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Posted by on Sep 22, 2011 in Breaking News, Politics | 15 comments

Live Blogging of Fox News/Google Republican Presidential Debate

Here is live blogging of tonight’s Fox News/Google Republican Presidential Debate at the Orange County Convention Center in Florida. Although news coverage will focus on what is shaping up to be a big battle between front runners Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney who are each going to try to deliver a knock out punch to the other, they will not be the only ones debate — or likely to make news. The “others” are Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, businessman Herman Cain, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

My focus how the participants come across in the race and the possible impact on independents 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 been in both parties. The most recent entry will be on top. Also: my actual conclusions are often NOT the same as my initial conclusions after a debate. The more I “digest” what saw and heard, the more definitive my conclusions are. Here’s my initial reaction of the debate going on right now. ALL TIMES ARE EST.

Good night for Romney. His experience in past debates as running for President and Governor shows. Perry held his own but not as good as many have suggested he’d be or as aggressive. Perry will continue to get some questions and find some GOP opposition due to his position on illegal immigration. Few surprises. Bachmann has faded. Her vaccine comments still haunt her and she’s clearly trying to get off the issue — which she can’t. You can see why former campaign manager Ed Rollins abandoned ship. You can flatly say: she will NOT be her party’s nominee. A debate such as this is aimed at primary voters — and this most assuredly was.

UPDATE:Pollster Frank Luntz finds movement AWAY from Rick Perry toward Romney. Luntz found HUGELY negative reaction to Perry’s comments on illegal immigration.

My bottom bottom line is this: I think Romney could post the strongest challenge to Barack Obama. After this debate try an experiment:

Close your eyes. Now imagine Obama debating Rick Perry.

Now imagine Obama debating Romney.

What do you see.

NOTE: I will “digest” all of this and may write another post on this later, or use it as the basis for my syndicated Cagle column. But I see NO big breakthrough here.


10:46: Final question via You Tube. Who would you choose as a running mate from someone on the stage and why?
Johnson: would choose Paul…”this country is about liberty and freedom” with a monetary crisis that will leave us with nothing…points to Russia’s monetary collapse. Santorum: agrees with most Newt Gingrich. Gingrich: YES! He attacks press indirectly (do I get my bet money?). Won’t give a name. Paul: “inappropriate” since he’s third in polls so he won’t say. Perry: if you could have Cain and Gingrich that’d be it. GOOD answer. Comes across as sincere. Romney replies: “There a couple of images I’m going to have a hard time getting out of my mind.” Says that would require a lot of thought. Says any of them could be his Veep “any one of them could be a better President than what we have now.” Follow up calling Perry unelectable. Romney deflects it. Says he disagrees with Perry on issues but all agree President Obama needs to be former President Obama. Slick answer. Bachmann: doesn’t think it’s “anybody but Obama” she uses it to indirectly plead for her to be the nominee. Cane: if Romney throws out jobs plan and replaces it with Cane’s job plan he’d go with him, otherwise Gingrich. Huntsman: Huntsman’s joke about former front runners bombs. Cain. But the real name is not mentioned: Marco Rubio.

10:37: Question on unemployment. Huntsman: gives three examples of what he would do..crisp…specifics. Quite good and serious. Cain: to cheer lines on leadership deficiency. Did not answer the question. Regurgitating prepared comments about Reagan, etc. Bachmann: Says Obamacare hurting hiring, she’d repeal it. Romney: prepared platititudes, corny except to supporters. Perry: his proven record in Texas, repeal Obama care, get rid of regulations, lower tax rates, energy independent. One of his better answers. Paul: reminds people he has been warning about bubbles, more government as problem.. Gingrich: links up Obama to Jimmy Carter and gets into Reagan and gets cheer quoting ‘Reagan. Says big solution to America’s problems is Obama losing (isn’t that what Mitch McConnell also has said and is showing that he is fixated on?). Santorum: gives his canned platittudes, again Reagan, Obama as King George III. Johnson: Best line of the night. His next door neighbors’ two dogs have created more shovel ready jobs than Barack Obama. Johnson gives lots of specifics.

10:36: Am again struck by Bachmann’s shrinkage.

10:33: MY REACTION SO FAR: From the standpoint of an independent, I am most impressed with Romney and his performance tonight as a political professional. Perry is not performing according to expectations even though he is taking it to Romney. He is not spellbinding, not on the attack to the extent that many had predicted. But the question is whether either of these candidates have come close to closing the sale. Those who don’t like Perry still won’t; those who don’t trust Romney still won’t. But my betting on what I have seen so far is that Obama would rather run against Perry than Romney.

10:30: Wallace question to Romney about Perry calling Romney’s health plan “Obama light.” Romney gives boilerplate response. Says in first day in office he’ll issue executive order to let states exercise waiver from “Obama care.” Perry says: “Americans don’t know at times which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with.” He rattles off some of Romney’;s MANY flip flops. “We’ll wait until tomorrow and see which Mitt Romney we’re talking to tonight.” Romney says “nice try.” (This political “callback” is not wise). Romney says he stands by his book but Perry is now retreating from his book’s assertions on Social Security.

10:26: Bachmann about whether she stands by statement re vacine dangerous. Bachmann again repeats that she was repeating what a mother told her. The real issue, she says, is Perry mandating the health care decision. It is “not appropriate” for a Governor to make that decision. She says he gave parental rights to a big drug company that had given him donations and hired a member of his stafff. Perry response: “I got lobbied this issue.” Says he got lobbied by a woman with cancer. Is a bit contrite about opt in “I don’t know what part of opt out parents didn’t get. I will always err on the side of life.” Wallace asks about Texas with the most uninsured resident. Says Perry’s answer last time was inaccurate at the last debate. Wallace gives him data. Perry disagrees with Wallace’s analysis. His answer is well delivered and notes that people continue to move to Texas.

10:23: Huntsman asked about health care reform sections about pre-existing conditions and kids on their parents’ insurance. He talks about his daughter with juvenile diabetes. Says states should experiment in how to address health care reform. Says Utah offers an affordable catastrophic insurance policy. Need cost containment. But he is mostly vomiting up talking points about his time as governor. Zzzzzzzzzzzz

10:19: Perry pooh-poohs reports about tensions between him and George W. Bush. Calls him regularly. Says disagreed him with Medicaid help…No Child Left Behind. Says the federal government has no right telling states how to educate our children. Decent answer. (Is Karl Rove choking on his pizza hearing that?)

10:18: Abortions for rape victims, day after pill not a national issue, Ron Paul says. Law doesn’t solve the problem — only the moral character of the people will solve the problem. Paul is like a spice that stands out in an otherwise bland stew.

10:15: Bachmann: Yes separation of church and state but we’re people of faith and it doesn’t mean people of faith shouldn’t be kept from exercising them in places such as schools.

10:13: Santorum says Afghanistan war is Obama tying generals hands behinds their backs. Huntsman “Only Pakistan can save Pakistan. Only Afghanistan can save Paksitan. All I want this point in history is for America to save America.”

10:16: Mention of gays in the military draws a boo. Rick Santorum gets big cheer with his comments against U.S. policy. Calls it “social experimentation with our military.” Santorum wants to reinstitute the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Those now in wouldn’t be impacted but he’d reinstate it.

10:11: Johnson seems to be a thinker. Bachmann wants to weigh in on flights to Cuba since it is a state sponsor of terrorism. Jon Huntsman wants to respond to Rick Santorum. He brags about his foreign policy experience (does not come across well). Now he’s onto the economy. We are watching a Talking Points Dump.

10:09: Gingrich on why we send money to countries that hate us. (Hey, Newt: time is running out for you to attack the press again). Wraps it into our bureaucrats giving other bureaucrats money. Nice for a GOP primary but doesn’t address the issue at all. He warns about big danger from Pakistan with nukes. He is CORRECT about danger and at least address the isssue that Perry glossed over.

10:08: I watch Rick Santorum and think: so WHY are running? Is it to get a regular Fox News gig?

10:06: Perry ignores almost totally question about what he’d do if he learned a problem with Pakistan nukes. This tendency of his not to answer a question but to vomit up his prepared statements makes him an unattractive candidate. His evasion works but he did not answer the question. ” C plus or C minus answer.

10:04: Cain says Obama administration lacks clarity with Israel. Cliche cheer line if you mess with Israel you mess with the United States. Says Palestinians at UN might not have tried what they’re doing if the U.S. had been more clear on where it stands with Israeli.

10:02: Now to foreign policy. Romney gets question on how he’d approach “new reality” in the Middle East, with Israel facing a threat from Iran, Palestinian Authority, etc. Romney you don’t allow “an inch of space” between Israeli and allies. Says Obama apologized around the world, threw Israel under the bus trying to negotiating with Israeli, etc. Lectures Obama on how to deal with an ally. Good answer for Jewish voters and conservatives. “Unacceptable” for Iran to be nuclear nation. Boilerplate stuff. (YAWN)

Debate performance in the end may not matter since many GOPers will vote for those they already agree with. But Romney seems to improve with each debate. Perry still seems weak on the debate front. But his response to the kids of illegal aliens and education seemingly came from the heart. This could help him with Hispanic voters if he gets the nomination and also with some independents who may wish to see tighter control on illegal immigration but also believe that it must be dealt with humanely in terms of families that are already here. What does this mean? Most likely if there was a STRONG conservative candidate who didn’t have some of the baggage (from a Tea Party standpoint) of a Romney or a Perry he/she would be in the running. But if Romney is improving in his presentation, has a lot of money and can win some primaries this battle could go to the wire.

9:53 Santorum says he’s very weak on border issues. Perry correctly asks him has he ever been at the border with Mexico. He says the fence makes no sense financially. Perry says you put the “boots on the ground.” Vows to put “assets on the ground..boot on the ground…aviation.” Perry gets cheers from his supporters. Perry will be vulnerable on this — but that will help him with some independents who want to see illegal immigration curbed but don’t go for the tone that other candidates display on illegals.

9:48: Chris Wallace setting up Perry versus Romney. Romney blasts discount to illegals for college education in Texas. Calls it a magnet that draws people in the country to get the break. Romney has a lot more pizazz in this debate. “Makes no sense at all.” Wallace gives Perry another question. Question to him whether Perry is going to start the “abuse” of U.S. citizens by illegals? Wallace gives him a “how do you feel” question. Perry says no one on this state has spent more time working on border security — which is TRUE. Texas Governors have to spend a lot of time on the issue. Answer good one in specifics. Defends those criticizing not educating the kids who come in as not having a heart. (He is CORRECT: I have done school programs and met many of these kids over the years.) He’s vulnerable on this issue in the primaries. Texas Governors feel this issue more profoundly since they have contact with some of these families – and young people.

9:46: Gingrich gets question on making sure that illegals who are hired are here legally. He says it’d be easy verifying like swiping a credit card. Favors 100 percent control of border. He (again) goes for quick cheer: English as the official language of the U.S.

9:44: Bachmann starts to come alive (finally) on illegal immigration..she’d build a fence on every “mile, every foot every inch” (ahem…aren’t we trying to cut money? How could you do it over every inch.”) I see her as sinking in this debate because she is not rising.

9:42: Bachmann so far very much boilerplate. She is not standing out and has seemingly exited from the top tier. How many times is she going to tell viewers how many kids she has and that she’s a mother? (It’s clear that Rick Perry considers Mitt Romney a mother and Romney considers Perry one as well.)

9:37: Education question with short responses by all of them. As someone who often visits public schools, I wonder how many of these people know what goes on in public schools and how dedicated teachers and principals are? Ron Paul says if you care about your kids you’ll get the federal government out of education your kids. As an independent, I listen to these attacks on public education and think these are Candidate Left Behind. A big turn off. Perry talks about promoting school choice…charter schools. Goes after Romney for being in favor of the Obama race to the top. Romney: “Nice try.” Says edcuation needs to be a state and federal level. Seems thrown by follow up question about whether he really answered Perry or not.

9:35: Gingrich woos crowd with Greek bonds line. Uh, oh, he threatens promises to issue another Contract for America. He talks of Obama’s “socialist policies..classwarefare” good primary language but would bomb with independents — but Gingrich has as much chance getting nominated as New Coke being sold again. (Will he attack the press again?)

9:33: Cain says first department he’d eliminate would be the EPA and start over. It’s always fascinating for someone such as myself who idolizes Teddy Roosevelt to listen to some of the current conservatives on environment. If you hear a sound it is Teddy turning over in his grave. But — once again — Cain is the most exuberant. He jumps from that to retirement accounts. (Got to get in all those talking points!)

9:32: Huntsman on raising taxes on millionaires. Says this is the worst time to raise taxes. Throws in Ronald Reagan name. Does fine until he again is vomiting up his talking points. Could be a good GOP candidate (most likely in 2016 if a Tea Party backed candidate is defeated in the Presidential race.)

9:30: Does Romney believe Obama is a socialist? Romney gets question and tries to DUCK it with how he wants title “former President” Barack Obama. He is NOT answering the question. He probably doesn’t believe Obama is a socialist but he loses tea party support if he doesn’t call Obama a socialist. Now does some boilerplate stuff. Why do these candidates vomit up platitudes. “I spent four years as Governor: I didn’t inhale.” Another good line.

9:26: Rick Perry on Mitt Romney’s criticism of him on Social Security. He delivers his prepackaged “solemn oath” that he won’t try to move Social Security to the states. Says not first time Mitt is wrong….delivers little dagger. Delivered with soothing smile. It’s an option. Romney: “It’s different with what the Governor put in his book…or said in interviews 6 months ago…So you better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that.” Again: Romney is a MUCH stronger candidate. If this wasn’t 2011 he’d be a shoo in for the GOP nomination. Perry responds with Romney’s books praising Romney care — and how Romney took a line out bragging about Romney care. Romney: “We were talking about Social Security but if you want to talk about health care…” Says Perry got it wrong. “It’s fine for you to retreat from your own words in your own book but please don’t try to get me to retreat from my own words in my own book.” The PRESS will check both these guy’s comments out tomorrow.

9:25: Florida Gov. Rick Scott appears to give a statement. Just what the GOP needs: wedding its candidates to Rick Scott. Yep. Right…

9:21: MY IMPRESSSIONS SO FAR: Am most struck by the contrast between Perry and Romney. Perry exudes confidence and zip but his subtext is “Hey, trust me I am Governor of Texas and one of you!” Romney is trying to still prove he is one of them but he’s throwing out a lot of specifics. Cain the most exuberant.

9:19: Johnson wisely uses his first question to introduce himself to viewers since he is not as well known as the others. His first debate. Again, whether you agree with him or not, he is offering specifics and “content.”

9:18: Super terse answer from Ron Paul on restoring the 10th amendment. Big cheers about government has no authority to run our schools, etc. He appeals to GOPers but if he was a candidate he’d lose a lot of independents.

9:15: Cain has the most pizazz. Forget about his ideas. He has the dynamism and doesn’t seem to be doing a debate as a programmed candidate. Goes after Romney. Romney gets his chance to reply. Romney says his plan tries to help middle income people the most. Romney has REALLY improved as a debate. I still maintain he could do QUITE well with independents, even with his flip flops. He offers some content in his answers — like them or not.

9:12: Huntsman on energy. His problem is he seems like he’s reciting and does not answer Chris Wallace’s question about contradiction in his positions. Wallace asks him again. He does better next time. By the way asking follow ups is a REAL journalist’s duty — not a sign of bias.

9:011: Now here comes Newt Gingrich. I wonder how many bookies in Vegas are taking bets on exactly when he’ll deliver his big attack on the mean, old press asking questions like journalists this time? (Call your bookie now)

9:09: Rick Santorum get one of the top rated You Tube questions on supporting a federal right to work law. He stresses public employee unions but limits it to public employee union right to work law support.

9:08: MIchele Bachman sort of blah in first answer on keeping your money. Seems boilerplate.

9:03: On You Tube question about hiring news employees, Perry’s argument that if it’ll work in Texas it’ll work on Washington DC is a no starter for many voters. Who says it will? Perry also evades moderator’s question on specifics on his job plan. He will be battered on this at a later date. Mitt Romney has more specifics but it’s clear some of the Perry fans don’t care about specifics before he opens his outh. Romney talks more in platititudes; Perry seems to argue as his subtext, “Hey, trust me.”

9:00 Intros. Rick Perry has the most vigorous wave and stage prescence.

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