Greetings from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina! Well, the GOP candidates are all there — "all" except for Duncan Hunter, who is still in the race dammit, no wait, listen to him! — and this time including the twice-excluded Ron Paul, driving all sorts of viewership to this debate in a consequence that probably did not escape the suits over at Fox News. I mean, why cut off a huge chunk of your audience? Ron Paul Ron Paul Ron Paul! (Sorry, that was to drive up our traffic.) Okay, so: Here we are at the first meeting of the GOP since the New Hampshire primary, and the game has changed. Now we'v got a new frontrunner — John McCain, the most recent winner courtesy of the Granite State — and an overall frontrunner, Mike Huckabee (who was on yet another talk show last night. Letterman, Leno, Colbert — how long before he's dancing it up on Ellen?), and Mitt Romney, two-time self-described silver medalist, looking about as relaxed and confident as an olympian who just knows those steroids are about to kick in. Seriously, he just seems so chill tonight — and that is so not a word that we associate with Mitt Romney. Who else is up there? Ah, yes, Rudy Giuliani, near-invisible in Iowa and New Hampshire; and Fred Thompson, who is still here and weirdly seems to be becoming the rock of this campaign — he's always steady on what he says and always stays in the same place, but is unlikely to rise up and soar. Rocks don't really do that. Now we're on the road to the next primary: First Nevada, then South Carolina (though that schedule is different from the Dems). Every debate is another chance to rattle your opponent, get off the perfect soundbite, land the quotable zinger. So far tonight, they are all on their best behavior, moderated by Brit Hume and Chris Wallace. It's interesting — dare I say substantive — and in the context of the primary race, pretty darn exciting. We've got it liveblogged for you below, featuring today's crack team of Glynnis MacNicol, John Neffinger, liveblog newcomer Danny Shea, the associate media editor here at HuffPo, and your moderator Rachel Sklar (me!). Come on and check us out! USA! USA! USA!
Rachel (9:04:35 PM): Okay, national anthem, parade of candidates, first question: Growing concerns we're headed for a recession. Gov Romney, do you think so? And, you had low job growth in Mass, so why should voters trust you?
Rachel (9:04:59 PM): Romney: I helped turn the state around, dude!
Glynnis (9:05:31 PM): It will be interesting to see whether McCain and Huckabee gang up on Romney again.
Rachel (9:05:57 PM): Yes I agree - it worked like a charm last time. Romney was SO rattled.
Danny (9:06:09 PM): Look at McCain smirking as Mitt babbles.Sort of like a very smug Oksana Baiul. Gloating
Rachel (9:06:34 PM): McCain is smirking. Cf this Michael Sherer post on Swampland - McCain as cool kid, Romney as uptight preppy student council prez.
Rachel (9:06:49 PM): Yes! Like a very smug Oksana Baiul, exactly!
Glynnis (9:06:51 PM): I wonder how many times McCain is going to work in his NH win.
Rachel (9:07:00 PM): Let's keep a count by drinking! Wallace asks McCain about spending and deficit and the economy n' stuff.
Glynnis (9:07:59 PM): McCain is not using the fear factor. He is optimistic about America's financial future. Or maybe he doesn't have a mortgage.
Rachel (9:08:03 PM): Hey, wait a minute, Ron Paul is here this time, si?
Danny (9:08:11 PM): Yes
John (9:08:11 PM): Why yes, he is.
Danny (9:08:14 PM): I think he fought his way in
Rachel (9:08:15 PM): Whoooo!
Rachel (9:08:18 PM): RON PAUL NATION!
John (9:08:21 PM): Do you have a question about monetary policy?
Rachel (9:08:34 PM): I met him, you know.
Danny (9:08:35 PM): We need sound money, I believe, is the quote he gave you in NH right Rachel?
Rachel (9:09:03 PM): Oh God, I had the video camera going, I wasn't actually listening. Kidding! McCain says that as president, he'll wield a veto pen. He did the Bob Dole hand-gesture on that point.
Glynnis (9:09:36 PM): Well, according to McCain this isn't actually a beauty contest. He is NOT Miss Congeniality.
Rachel (9:09:39 PM): There's a reason for that - did you know that McCain can't raise his arms past a certain point because of his injuries in the POW camp in Vietnam? That's why he is always doing the "thumps up" pose instead of the high wave or the victory 'V'.
Danny (9:10:23 PM): Yeah, dude can't brush his own hair
Danny (9:10:29 PM): I bet Cindy does it for him.
Danny (9:10:36 PM): Though her arms are probably tight since she's always wearing leather jackets!
Rachel (9:10:46 PM): Folks at home, Danny is dropping ETP knowledge - these are things Glynnis and I wrote about from New Hampshire. Check out our posts here!
Glynnis (9:10:55 PM): Huckabee is now calmly explaining how our "enslavement" to foreign oil comes home via the prices on the grocery store shelf.
Rachel (9:11:40 PM): This debate feels anti-climactic after the hubbub of New Hampshire. Where's Hillary? Where's Obama? And it's almost strange to see Rudy.
Glynnis (9:11:46 PM): Huckabee, of late, has been very fond of using the word "enslavement" to describe our dependency on oil.
John (9:12:18 PM): Huckabee takes the economics question and starts right in talking about people living from paycheck to paycheck, picturing them reaching for things on the shelves and knowing they cost more because of high gas prices...
Rachel (9:12:19 PM): That's right - didn't he mention that at his rally on Monday night? That we attended when we were in New Hampshire. (Did I mention that? I'm John McCain!)
Glynnis (9:12:18 PM): Is Rudy even running in South Carolina? I think all his chips are on Florida.
John (9:12:19 PM): He is feeling people's pain, and it shows on his face.
Rachel (9:13:08 PM): Who's feeling the pain, Huckabee? Because I'm looking at Giuliani right now, and I don't see that on his face. I see "I was Mayor of New York during 9/11" on his face, and grampa glasses.
Glynnis (9:13:26 PM): Wait...I hear a noun a verb and 9/11 on the way. [We miss you Joe Biden]
Rachel (9:14:03 PM): A moment of silence in remembrance of. But not for Duncan Hunter - he may not be on the stage, but he's still in this race, dammit! He's not going anywhere!
John (9:14:25 PM): McCain goes out of his way to endorse making permanent the reckless Bush tax cuts he wisely opposed at the get-go.
Glynnis (9:14:31 PM): I'm hearing more "Ronald Reagans" than we have of late.
Rachel (9:14:42 PM): Ron Paul, bless his heart, is EXACTLY THE SAME wherever he is.
Glynnis (9:15:03 PM): Look at Ron Paul's wave! He's having a good hair day...by 1950 standards, at least.
Rachel (9:15:08 PM): In debates, on MTP, in lobby of the Raddy - he is almost rain-mannish in his consistency.
Rachel (9:15:37 PM): "Austrian theory of the business cycle?" Wha?
Danny (9:15:57 PM): http://www.auburn.edu/~garriro/a1abc.htm
Rachel (9:16:37 PM): Ah, thank you Danny. Oh, Fred Thompson is still here too.
John (9:16:41 PM): McCain knows he can beat the drum of "cutting spending" all night long. He owns that issue and gets credit for it. No one will ever know that to cut enough out of the budget to make up for the Bush cuts would be very painful and very unpopular.
Rachel (9:17:30 PM): Oh, those are just details - you know, the details that Clinton gets rapped for being "boring and policy-oriented" for citing.
Glynnis (9:17:45 PM): Thompson looks like he's reading from notes. Did he get an advance copy of the questions, per chance?
John (9:18:29 PM): Somewhere Jonathan Chait is pulling his hair out listening to all this.
Rachel (9:18:31 PM): You know, I was just thinking that this wasn't the funniest liveblog ever. But then I realized that we started with the economy.
Danny (9:18:48 PM): Carl Cameron! I wonder if he drove there in the Fox Election Link vehicle
Rachel (9:18:53 PM): Aha! It's Carl Cameron! Did he drive to SC in the Fox Roving Electionmobile?
Rachel (9:19:00 PM): HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Danny (9:19:03 PM): I'm faster, Sklar
Rachel (9:19:19 PM): Damn you, Shea! [Dramatic shaking of fist]
Danny (9:20:00 PM): "Primacy of traditional marriage" -- interesting phrase from Huckabee.
Rachel (9:20:16 PM): God, Huckabee is just more pleasant to listen to. Even when he says things like "primacy of traditional marriage." Glynnis and I saw his wife to whom he is traditionally married in New Hampshire. Did we mention that we were in New Hampshire?
Rachel (9:20:34 PM): Danny, get out of my brain!!!!!
Glynnis (9:20:34 PM): Interesting, Huckabee is on his talking points. We heard a lot of this word for word the other day at his event.
Glynnis (9:20:48 PM): He's very good at making it sound fresh.
John (9:20:54 PM): Huckabee paused briefly before saying that the protections of the 1st Amendment depend on the protections of the 2nd Amendment... but he said it!
Rachel (9:21:00 PM): I guess they all stick to talking points - most people couldn't possibly have enough time to realize it.
Rachel (9:21:14 PM): Oh! He said that on Monday night too
Rachel (9:21:29 PM): Specifically linking the 2nd Amendment to the 1st Amendment.
Glynnis (9:21:50 PM): Okay, apparently we are back to Ronald Reagan as God. Everyone get their drinks ready.
Rachel (9:22:05 PM
Danny (9:22:16 PM): Oh sad. McCain's "I'm not sure about the lights here" joke fell flat
Glynnis (9:22:29 PM): That was a joke?
Rachel (9:22:34 PM): Mitt answers this one well.
John (9:22:39 PM): McCain looks good tonight. Healthy, smiling confidently, not tired and growly like he has sometimes been. Nice tie too.
Glynnis (9:22:51 PM): Romney's made a bold tie choice here. Silver and black stripes.
Danny (9:22:56 PM): It's hard for John to speak when he's not reading off a script...
Rachel (9:23:31 PM): Mitt is good - in the global sense - for the most part. But instead of having flashes of brilliance, which would elevate him to debate greatness, he instead has flashes of awkwardness, with a dash of Eddie Haskell (see Scherer again).
Glynnis (9:23:41 PM): Romney has just said Ronald Reagan enough times in the last two minutes that if I actually was drinking, I'd be on the floor already.
Glynnis (9:24:24 PM): Mitt seems to be getting edgier with every debate.
Rachel (9:25:09 PM): He's doing that thing candidates do where they reel off a litany of their accomplishments.
Rachel (9:26:04 PM): Here's a fun game: When a candidate starts talking about all the things they've done, and starts listing it as a litany, quietly, in your head, sing this to yourself: "I've been to paradise, but I've never been to me." It is funny EVERY TIME.
Glynnis (9:26:21 PM): Okay, now I am going to have that song in my head for the rest of the night.
Wow, I think that Thompson really is reading off notes.
Danny (9:26:38 PM): Thompson is going after Huckabee as a last-ditch effort to own the Southern constituency.
Glynnis (9:26:44 PM): And he just said Huckabee is peddling a Democratic platform. To great applause.
John (9:26:45 PM): Thompson brings down the house here. Gov. Huckabee..?
Glynnis (9:26:58 PM): And then Huckabee retorts by saying something along the lines of, if you're getting flack you must be over the target. Also getting a lot of applause.
Rachel (9:27:15 PM): Huckabee responded to the dinging bell well.
Rachel (9:27:24 PM): Huckabee JUST WINKED.
Rachel (9:27:33 PM): He's Zac Efron from Hairspray!
Rachel (9:27:40 PM): He's the Teen Idol from Grease!
Rachel (9:27:45 PM): He's Ryan Seacrest!
John (9:27:47 PM): Huckabee smiled a little too big there. Creepy!
Danny (9:27:45 PM): I agree. Toothy, but in a scary way.
Rachel (9:29:59 PM): Ooooooooooooooh, a 9/11 Truther question!
Danny (9:30:04 PM): How long til Rudy jumps in on Ron Paul's 9/11 question?
Glynnis (9:30:16 PM): Giuliani just said Ronald Reagan wanted to buy the world a coke. Well not really, but apparently Reagan was inclusive.
Danny (9:30:41 PM): GOOD FOR RON PAUL
Danny (9:30:47 PM): Smacking Fox down.
Glynnis (9:31:16 PM): Ron Paul is not biting the 9/11 truth squad question. He doesn't personally subscribe to those theories but he can't tell his supporters what to do. He "please" would like to participate in the current debate. This to great applause.
Rachel (9:31:35 PM): Ron Paul tries to deflect. Carl Cameron doesn't let him. Ron Paul doesn't let him back! Point: Paul.
Rachel (9:31:45 PM): Break!
Glynnis (9:35:18 PM): We are back and talking about Iran and other hotspots. Rachel (9:35:19 PM): What word is more fun to say, "Huckabee" or "Hormuz?" Rachel (9:35:26 PM): I'm going with "Hormuz." Rachel (9:35:32 PM): Hormuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuz. Rachel (9:35:34 PM): Hormuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuz. Rachel (9:35:35 PM): Hormuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuz. Danny (9:35:54 PM): DAMN! Danny (9:36:03 PM): Huckabee threatens the gates of hell. Rachel (9:36:09 PM): Rhyme alert: "Mitt" rhymes with "Britt." Glynnis (9:36:29 PM): Thank god Maureen Dowd isn't reading this or she would accuse us of trying to get sympathy hits, with giddy, sleepless behaviour. Glynnis (9:37:31 PM): Huckabee just got a big applause line for rationally saying what boils down to "you're with us or dead." Danny (9:37:52 PM): Thompson gets huge laughs for making fun of "those virgins" they're waiting for on the other side. John (9:38:21 PM): Is Brit Hume really asking this question? A military commander who peaceably resolved a pointless provocation, being second-guessed by this guy? Glynnis (9:38:37 PM): No one on the stage is willing to say anything against Bush on his handling of the Iran boats the other day. Rachel (9:38:50 PM): "He's faced down Mitt, and been timed by Brit, as he's tried to finish his thought He's know what's foreign and finds it borin' but still, gives it a shot He plays the gui-tar well, and just mentioned hell like the preacher he used to be He'll bring you paradise...and his name is Huckabee." Glynnis (9:38:56 PM): LOLOLOLOLOL! John (9:39:15 PM): Is Brit Hume disappointed that he didn't get another war to cover? What is his problem exactly? Glynnis (9:39:56 PM): What would John McCain have done. Not as president but as the captain of the ship, dammit! Danny (9:39:58 PM): McCain has this card every single time and you can't challenge him on it Rachel (9:41:28 PM): "Tonkin" is also a funny word. Glynnis (9:41:52 PM): Now that John McCain has won NH, it feels like he's pontificating instead of being the voice of experience and wisdom. Danny (9:42:41 PM): OK I love Ron Paul. Danny (9:42:44 PM): He's hysterical. Rachel (9:43:14 PM): Ron Paul: "People are looking around for an excuse to bomb Iran." Rachel (9:43:19 PM): Why are people laughing?? Glynnis (9:43:30 PM): It just got a little high school up there. The way Giuliani, I think was giggling/laughing in the background. Danny (9:43:34 PM): AW DAMN Danny (9:43:42 PM): Romney gets booed for going after Ron Paul. Danny (9:43:50 PM): You sort of can't go after Ron Paul. he's just too lovable John (9:43:55 PM): Romney gets booed for making a lame joke. Rachel (9:44:07 PM): "Romney: I think Congressman Paul should not be reading Ahmedinejad's press releases." Rachel (9:44:30 PM): Would have been better if he could have pronounced Ahmedinejad, just as I would be better if I could spell it. Glynnis (9:44:35 PM): Romney just got booed for trying to suggest that Ron Paul stop reading "I'm-a-dinner-jacket's" press releases. Mitt did not look happy about that. Rachel (9:44:45 PM): Brit keeps saying, "If it happens again..." Who is he reprimanding? Rachel (9:44:51 PM): Are these people children? Rachel (9:45:18 PM): Gee, that tie looks delicious! Rachel (9:45:24 PM): When's easter? Rachel (9:46:03 PM): Here's something interesting: We see John McCain differently now. Rachel (9:46:07 PM): Now he's a frontrunner. Rachel (9:46:12 PM): Now he's THE frontrunner. Rachel (9:46:34 PM): Having just won. And it's puffed him up a bit. Incredibly interesting tidbit from Time's Ana Marie Cox, who travels with McCain, here:
Signs of how his fortunes have reversed are everywhere: Staff size has suddenly tripled. We're on a really nice charter plane. And it's suddenly much harder to talk to McCain. ("Things have changed," one staffer told me. I took it globally.
John (9:46:44 PM): McCain responds to the challenging question about Iraq in kind, with challenging questions back. He smiles and defends the accomplishments of the surge, such as they are.
Glynnis (9:46:46 PM): He definitely is sounding a leetle too comfortable with his recent win.
Danny (9:47:00 PM): McCain: The man who should've been Time magazine's person of the year: David Petraeus!
Rachel (9:47:10 PM): He just slipped up saying "These young people are gonna come home." Because instantly, your mind goes to all the chances between now and the soonest chance for them to come home for something to go very, very wrong. Too many stories like that.
John (9:47:32 PM): McCain looks strong, almost regal here.
Rachel (9:47:59 PM): "Almost regal" is pushing it.
John (9:48:23 PM): Immediately cut from McCain to Giuliani, who gets a question about Israelis and Palestinians, and fussily runs through his talking points, not looking so good.
John (9:50:00 PM): Rudy then tries to get credit for supporting the surge as soon as Bush came out with it. McCain concedes that, but makes the point that he had condemned the Rumsfeld approach and supported a surge before it was cool.
John (9:50:19 PM): Is it cool? I guess it's cool with this crowd.
Rachel (9:50:22 PM): God, it seems so long ago that he was mocked for walking around a market in a bulletproof vest with a huge security detail and jovially proclaiming it safe.
Glynnis (9:50:39 PM): It seems a bit like Fox is trying to bait Ron Paul with their questions, but are absolutely defeated in their purpose by his absolute sincerity.
Danny (9:50:44 PM): I agree with you Glynnis.
Danny (9:51:04 PM): I sort of think he's the star of this debate, but I'm also completely enamored with him.
Danny (9:51:09 PM): And John McCain's joke blows.
John (9:51:52 PM): Eew, a real stinker. Followed by a big sheepish grin.
Glynnis (9:52:02 PM): It's backfiring against the candidates, also. McCain just made a smirky comment about not wanting to trade burka's with Al Queda, and it made him look like a fool.
Danny (9:52:14 PM): Ron Paul makes the crowd go wild...they sort of boo at everyone else's lame attempts to take him down.
Rachel (9:52:53 PM): John McCain had success with the cool-kid grin before, when he was taunting Mitt. But it's the same principle that applied to Obama in the last debate (and why I was so irked by his "likable enough" comment): When you're on top, you have to live up to a higher standard of graciousness.
Glynnis (9:53:05 PM): Ron Paul makes some good points and also has a TON of ground support. A smart candidate would keep that in mind and not try to make him look foolish.
John (9:53:34 PM): McCain goes from regal to downright goofy in record time. Ron Paul makes his points and ends strongly:" I think it's time to come home!"
Rachel (9:53:36 PM): Fred Thompson: "Oh, my goodness, go against a poll?"
John (9:53:41 PM): McCain is left smiling stupidly.
Glynnis (9:54:08 PM): Thompson is steady and likeable. You don't ever get the sense that he is pandering.
Rachel (9:54:09 PM): Good point Glyn.
Rachel (9:54:15 PM): McCain is missing something tonight. He's a fraction of a beat off here, the same way that Mitt was on Saturday.
John (9:55:59 PM): Thompson is making his case here. His campaign has been listless, but as others make idiots of themselves and/or alienate key GOP constituencies, he looks better and better.
Rachel (9:56:18 PM): "Three-dimensional chess": This is smart Romney coming out. Paired with strong Romney and sure Romney, it's really quite impressive. Perhaps losing in both of these primaries released him in some way to be a little looser. I don't know if I've ever seen him seem so relaxed and unforced.
Danny (9:56:34 PM): Romney's legit, people.
Glynnis (9:57:31 PM): He makes a very good point saying that it's the Muslims themselves who are going to have to reject the extreme.
Glynnis (9:58:11 PM): Maybe if Romney loses South Carolina, also, we'll have a candidate that actually turns people on.
John (9:59:05 PM): Huckabee offers a cogent explanation of the Pakistan problem, to his credit in an area where he seems inexperienced. But then he takes a swipe at Ron Paul...
Glynnis (9:59:31 PM): And now Huckabee addresses Ron Paul seriously. And it reflects well on Huckabee.
Glynnis (10:00:27 PM): Huckabee and Obama are both running on platforms of reasonability.
John (10:00:42 PM): Except that Ron Paul actually knows his stuff, and proceeds with a history lesson about how stupid and self-defeating our middle east policy has been.
Danny (10:05:22 PM): Romney was sorta smarmy with that "Nope"
Rachel (10:05:30 PM): "You have been pushing the theme of 'change' recently." Who hasn't? Is it just possible that voters want more Washington experience?
Rachel (10:05:34 PM): Mitt: "Nope."
Danny (10:05:35 PM): Romney was sorta smarmy with that "Nope"
Danny (10:05:39 PM): More the chuckle after than the Nope.
Rachel (10:05:42 PM): Really - I thought it was effective.
Danny (10:05:57 PM): I thought the "Nope" was effective...the laugh was sort of smarmy.
Rachel (10:06:38 PM): He's strong tonight, man. I really feel like New Hampshire released him. There is power to being an underdog.
Rachel (10:06:39 PM): It makes people hungrier, but also they've got nothing to lose, which makes them more authentic and less guarded. Upshot: Better.
Glynnis (10:06:52 PM): This is interesting. Post Iowa Romney jumped whole heartedly on the "change" bandwagon, and now he's going to have to ride it.
Rachel (10:06:58 PM): "I will change Washington. I will take it apart and put it back together smarter, smaller...."etc.
Rachel (10:07:09 PM): That was a GREAT answer. I am right, la la la la!
Glynnis (10:07:18 PM): Even though, experience seemed to have won out in NH.
John (10:08:26 PM): Mitt is a twit. It shows, all the time. He is not our next President.
John (10:08:27 PM): But he finally plays to his real strength here: he is a successful businessman, he is not from Washington, he turned around the Olympics and the Massachusetts budget, he gets things done.
Glynnis (10:09:25 PM): I'm still not clear how change and experience are at odds with eachother. You can't change a tire unless you understand how it works in the first place. (or, at least, I can't).
Glynnis (10:10:11 PM): Huckabee wants to make it very clear that he is now the "man from Hope."
John (10:11:43 PM): Huckabee is trying out being defiant, even a little mad here. He has a good case to make, citing good results in Arkansas. Don't tell him about "big government" - he raised the standards of living.
John (10:12:55 PM): He is clearly not quite comfortable showing strong anger here - whether because of this issue or because he doesn't do anger. He goes halfway with his anger, and is at least halfway effective.
Glynnis (10:14:22 PM): I think Huckabee runs the same risk as Obama by doing anger. His big selling point is his open, moderated, understanding tone. I think it's risky to play too much with that, unless it's REALLY warranted.
John (10:14:36 PM): After Thompson gets to take a turn talking about his accomplishments in Washington, Huckabee comes back saying as a governor, he had to make Washingotn's policies work. He looks genuinely cross, and fairly strong.
Glynnis (10:16:32 PM): I hate to harp on McCain's tone, but it almost feels as though he thinks he's doing us a favor by participating.
Rachel (10:17:14 PM): Huckabee is just so damn good.
Rachel (10:17:31 PM): "Passing the plates because our campaign could use the money."
Glynnis (10:17:46 PM): Huckabee says that it's okay that the religious questions always come to him.
Danny (10:17:51 PM): He's doing really well with this question.
Rachel (10:17:59 PM): Note him saying his wife's name - Janet Huckabee - makes you realize how seldom you hear the candidates SAY the names of their spouses.
Danny (10:17:59 PM): I'm impressed
Rachel (10:18:32 PM): Huckabee is just so GOOD. He always is. Mitt may be relaxed and unplugged tonight, but Huckabee is like that all the time.
John (10:18:52 PM): Yup.
Glynnis (10:18:55 PM): He's so good at these answers. He's comfortable talking about religion without using it as a something to bludgeon with.
Rachel (10:19:09 PM): He says marriage isn't about a 50/50 split: "Biblically, marriage is 100-100 - each partner gives 100%" - great answer, great great answer - just too bad that he doesn't see how that can happen between devoted couples of the same sex.
Danny (10:19:15 PM): It's really ridiculous the way they mock Ron Paul.
Danny (10:19:22 PM): "Talking about electability. Do you have any, sir."
Glynnis (10:19:46 PM): Carl wants to know if Ron Paul thinks he's electable (maybe Obama would say that he's "electable enough").
John (10:20:58 PM): Ron Paul is the most conservative guy up there, says he. In an old-school, philosophical way, he has a point.
John (10:21:24 PM): That's not what being a "conservative" is about anymore.
Glynnis (10:23:40 PM): Huckabee is doing a good job of keeping one foot in the Christian camp without being scary.
John (10:23:59 PM): It really is great to have him up on the stage there though. It's a little like the history report from the end of "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," where they bring historical figures onstage to drop the knowledge.
Rachel (10:24:32 PM): Oh, my Lord. They LOOOOOVE immigration.
Glynnis (10:24:35 PM): The final question will be about immigration (btw, no Health Care tonight).
John (10:25:06 PM): The question itself: "...how would you deal with the illegals?" You know, the illegal people.
Glynnis (10:25:56 PM): Is it really to McCain's advantage to say that there's more illegal immigration on AZ borders than anywhere else?
Rachel (10:26:02 PM): McCain: "We'll humanely and compassionately round them up!"
Rachel (10:26:23 PM): And also, it's cool if illegals fight in Iraq, if they're MIA we totally won't ship their wives home. Wow, totes humane!
Glynnis (10:26:29 PM): I find the term "rounded up" very disturbing.
Glynnis (10:27:20 PM): I doubt there's a lot a people who could stand the reality of that.
John (10:27:57 PM): McCain wants to round up and immediately deport the 2 million illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. Any incarcerated criminal in this country would looove that deal.
John (10:27:58 PM): Set them free in Mexico? And they can sneak back over the border on their own time. That's awfully generous.
Glynnis (10:28:03 PM): Romney is doing a good job of sounding strict and compassionate at the same time.
John (10:28:37 PM): That is the key, and Romney's answer was good (and well-rehearsed) there.
Glynnis (10:28:44 PM): Thompson was looking for applause he didn't get with his "We need to be a country of high fences and wide gates."
Glynnis (10:30:19 PM): I think part of Ron Paul's genius is that he is completely lacking a sense of humor.
Danny (10:30:56 PM): Right...he's trying to be taken seriously?
John (10:31:10 PM): Desperately. Dead earnestly.
Danny (10:31:46 PM): I like it.
Rachel (10:31:58 PM): I said it before: Rain Man.
Glynnis (10:31:56 PM): Huckabee has a nice moment: I think its a great misconception that Hispanic people in this country are somehow soft on immigration.
John (10:32:25 PM): It was a nice thought, but I am not sure he finished strong enough to really sell it.
John (10:32:47 PM): And then he is on to his notion that illegal immigrants are gong to deport themselves.
John (10:32:51 PM): Hmmm....
Glynnis (10:33:35 PM): In my mind, Immigration is the one point that Giuliani is strongest on, he refuses to change his position. And always sounds reasonalbe, which is a rarity.
Glynnis (10:33:52 PM): Good point, John.
John (10:34:08 PM): Why thank you , Glynnis.
John (10:34:31 PM): Reasonable is not a big selling point in a Republican primary, alas.
Glynnis (10:34:46 PM): By the by, Giuliani has not mentioned 9/11 tonight.
Rachel (10:35:01 PM): And so endeth the debate. On to "Hannity & Colmes" live! Alan Colmes is our new BFF! Watch us interview him here!
Glynnis (10:35:16 PM): Reactions:
Rachel (10:35:11 PM): The Spin Room! We've been to a spin room!
Rachel (10:35:22 PM): Look for ETP's new BFF Kevin Madden! Wave at the telly!
Danny (10:35:57 PM): Many thoughts...
Danny (10:36:02 PM): McCain: Loser?
Rachel (10:36:27 PM): Wow - Fred Thompson won the Frank Luntz focus group?
Danny (10:36:31 PM): I'm surprised...
John (10:37:05 PM): He looked great tonight. He even looked good next to Huckabee, especially in that initial exchange.
Glynnis (10:37:19 PM): I think that Fred did well. But won?
Danny (10:37:23 PM): The focus group is full of idiots.
Danny (10:37:24 PM): Ignore them.
Danny (10:37:25 PM): Please!
Danny (10:37:42 PM): Amanda: "I found him to be a little flippant, and I don't like that in my candidate."
Glynnis (10:37:55 PM): I think more importantly, McCain has a serious problem with his tone.
John (10:38:16 PM): McCain started strong but looked a little bit goofy along the way, undermined himself.
Rachel (10:38:36 PM): But McCain did a good "straight talk" rebuttal of Romney's "jobs, jobs for everyone! And a chicken in every pot!" moment — he said that it may not always been popular, but he's always going to tell it like it is.
Glynnis (10:38:59 PM): Also, technically Ron Paul is not a third party candidate, but one of the more mainstream candidates needs to start speaking to his constituency so that when he drops out they can grab his votes. A la, Clinton and Ross Perot.
Danny (10:39:11 PM): RON PAUL LOSER?!
Danny (10:39:27 PM): This is a group that demands humor from their candidate, they said.
Glynnis (10:42:36 PM): And from their liveblog.
John (10:43:10 PM): Huckabee had some nice personable moments - nothing as soaring as his death penalty or bible answers, but some of his good moments.
John (10:43:11 PM): He was not totally comfortable and enjoying himself though, and didn't ever seem in command of the stage.
Rachel (11:05:37 PM): Hmm. Frank Luntz focus group fan-fave Thompson is doing well in the spin room too.
Glynnis (11:06:54 PM): Now that Rachel and I have some (small) spin room experience, we can spot familiar faces behind Fred Thompson's head. Fun!
Rachel (11:07:12 PM): Thompson hit Huckabee tonight - he seems to be positioning in favor of his buddy McCain. Interesting to see how these alliances play out. Gives Romney a breather, too. Which he needed - gave him a chance to regroup tonight. He had some very good moments.
I will say that Huckabee deflected smoothly and smilingly, as per usual. He's just so good, and this forum loves him. He's a force.
Rachel (11:12:19 PM): Oh, my God. SEAN HANNITY IS ASKING HUCKABEE ABOUT DUMOND!
Rachel (11:12:24 PM): I just fell off my chair.
Glynnis (11:12:24 PM): Further to Ana Marie Cox's observation about McCain's availabilty, I think it's important to note that both Obama or Hillary came off their wins talking about the challenge ahead. Neither of them walked away with a puffed chest.
Rachel (11:12:39 PM): That came from Hannity. A statement from a victim mother. Wow.
Glynnis (11:13:50 PM): McCain is behaving as though voters have finally seen the light. Not as though he's grateful for their votes and will work hard to maintain them.
Rachel (11:13:58 PM): Huckabee is turning it around and blaming the 527s for exploiting victims. He'd bring that poor woman back, surely he would, but he can't. Sean does not follow up so we don't get to hear him explain how receiving victim impact letters BEFORE Dumond was paroled somehow translated into him saying after, "There's no way we could have known." Sean instead asks him, Governor, how important is South Carolina to you?
Rachel (11:15:57 PM): Colmes asks again about Dumond; Huckabee says, I denied his commutation four times. Er, fifth's a charm?
Rachel (11:16:10 PM): Huckabee uses his record of executions as a plus. I just find that so macabre.
Rachel (11:16:17 PM): Also, he's a Creationist.
Rachel (11:16:24 PM): But, he plays the bass! Coooooooooooooooooooooooool!
Glynnis (11:18:04 PM): And there's the whole Chuck Norris thing.
Glynnis (11:20:10 PM): On that note, it's time to roundhouse kick this liveblog out of here.
Rachel (11:45:43 PM) Good one. Goodnight everybody!
Oh, you know you want it: