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Blogging the CNBC GOP Debate

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Its over. Fairly strong performance by Romney. Huntsman sounded like a candidate, and maybe he will begin to attract more attention. Gingrich came across as more shallow and more arrogant than I expected. Perry with a weak outing now drifting in to the B list of candidates, which includes Bachmann, Paul and Santorum, three candidates who performed well, but are not expected to win anything. Cain did not look or act like a front runner, or even a serious candidate.

9:39 Cain being a parody of himself, by answering a question about China building a bridge in California, by bringing up the 999 tax. Romney uses the question to say that China is being unfair. They are stealing our intellectual property, hacking our computer systems and have an undervalued currency. Romney really into China bashing. Gingrich asked about China, says he would defer to Huntsman, who speaks "fluent" Chinese... but then says "no one" has a good strategy to deal with China cheating. Now Huntsman has a chance to talk about China. After prompting, Huntsman says Romney is pandering on the China. Romney gets another chance to talk, and runs with it, repeating his talking points, and reminding people he worked in businesses for 25 years. Jim Cramer asks Cain a question about how you restore faith in the stock market. Cain gives a lame answer -- use a "bold" plan (999) to grow the economy. In follow up, Cain says, repeal Dodd/Frank.

9:27 Gingrich backs the Chilean approach to social security. Romney says budget deficits are a moral issue, we are passing on debt to next generation. But he does not want to raise taxes. Bachmann, who earlier reminded people that everyone should pay taxes, no matter how poor, says she opposes the extending of the reduction in the payroll tax, in order to protect the social security fund. She was doing well, but was cut off. Now Huntsman speaking. The Tweeter feed on the bottom of the screen is really a big part of the debate tonight. When asked about student loans, Ron Paul going after the federal reserve. Gingrich sees the college of the Ozarks as a model for higher education?

Perry finally remembers name of the department to eliminate he could not remember earlier. It was the Department of Energy. Then Perry says he basically wants to eliminate the current system of social security for young people. Perry is asked if he would abolish student loans. Won't answer the question. Now on break.

9:15 Santorum says, we can't just be a party to lower the marginal tax rate. We don't have to have the "boldest plan in the world" but it should work. Romney is asked about his record of working with Democrats, such as by raising taxes to improve the state's credit rating. He answers with a grin, "thanks for reminding everybody." Romney is doing well, but seems a bit excited tonight, particularly in comparison to Perry. On substance, Perry seems determined to focus on the flat tax, but in a surprising moment, Perry stumbles badly when he cannot remember one of the 3 departments of government he wants to eliminate. "Oops" he says. Cain now talking about nine nine nine. I don't think anyone cares about 999 these days.

9:05 Health care getting some airtime. Lots of send decisions back to the states. Romney makes a point that he agrees with Ron Paul on some health care issues. Gingrich speaking now, and probably facing the biggest expectations of the night. He reminds people he wrote a book, and wants some Lincoln/Douglas debates... but is asked, quite aggressively, what he will actually do if Obamacare is repealed? Gingrich gives a rambling answer, and, ends up a discussion of the iron lung? Bachmann, wants lots of deregulation and tax exemptions for buying insurance. Santorum reminds people he has long been for medical savings accounts and deregulation. Romney says, he would not get rid of medicaid -- a program for the poor. Ron Paul says he will cut the budget $1 trillion. Now on another commercial break. So far, not a break out night for Gingrich. Cain not receiving as much attention as Bachmann. Perry not very visible.

8:50 Gingrich asked about a big consulting contract with Freddie Mac, He claims he warned them about the housing bubble, and was not lobbying for them. I think this can be checked out later. Cain, not getting so many questions. Now giving a fairly vague answer on housing, Pressed, he says he would "unwind" Freddie Mac and FannieMae. Huntsman is I think the first one to acknowledge that the current housing situation is causing some real hardship for lots of people. He returns to the too big to fail issue, and wants fees on banks to pay for more of the costs of insuring some risks. On health care, Huntsman sounds.... smart. Is this going to be good night for Huntsman?

8:47: We are on a commercial break. Bachmann leaves the stage... she can probably take her time getting back, they are not asking her many questions yet. Now back from the break, and a question about housing. Gingrich wants short sales of homes. Romney is asked, why don't you mention housing in your 59 point plan. He says, its a jobs plan, not a housing plan, and like Gingrich, mentions the high unemployment and 9 percent unemployment. For a GOP audience, Romney is having a good night. He sounds is comfortable and knowledgeable, although at times, maybe a bit too pumped up.

Perry is getting a question, one of the few so far. I guess CNBC does not think that Perry is a serious candidate. His answer is a short stump statement or random sound bits, and presented somewhat weakly.

8:30: Newt attacks Occupy Wall Street. Again. Jim Cramer shouts another answer. this time at Santorum. Apparently Cramer gets to ask questions to candidates on the B list.

8:25 Cain makes a speech about how he has been wronged by false accusations. Romney refuses to comment on the issues. Jon Huntsman gives some qualified love to the occupy wall street protesters, says he is opposed to bail outs, and brings up too big to fail again. The questions are not evenly distributed at all. Romney is getting several, some candidates only one so far. So far, Huntsman sounds like a more serious candidate than in past debates.

8.00-8:15 The introductions are over. They give #cnbcdebate as the Twitter hash tag. Cain leads off with the first question, about Italy's financial crisis, and pretty much ignores it, except to say: focus on U.S. economy. Romney next, gives a similar answer, but it sounds a bit more informed as to what is actually happening in Europe. Then Ron Paul is asked a question by a hand waving, shouting Jim Cramer. Paul says, not surprisingly, do not intervene. Huntsman says, we have a big problem with "too big to fail" as regards banking institutions. Romney then is asked about the auto industry... and his changing policy positions. But he uses this to remind voters he has been married to the same woman for more than 40 years.

On to "tax reform" and Newt goes after the Fed, which has nothing to do with taxes. But Newt does get around to saying he hates high taxes, Saul Alinsky, class war, and Barack Obama.

Bachmann, the former IRS lawyer, manages to use the tax question to talk about building a fence around the border. We are in Michigan. Is she worried about Canadians?