performance: Romney for independent voters, Gingrich for Republican conservatives who are Tea Party members or sympathizers or talk show groupies. Gingrich was not cut down by the debate. His front runner status REMAINS. Romney didn’t advance himself.

    Biggest Mistake: Romney saying he’d make a $10,000 bet. Already some are saying this comment still stick.

    BEST COMEBACK: Michele Bachmann. Good answers but her self cheerleading and wasting time talking about Herman Cain didn’t help.

    SECOND BEST COMEBACK: Rick Perry. But that’s tempered with fact already coming out that he misquoted Romney’s book — although that caused Romney to offer a $10,000 bet, another one of these little things from a debate that can hurt a candidate since a)it’ll be picked up b)it takes much less work for journalists and bloggers to focus on that then differences in issues or similiarites in issues..

    No REAL knock out punches. Gingrich about Romney being a career politician didn’t really qualify one. And Romney belted himself in the puss politically with the $10,000 bet.

    ONE QUICK OTHER REACTION: Reactions are coming in but here’s a quick one from Andrew Sullivan:

    10.54 pm. Tapper is playing up the $10,000 Romney bet – and I suspect he’s right to. It leapt out at me, along with the “Newt Romney” line from Bachmann. Other than that, Newt wins; Romney loses; Paul rises. Have yourself a shot. I sure will.

    Some TWEETS serious and satirical HERE on my Twitter page.

    HERE IS THE ORIGINAL LIVE LOGGING, MOST RECENT ENTRY FIRST:

    10:46: Bachmann says she was inspired by Herman Cain and the 99 plan. Rant about people not wanting Washington. “In this race I’m it. I’m the consistent conservative.” She hurt herself there. She forgot she’s running for President not cheerleader.

    10:43: Romney says he looks at the others on leadership. Says is amazed at Ron Paul people out there all the time with the enthusiasm. He says “leadership” is the issue. Quotes Reagan….Gingrich: cites Gov of Iowa in audience. Rick Perry got him involved on an issue. Rick Santorum’s “consistency and courage on Iran.” Good answer….Ron Paul: He has learned never give up on opposition because they’ll come your way. Talks about tolerance and freedom, etc. (Zzzzzzzz)

    10:41: Softball that can bring hardball. What’s the one thing you learned from someone on this stage? Santorum on Gingrich’s influence as conservative. Stuck by conservative principals Gingrich outlined…Perry: Ron Paul on some issues then into boilerplate on changing the country. Why can’t they answer a question?

    10:35: Another break. GUT REACTION: Paul shows a bit or why so many love him. Perry looks good. Gingrich not as strong. Romney very strong but honestly does it matter with GOPers? The irony is: there is no doubt in my mind that Romney could be an exceedingly strong candidate against Barack Obama. But that may not be the party’s chief criteria. Gingrich is here showing his strengths and the flaws…exactly as pundits have outlined them in recent days. (If he debates Obama and gets poor reviews will he say he was only talking “as a historian?”)

    10:34: Perry is so much better on the game right now. The pity is that if he had more debate experience and performed like he has (so far…the evening is young) he would be a viable, strong candidate.

    10:32: Paul notes that we have situation where you may have a candidate who needs to better explain himself. Once government uses force to mold behavior or mold the economy have overstepped the bounds and violated the nature of our constitution and our revolution. Big applause line.

    10:30: Gingrich says has been working on health issues for years. Need to “rethink the entire health system” where people are engaged in taking care of themselves more than under the existing health system. Romney’s answer was more specific and meaty. Gingrich may get more questions from reporters on exactly what he means,

    10:28: Stephanopolous says Yahoo followers say they want to hear more from Romney and Gingrich on individual mandates. Romney: “States can do whatever the heck they want to do….My plan was designed for my state..The idea of a federal government or a federal mandate flies in the face of the constitution. I think the Supreme Court will strike it down. If they don’t I will,:

    10:26: Bachmann asked about middle class. Says she opposed bank bail out, Says she opposed the bail out in public and behind closed doors. Gives her background: tragedy of divorce. Mom with four kids. Into poverty, At 13 she had to get a job. “I know what it’s like for single mom’s to struggle.” She gives a good answer. Argues she can feel what people are going through, Gingrich: Dad was in Army and moved around. Says he has several relatives out of work. Says wife runs his “small” production company. Argues he knows what businesses are going through

    10:40: Santorum says grew up with needs met. Talks about most important gift mother and father..No home run from any oif these people on this soft ball question yet…Santorum talks about protecting family and “promote this institution of marriage.”

    10:20: Yahoo question asking them when THEY had a financial problem that made them have to cut back. This should be a good one to ask this millionaires club on this stage…PERRY: Talks about his early years. Perry honest: he never had a time in his life when he felt he didn’t have what was needed. But wants to help others. GOOD answer since he didn’t try and make something up. ROMNEY: Says he didn’t grow up poor but his Dad did and that his Dad wanted him to understand the value of work, how to spend money, care for others. (Press will examine background in detail now of his father, who was Michigan’s governor.) Works in there that when people don’t have jobs marriages stressed…can’t be a coincidence..PAUL: Raised in poor family but almost didn’t know it. Talks about elimination of the middle class.

    10:17: MORE GUT FEELING: Gingrich can’t keep billing his utterances and actions as those of a “historian.” If that’s what he wants, why doesn’t he apply for a teaching chair grant at Yale or Harvard? Bachmann has a good night. Perry would be more of a challenger if he performed as he is doing tonight. Paul has followers and organization but does not seem to be a candidate on the ascent or at his political prime. Romney looks quite good but does that matter since so many Republicans don’t like or distrust him? Gingrich is a BET for the Republican party since he clearly will not just be out there talking about policy but hurling verbal bombs.

    10:16: BREAK: Gingrich may keep rising in the polls and win the nomination but in his comments so far he is confirming what has been said about him.

    10:13: Perry uses the occasion to give more boilerplate on Obama on Iran and Israel. Blasts Obama on the drone for not doing anything on the drone captured by Iran. “This President is the problem not something Newt Gingrich said.” Big applause. HUH? How does Obama and the drone address Gingrich’s comment and what it means if a President decides diplomacy and checking with allies is a bunch of hooey? I guess you have to be a partisan to think that these two are DIRECTLY related.

    10:11: Santorum said you have to speak the truth but “this is not an academic exercise.” And we have an ally. Have to work with ally. Says Mitt correct: need to talk to allys. GUT FEELING: Gingrich has confirmed to many that he will say whatever he wants to say. And throw verbal bombs.

    10:10: Insufferable Bachmann. Asked who got the best of this argument she talks about her trip to Israel. Why not a)one answer that first b)then give your experience. She uses a question to do a loooooooooooooooong commercial about herself. She gives a good anecdote. Has NOT answered the question.

    10:07: Gingrich says needs to stand firm and talk for the truth. Romney says if Israeli’s PM wants to tell tell the truth this way let him talk. Gingrich says he was talking “as a histornian.” Will this be the new response? If he’s called on something — lobbying, an inflammatory comment — he’s “a historian.” Romney says if he’s President he will exercise care in his rhetoric and not say anything that might inflame a situation. “I’m not a bomb thrower, rhetorically or literally.” Gingrich repaints himself as a Reaganite — telling the truth like Reagan did about the evil empire.

    10:06:Romney says we can tell the truth but not throw “incendiary” words into the situation.

    10:03: Stephanopolous on Gingrich calling Palestinians an “invented people.” Paul says this is like Gingrich going out of his way to create problems although technically correct historically. He addresses a key issue about Gingrich: he goes out of his way to throw verbal bombs. Gingrich defends his comment. “These people are terrorists, they teach terrorists in their schools…” Says it’s time for someone to stand up and tell the truth. Romney says he agrees with what Gingrich said when Gingrich rattled off statements and talked about terrorism but was a “mistake” to call them an invented people. Romney blasts Obama’s policy on Israel. Says if the US disagrees with Israeli, do it in private.

    10:01: More muddled response by Perry on this. It’s the old “once bitten twice shy.” Enforce laws on the books first. Clearly, his candidacy seemed a shoo in until he hit this question before and he is tip toeing.

    9:59: Asks Romney about statement that suggested people should be sent back to their countries. What criteria? Romney: any time talk about a form of amnesty it will create “another magnet.” Romney says first need to secure the border. People should register that there here, give them time to get affairs in order, then go home and put in paperwork to become citizens. Notes that there are people already in line waiting to get in here. “No favoritism” for residency or citizenship for those already here. Differentiates from Gingrich. Gingrich is closer to the old McCain model. Romney is too, I bet, but he can’t say it and be elected (or is he?)

    9:56: Illegal imigration. Sawyer asks Gingrich about his idea for a citizen review board for illegals. Gingrich says it’s pattered after draft boards. Says cases he’s talking about are hard to argue about. “I do not believe the people of the United States are going to send the police in to rip these people out of the country…” Need to make English official government language, effective guest worker program. Again, agree or not, a good answer of substance. Sawyer asks him about a threshold. Gingrich says been here 25 years, ties to community, good family. This is not citizenship, he says, is residency.

    9:54: Gingrich says marital fidelity “is an issue” and that he had to go to God forgiveness…is now a 68 year old grandfather and people need to look at who he is now. Admits he made mistakes. Good answer so far. Well handled. Gingrich answers conversationally, rather than sounding like he is puking up prepared responses.

    9:49: On marital fidelity. Perry: “If you’ll cheat on your wife, you’ll cheat on your business partner.” Santorum: character counts but not a disqualifier although it is a factor. But talks about his 21 year marriage. Paul: Oath of office is really more important to think about. “If we took that oath of office seriously in Washington, we’d get rid of 80 percent of the government” — and he rattles off other things. ROMNEY WAFFLES: Claims his ad is in response to an Obama PAC. Nope. It was clearly aimed at Gingrich, raising his consistency. He rattles off boiler plate list on jobs. Romney has flinched here by trying to claim his ad isn’t referring to Gingrich..Bachmann: What is the measure of the man or woman is what founders were interested in. What’s your center..core…world view. Works in that she’s a Christian.

    9:42: BREAK: My initial gut reaction (which can change). Romney is having a good night except for suggesting a $10,000 bet. Gingrich should have gotten off the kids cleaning schools bit. I can just see a Democratic Party ad now showing a 3rd grader coughing as he cleans a toilet now. It is a LOSING ISSUE NEWT. He showed his penchant for a quick knife to the throat on Romney — but Romney also showed how he could use his private sector background as a plus and how he responds to a knife to the throat. Newt’s comment about losing to Teddy Kennedy will be shown over and over. It will not endear him to some independents who really don’t like that kind of attack but it could solidify his support from GOPers who want someone who can above all slice and dice Barack Obama in a debate. Good night for Bachmann. Ron Paul seems to have receeded. It’s not just his lack of camera time. He just seems a tinier voice tonight (so far). Santorum has not advanced or receded.

    9:40: Bachmann says not just important but fight but you lead. This is one of her better nights due to her strong effort to re-ignite herself as the anti-Romney. But also, now, the anti-Gingrich. (Could I have $1 for each time she says “Obamacare?” I could retire now..)

    9:39: Santorum. Agrees with Bachmann. Has been consistent conservative. “But she is fighting and losing. I fought and won.” HUH?? I thought he was defeated in the last election. (Hey, don’t count that one…)

    9:38: Bachmann says can we honestly trust either of these people (Gingrich and Romney) to get rid of it? Big applause.

    9:36: Gingrich on mandates and “Hillarycare” in 1992. Says mandate started as a conservative effort to stop Hillarycare in 1992. Perry back to Romney saying he read Romney’s book. Romney: bets $10,000 bet. “I wrote the book. I got the book.” Repeats that each state fashions each solution. “I have not said in this book first edition or latest edition saying it’s a national plan…let individual states..craft their own solutions.”

    9:35: Romney differentiates his individual mandate from Gingrich’s: Gingrich wanted a federal individual mandate. He argues his approach within argument of states rights. Digs at Perry vaccine mandate..

    9:33: Perry well delivered response on problems from Romney’s program and jobs in Massachusetts. Strong response, well delivered. OOPS! Back to spin..

    9:32: “I know Newt Gingrich and he is a friend of mine…but I’m no clone.” Says never advised Obama to do health care the way he did. Says Obama is the only President who cut medicare for seniors. Tries to differentiate his plan from Obamacare again. Good, slick answer. He is really good in debates and highly appealing to those who want to hear another side of it without a talk radio tone to it.

    9:31: Bachmann says Gingrich indeed was for individual mandate earlier this year and Romney helped advise White House on some matters. Repeats Newt-Romney. Her argument is that she has consistently battled Obama.

    9:30: Gingrich says much of what Bachmann says is true. “Most of the money I made..I did no lobbying, no represenation.” Says he published books, got speech money. That’s how he made his bucks.

    9:28: Due to phone call could not blog last Ron Paul Gingrich exchange. Gingrich now under attack as outsider. Bachmann now says she’s the real conservative. Gingrich? For 20 years, she says, has advocated for individual mandate “longer than Barack Obama.” Romney? He put into place “socialized medicine.” She says she “led” Americans to DC to fight against “Obamacare.” She uses a phrase Newt-Romney. This could be a phrase some conservatives pick up..that is, if they care about where Gingrich stands.

    9:25: Romney says losing to Teddy Kennedy was probably one of the best things that happened to him because it put him in the private sector. Says having kids working in schools doesn’t require changing our child labor laws. I will say it again: Romney could appeal to independents. Gingrich would cause many independents to stay home or vote Democratic to keep him out of the White House. If Gingrich keeps this up this will be his theme.

    9:22: Gingrich: “The only reason you didn’t become a career politician is that you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994.” Got some boos. Will this sit well with those who are on the fence in the GOP? Repeats a version of this: that Romney isn’t a career politician because he has been in effect a loser. Gingrich STICKS To his idea about eliminating janitors and replacing them with kids to work and clean up the schools. PREDICTION: Gingrich will be TOAST with some independent voters. He explains it well but he sounds batty. And the way campaign ads are used, he is giving them ammunition AT THIS debate. If he keeps this up, it’ll be clear the GOP has a death wish if it nominates him.

    9:20: Romney seemingly staying on course going are Obama (so far) than using chance to go after Gingrich. He argues he can best take message to Obama and voters about what needs to be done. Now goes after Gingrich with finesse:he says he disagrees with Gingrich wanting a lunar colony mine minerals from the moon…doesn’t agree with Gingrich removing child labor laws

    9:19: Ron Paul’s says he wants the payroll tax to help people but the government needs to cut costs. One way: close the embassy in Baghdad.

    9:18: Santorum says he’s all for tax cuts but not for this one since it impacts the Social Security trust fund. “You either care about Social Security and you want to fund it, or you don’t.” Good answer since he sounds like he means it.

    9:16: Romney calls the payroll tax a temporary band aid but he doesn’t want to raise taxes on people who are suffering. He blasts Obama for not presenting a big plan to improve the economy and make American competitive again. “People aren’t investing in American because this President has made (the US) a less attractive place for investing” than other places in the world. Solid answer saying he’s for the payroll tax but we must do more ASAP.

    9:14: Sawyer asks about payroll tax cut. Bachmann says its a gimmick that she has opposed from the start since it “blew a hole” in the social security trust fund. She notes that some on the stage agree with Barack Obama on this issue but she doesn’t and never has. “We don’t have enough money in the social security trust fund” to cover the checks. Obama is trying to do a gimmick that is a temporary solution.

    9:11: Rick Santorum more boilerplate.

    9:10: Michele Bachmann reminds us for the 149,097,000th time that she is a former tax lawyer. She reminds us of Herman Cain’s “nine nine nine plan” (actually it was the “nahn nahn nahn” plan). Boilerplate stuff. Recitation. So far only Gingrich appeared to be talking rather than regurgitating.

    9:08: Governor Perry. Take bets now on his silly comment or gaffe now. (Why isn’t he wearing that Breakback Mountain jacket tonight that he wore in the ad?). It’s a pity now since his energy level is better than in the first debates.

    9:07: Ron Paul on jobs says you need to look at bigger picture than Gingrich and Romney examined. Says debt “dumped on the people” by bailing out “the people who benefitted during the formation of the bubble.” Calls for lower taxes…cut $1 trillion first year.

    9:06: Romney response in contrast to Gingrich seems more a recitation. Gingrich rattles off the answers conversationally. Romney is offering more economic info “meat” than red meat. Lots of content. Clearly knows his stuff.

    9:05: Gingrich answer on jobs is solid and works “class warfare” red meat word in there seamlessly.

    9:04: With moderators George Stephanapolous and Dianne Sawyer ABC has offered two excellent moderators. Top pros who don’t grandstand but extract information.

    WE GET EMAIL: 11:06 EST:
    Some emails on the debate:
    Message: On Dianne Sawyer:
    Get her the hell off the debate. Her questioning is so horrific that
    I cannot she is being for this incredibly amerturish performance

    AND:
    Message:
    Man are you folks throwing soft ball questions. Knock it off. As real
    questions like “will each of you reform the IRS in the first 4 years
    of your term?” These fluff questions show how fake the whole show is.
    And this stuff of “rules” to keep the same people chatting back and
    forth wasting time for more questions that might actually reveal
    something…
    Get to the points!