Republican Debate In California

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The four remaining Republican candidates debate tonight at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.

Straight Talkin' McCain?: Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes:

On immigration, McCain was asked by Los Angeles Times reporter Janet Hook whether he would now vote for his comprehensive reform plan that included a path to citizenship. McCain dodged the direct question, insisting that such a scenario would never come to pass because the legislation was dead. He reiterated his now familiar line that "people want the border secured first" before arguing that all four Republicans generally agreed on how to handle immigration.

Pressed on his vote against President Bush's tax cuts in 2001, McCain again dodged the direct question about his motives for that vote -- instead noting his credentials as a "footsoldier" in the Reagan revolution and the support he enjoys from a number of noted fiscal conservatives.

Battle over Iraq timetable: Romney and McCain bicker over whether Romney once advocated a timetable for leaving Iraq -- and Ron Paul gets the only applause by saying the whole argument is ridiculous.

Mr. Romney says he absolutely never said there should be a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Mr. McCain says that of course Mr. Romney said he wanted a timetable.

This is part of a continuing dispute that began over the weekend when the McCain campaign pointed to remarks Mr. Romney made last year in which he said he believed that President Bush and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq should have "a series of timetables and milestones" that they discussed among themselves but did not announce publicly. But Mr. Romney has not called for setting a date for withdrawal. Mr. Romney has said he supports the president's current strategy.

The two are now squabbling. Mr. Romney asks, "How is it that you're the expert on my opinion?" It seems to hinge on the definition of "lay in the weeds."

Mr. McCain pulls the dispute out of the weeds and says the whole thing boils down to whether Mr. Romney has the experience to lead this country in the war against radical Islamic extremism.

Ron Paul says their argument is silly. They're arguing over technicalities of a policy they both agree with, he said, about getting into Iraq and not getting out. He gets the only cheers of the night from the otherwise somnambulant audience.

CNN's Bill Schneider calls out McCain for misleading about Romney's Iraq record. But Josh Marshall says Romney's response -- which included the line, "the Washington Post gave you three Pinocchio's" -- was weak:

Leave it to Mitt Romney to stumble over his ability to say "no". Mitt seriously seems not to comprehend the first elements of political rhetoric. Mitt gets a softball: Is McCain lying when he says you supported Iraq time tables (when in fact he was lying)? Then he stumbles over "unequivocally". And then says a bunch of other nonsense. He sort of recovered at the end. But man, it was pitiful.

Tense night: John McCain and Mitt Romney repeatedly ripped into each other during the tense GOP debate tonight. Here's video of Romney calling McCain "outside the mainstream of the Republican Party."

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