Glynnis (8:53:15 PM): The most-talked about candidate tonight, once again, is the one not participating: Fred Thompson.
John (8:53:50 PM): Yeah, the only difference tonight is he is looming a little larger than usual over the proceedings.
Rachel (8:54:07 PM): He reminds me of a big Basset Hound. Here I am, with my trademark cogent commentary!
Glynnis (8:54:51 PM): The fact he officially announced on the Tonight Show less than thirty minutes ago AND is running an ad in tonight's debate strikes as less than admirable
John (8:56:39 PM): I am on record saying he's got mo' better communications skills than any of these other people. We'll see how he behaves himself now that he's actually on the trail.
Glynnis (8:57:42 PM): It would be nice to see how he'd behave himself should he actually participate.
John (8:58:15 PM): Having lived through a bunch of these debates now, you can see why he's not in any great hurry.
Glynnis (8:58:26 PM): Does this mean no more Fred Thompson Law & Order episodes for the foreseeable future?
John (8:58:49 PM): Sadly yes! They'll have to go back to the older episodes.
Glynnis (9:00:47 PM): Sadly!? Bring back Chris Noth and Ben Stone!
Glynnis (9:01:20 PM): Alright, to the debate. Live from New Hampshire. Sponsored by Fox News and hosted by Brit Hume.
Rachel (9:01:55 PM): Brit Hume also looks like a Basset Hound. Maybe I don't know what a Basset Hound looks like?
Glynnis (9:02:31 PM): The candidates, introduced.
Rachel (9:03:17 PM): Wow. EVERYONE gets wild applause! Even Brownback!
Glynnis (9:03:34 PM): Biggest cheers to John McCain and Ron Paul.
John (9:03:49 PM): Tancredo is still here. And Duncan Hunter. Nice to have them here to caricature their party for us.
Glynnis (9:04:11 PM): There are green yellow and red lights to help the candidates keep track of their time...is Homeland security running this?
Rachel (9:04:29 PM): First question is about Fred Thompson. Who has made the smart moves here, asks Hume? Hello, softball? And, weird opener... Nice parry by Huckabee, straw poll runner-up!
Glynnis (9:05:23 PM): Huckabee: I gave up my spot on Leno tonight because I'd rather be in New Hampshire.
Glynnis (9:05:46 PM): The background to this debate looks like the set for Star Search. Thompson's absence looks to be the running gag line tonight... Romney to Thompson: "Why the hurry?"
Rachel (9:07:23 PM): Nice joke. But then he goes on about how much he wants him in the race — even though he knows that's gonna split his vote down the middle, clearing the way for Giuliani.
Rachel (9:07:29 PM): Okay Mitt, you can dial back the slobbering over Thompson just a bit. Romney's the Basset Hound! Put him on the roof! (Romney dog-on-the-roof humor = always appropriate.)
John (9:07:44 PM): Ron Paul identifies himself as "the anti-war candidate," calling that "the traditional Republican position." No matter how many times he says it, it's still crazy to hear.
Glynnis (9:08:08 PM): Giuliani: "I like Fred...he's done a good job playing my part on Law & Order. I personally prefer the real thing." Giuliani is the first to bring up the "experience" factor and then quickly takes aim at the Democrats.
John (9:09:11 PM): Everyone has their laugh line about Fred Thompson ready to go. Beyond that, Romney tries to be gracious by being complimentary, while Rudy goes on the attack, saying we need someone with experience.
Glynnis (9:10:02 PM): Fred Thompson may have been the one on Leno tonight but this line-up of candidates gave a pretty good opening number.
Rachel (9:09:39 PM): Next question: Why would Romney be tougher on illegals than he was on his own contractor, permissive and lax employer that he was?
Glynnis (9:11:09 PM): Romney says that one doesn't inspect the id cards of one's contractors. Hmmm, that kind of comment may come back to haunt him.
Rachel (9:11:11 PM): For Giuliani: You love illegals! You gave them status when you were mayor! As president, would you continue to protect illegals?
John (9:11:28 PM): Romney is now talking very tough about illegal immigration, but he still has his usual little smile on his face. It is a strange disconnect, and makes it look almost as if he thinks the issue is a big joke.
Rachel (9:12:18 PM): Ding! Chris Wallace: "Mister Mayor: Time." He LOVED that.
Glynnis (9:12:49 PM): Giuliani brings illegal immigration back to his responsibility as mayor of New York. He sounds reasonable and intelligent on this. The practicalities of illegal immigration is different than political rhetoric, etc.
John (9:12:55 PM): Rudy, talking about immigration, recalls when as mayor he had "the safety and security of the people of New York City on his shoulders." Nice image for Mr. Tough Guy.
Rachel (9:13:20 PM): Is the government playing politics with immigration and are you doing the same with a new plan that doesn't really do much? ... Governor Huckabee, why do you feel that some anti-immigrant activists are racist?
John (9:15:01 PM): McCain has a pulse again tonight. He is joking around with Brit and Romney, showing good warmth, which is a key to looking like a leader.
Rachel (9:15:19 PM): Huckabee really seems reasonable, earnest and likeable.
Glynnis (9:15:02 PM): McCain is trying to walk a reasonable line on immigration, also. But it pales to Giuliani's "experience" response. He ends by pointing out Romney's flip-flopping.
Rachel (9:15:35 PM): I like that he called out the racist underbelly of the anti-immigration movement. (Says the Canadian.)
Glynnis (9:16:00 PM): Thus far all the candidates seem to be avoiding strident talk regarding "illegals."
John (9:16:15 PM): That was remarkable -- Huckabee is gunning to be the conservative candidate, yet he is willing to call racism racism and condemn it.
Glynnis (9:16:23 PM): Huckabee: if people are looking for a mean-spirited candidate, I'm not their guy.
Rachel (9:17:21 PM): Tancredo is asked about the mean-spirited and racist elements of anti-immigration. Gee, why'd they ask him?
Rachel (9:18:05 PM): Follow-up: Duncan Hunter, what are you going to do to complete that super-practical border fence? ... We built this border! We built this border on rock and roll!
Glynnis (9:18:32 PM): Tancredo tries to whip up the audience by talking about security and rule of law. But the response is not notably better. Next Olympic trials to be held along the California border!
Glynnis (9:21:32 PM): Giuliani points out that you can turn over as many illegal immigrants to the INS but nothing happens. "We need a technological fence."
John (9:21:36 PM): Now to the man on the street -- or rather a cop in a diner -- who says he is feeling "overwhelmed in the street," and looks it too.
Glynnis (9:19:59 PM): According to the man in the diner New Hampshire is under siege!
Glynnis (9:23:39 PM): McCain is remaining reasonable on the immigration question and then takes the entire discussion to Iraq. When in doubt, support the troops?
John (9:24:10 PM): McCain is looking weary and defensive talking about illegal immigration, explaining that the "amnesty" offered by the Senate bill exacted huge penalties from people to become citizens.
Glynnis (9:24:10 PM): Take me down to Sanctuary City, where the grass is green... Sam Brownback finally gets the stage. He thinks it's important that the GOP stands for family values.
John (9:26:47 PM): Brownback takes the Larry Craig question as a chance to offer a boilerplate paean to family values.
Glynnis (9:27:24 PM): Re: Craig. Duncan Hunter says that when GOP'ers have problems like this they leave the party....when Democrats have these problems they make them chairman.
Glynnis (9:28:28 PM): Hmmm. Is this Duncan's explanation for the thinning GOP ranks?
Rachel (9:27:25 PM): Question: If abortion is murder, how can Romney stomach it in any states? Ah, the good stuff: Rolling back Roe v. Wade! "At some point, we hope to see a nation with no abortion, but until then we'll restrict access as much as possible!"
John (9:28:59 PM): Once again, Mitt Romney is talking about very grave issues with a cute little smile on his face. This time it's abortion, a.k.a. murder. Does he think this is a joke? Is he bemused by the question? Pleased with his answer? He is not connecting with anyone who votes on this issue.
Rachel (9:28:42 PM): Wait a second...did Romney just acknowledge the mother's life? Wow. Tepid applause after that.
Rachel (9:30:50 PM): Question for Giuliani: Fred Thompson says that Virginia Tech tragedy might have been avoided if students had been allowed to carry guns - and he said he never feels safe in New York City. Challenge!
Glynnis (9:31:14 PM): Giuliani misses a great opportunity for a stinging response. "The FBI would disagree with him on that."
Rachel (9:31:21 PM): Giuliani made New York safer, he says. Er, does that include putting the emergency response center in the World Trade Center?
Glynnis (9:32:12 PM): Giuliani is taking good advantage of this question to roll out all his NYC statistics.
John (9:32:23 PM): Okay, I may throw up here. Rudy explains that he and he alone reduced crime in New York City. All by himself. And then he fired his Police Commissioner because he was doing too good a job.
Rachel (9:32:53 PM): For Ron Paul: He's mused that 9/11 hijackers might have thought twice if they thought the passengers were armed.What's his position in light of the tense air travel atmosphere of late?
John (9:33:03 PM): Wow, in case you were getting a warm fuzzy about Ron Paul...
John (9:33:27 PM): He explains how the airlines should have been responsible for safety onboard, not the feds.
Glynnis (9:33:52 PM): Not a reassuring thought.
John (9:34:13 PM): The private sector protects its property all the time, says Paul. Apparently we need to get the government out of the public security business and leave that to the private sector.
John (9:34:48 PM): If only chemical and nuclear plant operators did as he imagined.
John (9:35:30 PM): Privatize the Police: Ron Paul '08
Glynnis (9:36:10 PM): The Gay marriage question. The woman in the diner says Yes! Gay marriage should be legal! This is the state of Live Free or Die!
Glynnis (9:37:32 PM): Over to Brownback...you may be surprised to learn that he doesn't agree. The boos from the audience out weighed the cheers, and Brownback acknowledges that the audience, like the country, is conflicted. And then: family values!
John (9:37:26 PM): Brownback on gay marriage: the problem is more kids are being born out of wedlock because of gay marriage. "When you take the sacredness out of marriage, you will drive the marriage rates down." As logic, that is too thin to persuade anyone, but is perfectly captures the paranoid sense that the whole culture is falling apart around us.
John (9:40:20 PM): Question to McCain: why do you say Rudy has little national security experience. Teed up!
Glynnis (9:40:23 PM): McCain want to be vice president! Giuliani did a great job as mayor of NYC. And then some talk about his own military experience.
Glynnis (9:41:23 PM): Will Giuliani follow Katie and Angelina to Iraq? He says he hopes so.
John (9:41:26 PM): McCain leaves his claws retracted, and praises Rudy for his job on 9/11, and then talks about his own national security credentials.
Rachel (9:41:37 PM): Rudy is not running on September 11th, people!
Rachel (9:41:42 PM): That must be why he NEVER mentions it. "The safest city in America, just about."
Rachel (9:42:14 PM): That's a little like being almost pregnant, no?
John (9:44:24 PM): Not only does McCain miss a perfect chance to explain why Rudy is not the strongest leader on the stage, he delivers his answer meekly, as if he was chastened by the moderator pointing out he had criticized Rudy.
Rachel (9:44:52 PM): McCain: The surge is working! Hey, who wants to take a stroll in an Iraqi market? Bring your own Kevlar!
John (9:45:42 PM): Well McCain is at least animated again - he's angry. He's sticking this one in Romney's face.
John (9:46:15 PM): "The people who say there will be a bloodbath are the people who said it would be a cakewalk." Damn.
Rachel (9:46:35 PM): Ron Paul, throwin' down to PNAC, yo.
John (9:46:49 PM): What party is he in again?
Glynnis (9:46:50 PM): Big cheers! Ron Paul: Totally dominating in New Hampshire. Live free or die! applause applause applause
Rachel (9:47:44 PM): I'm saying we should take our marching orders from our Constitution!
John (9:48:08 PM): Brit Hume: "So you're saying we should take our marching orders from Al Qaeda - if they want us off the Arabian peninsula we should leave?"
Rachel (9:47:44 PM): "I'm saying we should take our marching orders from our Constitution!"
Glynnis (9:48:09 PM): Split screen to Giuliani, smirking.
Rachel (9:48:16 PM): Even though an originalist would contend that the framers hadn't contemplated middle eastern warfare with IEDs n' stuff. Scalia?
Glynnis (9:48:38 PM): But over to Brownback, who says, a la Tom Friedman, we need a "political" surge. Perhaps in six months?
Rachel (9:48:42 PM): Brownback: Iraq is barely a country, held together by exterior forces (exterior forces = scotch tape).
John (9:49:35 PM): Brownback gets all wonky on us now, takes the energy way down. Not a bad debate move on a loser issue, but it will not move him up in the polls.
John (9:50:25 PM): ... and Brownback ends with a Tom Friedman joke: "the world is flat... I'm from Kansas." That joke falls... flat.
Rachel (9:50:42 PM): Huckabee on whether the U.S. should leave Iraq: As Mom would say, you break it, you bought it. That includes middle eastern countries that HATE US.
Glynnis (9:51:37 PM): Brownback says if anyone on this stage understands honor it's John McCain.
Glynnis (9:52:27 PM): Huckabee: whether or not we should have gone, we are there now.
Rachel (9:52:36 PM): Ron Paul is gooooooood.
Glynnis (9:53:01 PM): Ron Paul and Huckabee DEBATING
Rachel (9:53:08 PM): This is exciting!
Glynnis (9:53:13 PM): Huckabee says American honor trumps all!
Rachel (9:53:24 PM): And Ron Paul says that mistakes should be corrected!
John (9:54:06 PM): Wow, they are completely talking past each other, and Huckabee is not speaking with as much gusto, but this may be the most telling exchange we have seen in this whole debate season.
Glynnis (9:55:54 PM): I agree, definitely the best exchange thus far. If only Hillary and Obama would give it a try (musical version notwithstanding)
Glynnis (9:54:19 PM): Mike Huckabee comes out of that exchange looking better for not resorting to political speak.
Rachel (9:54:23 PM): Duncan Hunter: No relation to Duncan Cover, a popular public service announcement star of the 50s.
Rachel (9:54:53 PM): (Sorry, there is absolutely no other avenue for Duncan Hunter humor.)
John (9:54:54 PM): Ron Paul: "We dug a hole for this country, we are digging a hole for our party.... we need to wake up to this fact."
Rachel (9:56:26 PM): Tancredo takes it back to basics. Refocus on who the real enemy is: Radical Islam.
Rachel (9:57:31 PM): Brit Hume is doing a good job here. Brief, focused, smooth. Back in the diner, with a couple whose son is serving. He comes back after his second tour in just two weeks. God, how soon until they send him back?
Glynnis (9:58:00 PM): The people in the diner think that everyone is skirting the issue.
Rachel (9:58:29 PM): Wow, the people in the diner are taking no prisoners.
Glynnis (9:58:36 PM): This question to Romney: everyone else is articulating better than you. How would you end this?
Rachel (9:59:06 PM): WOW - calling Romney on the "my sons are helping my campaign and that's JUST like serving in Iraq" issue.
Glynnis (9:59:56 PM): And then the questioner lays into Romney and says how offended he was when Romney compared his sons efforts to get him elected with military service.
John (10:00:20 PM): That answer cost a few points off Romney's popularity if anyone is listening. He is STILL noticeably smiling -- stunning, idiotic. He is showing warmth at the worst possible moments. After a long answer from Romney, zero applause.
Glynnis (10:01:37 PM): I bet Romney is wishing for a snowman right now.
Glynnis (10:03:19 PM): Romney is still smiling...one wonders and fears to know what would have to happen to wipe that smile away.
John (10:03:43 PM): Romney cannot be our next President if he cannot look grave when talking about grave national security matters, no matter how sharp his jawline or dreamy his eyes.
Rachel (10:05:37 PM): Um...their families?
Rachel (10:05:49 PM): "We can't close Guantanamo because nobody will take the people there."
Glynnis (10:05:51 PM): Giuliani strangely is reminded of New York by this question.
Rachel (10:06:02 PM): He's TOTALLY not running on 9/11!
John (10:06:17 PM): Is it possible Romney somehow doesn't get the anguish of this issue? It sure looks like it.
Glynnis (10:07:28 PM): There are a lot of split screen cuts in this debate, mostly to Giuliani.
Glynnis (10:07:56 PM): Duncan Hunter: The prisoners are getting fat on our dollar!
Rachel (10:08:13 PM): I'm sorry, did Duncan Hunter just think he made sense?
John (10:08:20 PM): How about that, no one has ever been murdered at Guantanamo? Bagram Air Base, maybe not so much. But if they can survive all the way to Guantanamo, life is sweet!
Rachel (10:08:25 PM): "Guantanamo has no murders! It's AWESOME!"
Rachel (10:08:53 PM): Bizarro. I wish there was something fun about him, like Mike Gravel, to justify his presence on that stage.
John (10:10:54 PM): Brownback's body language has always been stiff, reminiscent of Bush Sr. It seems he has decided to embrace his nerdiness and run as the conservative policy egghead candidate.
Glynnis (10:11:35 PM): John McCain: No more pork barrels.
John (10:12:51 PM): He has sung that tune many times. It's not clear if that issue resonates as much in the war on terror era, but evokes memories of a time when Republicans knew who they were and what they were about.
Rachel (10:12:51 PM): Um, who, exactly, is taxed to the max?
Rachel (10:13:20 PM): Oh, right: Really really rich Republicans.
Glynnis (10:13:34 PM): Brit Hume wants Giuliani to talk more about New York.
Glynnis (10:16:53 PM): Brit Hume says that in MA Romney acquired the nickname Fifi in Massachusetts. Flip-flopping Fifi!
John (10:18:50 PM): (The "Fifi" is actually "Fee-fee," because although he didn't want to raise taxes in Massachusetts, he jacked up the government fees on everything in sight.)
Rachel (10:15:26 PM): Romney sort of looks like a Fifi. Pretty!
John (10:17:50 PM): That is the first I've seen -- an effeminate moniker attached to Romney. That is dangerous for him: he is a pretty boy who is having trouble connecting emotionally on serious issues of war and death. Could it stick?
Rachel (10:19:16 PM): I repeat: Pretty!
Glynnis (10:19:43 PM): Hume points out all the government services that Paul wants to demolish (to the giggles of someone off camera...Giuliani?) And queries how Paul would know what was going on in the rest of the world. Paul hits back by pointing out the government had no idea what was going on pre-9/11 anyway. Our ignorance is the result of our government bureaucracy. Big cheers to this.
John (10:21:08 PM): Paul waves a red cape in front of Rudy: Don't we remember that when you sacrifice liberty for security you lose both? Rudy is itching to get in, but Brit takes us back to the diner...
Glynnis (10:21:54 PM): Back at the diner: Good-looking young graduate student wants to know how Rudy can profess family values if he isn't living them. (Unlike Fifi and his patriotic sons.)
Rachel (10:21:30 PM): Challenging Rudy on family values. Go figure. Rudy is speechless - "I gather that question is for me." Rudy is taking it back to his job, to being Mr. Mayor, as an explanation (justification?) for his private life "issues."
Glynnis (10:22:45 PM): So his time in New York is a good example of....his family values?
Rachel (10:22:56 PM): "I'm running as human being who has been very successful as a leader." Well, it's a good refocusing. But, the GOP is the self-styled family-values party. It's an Achilles heel.
Glynnis (10:23:08 PM): Giuliani: "I am not running as the perfect candidate."
John (10:23:09 PM): Rudy contends that the reason to look at leader's private lives is to see how they would behave in public life, and given his long record that is irrelevant in his case. This is the same party that impeached Clinton, yes?
Rachel (10:23:33 PM): HA. Indeed.
John (10:24:17 PM): Rudy goes way over his time contending he accomplished the "impossible" in prosecuting the mob and reducing crime in New York.
Rachel (10:23:50 PM): Again, not an answer to the question. But, there's attrition here: If he can keep coming back and chipping away at its relevance, as he did effectively here, I think, then he may be able to play it out as an issue.
Rachel (10:24:04 PM): And...cue the Freedom's Watch commercial. A mistake to make Ari Fleischer the face of that enterprise, I'd think.
John (10:26:10 PM): We're at a commercial, near the end. A quick note on Thompson, whom we can all watch shortly on Leno. The commercial he ran as the debate opened looked okay, but he did not look as presidential as he does on professionally directed TV shows. He nodded vigorously, even awkwardly. Back to the action...
Glynnis (10:27:38 PM): Congressman Paul: What do you do about Iran (Giulani laughing off camera again). Ron Paul: the president doesn't have the authority to go to war.
John (10:29:16 PM): Wow, roaring ovation for Ron Paul, who says we should be looking for ways to get along with the bad guys, not opportunities to go to war. (I think Paul is wrong in saying the IAEA says Iran is cooperating now, at least according to a recent NY Times report.)
John (10:31:05 PM): Tancredo's take on rules of engagement: "Political correctness is going to get us all killed." Now to Duncan Hunter - what to do about Iran? Hunter murmurs gravely for a minute about precision munitions and ground forces doing battle damage assessments.
Glynnis (10:33:07 PM): Huckabee takes the question back to what makes a good President... Brownback says the only problem with the question is that it's all too likely.
Glynnis (10:34:01 PM): Poor Brit Hume...everyone's a critic.
Glynnis (10:34:56 PM): Giuliani has managed to answer this question without saying New York...yet.
John (10:35:06 PM): He did invoke Reagan though.
Rachel (10:35:10 PM): Bring it back to Reagan! DRINK! (Sorry. That first debate will stay with me forever.)
Glynnis (10:35:56 PM): Perhaps Romney will smile them into peace.
John (10:37:25 PM): Um... Romney is taking the military option off the table... and holding it in "our hand" instead. Huh?
Rachel (10:35:10 PM): Brandishing it in his fist! MANLY!
Glynnis (10:37:47 PM): Romney: Democrats love America, too...and presumably also their children
Rachel (10:38:09 PM): McCain gets the last word here: "At the end of the day, we cannot allow Iran to have nuclear weapons." Then he runs through some options, seems poised to launch into his own special version of a Beach Boys song.
John (10:39:38 PM): Weird - McCain ends by saying it was more than coincidence that the hostages came home when Reagan took the oath of office, and recommends we use "some of his methods." Sell them missle parts? October surprise?
Rachel (10:39:09 PM): WHOA! I just realized: Brit Hume = Basset Hound. The same initials! Coincidence? Or fate?
Glynnis (10:43:02 PM): Interesting. All these people really liked John McCain. "He was straight forward." Could this be a turning point for him? Or is it too early?
John (10:44:43PM): Well I'm with Frank Luntz's New Hampshire voter focus group: McCain won this one, though in part by default.
Glynnis (10:46:58 PM): Quick impressions: I think this is easily the strongest debate we've seen so far.
John (10:48:06 PM): Rudy is a one-trick pony, full of strong talking points about New York, but in a wide-ranging debate like this, his limitations showed. New Hampshire voters may be tiring of him already.
Glynnis (10:48:19 PM): McCain won, but Ron Paul gets all the credit for keeping it real without going all Gravel.
Rachel (10:49:00 PM): Ron Paul was terrific. Very much in command, forceful, his position was clear, showed real emotion, and strength. He seemed like a candidate who got it, and was unafraid to say unpopular things in front of an audience that might not want to hear it. He won't win the nomination, but he is no Mike Gravel. Not a lightweight, online or in that forum.
John (10:49:07 PM): Romney looked like a fool tonight, smiling merrily as he discussed the issues that upset Republicans most.
Rachel (10:49:39 PM): I agree. Not a forceful presence, and his aw-shucks response to the damning question about his sons seemed off-kilter. The Romney-family question hit him harder than the Rudy-family question hit Giuliani.
Glynnis (10:50:09 PM): Huckabee came across well. It's interesting to note that there was very little attack talk re: Democrats. Fred Thompson took more hits than Hillary.
John (10:50:36 PM): McCain looked markedly less tired than he has in past debates, and he was speaking honestly off the cuff, and that was resonating with the folks in the diner.
Rachel (10:50:49 PM): Finally.
John (10:51:18 PM): Huckabee did well again, but did not shine especially brightly. Ron Paul is not going away yet, and is not likely to go quietly.
Glynnis (10:52:02 PM): One wishes Ron Paul could make a guest appearance at the next Democratic debate.
John (10:53:07 PM): The most important performance of the night, though, has yet to be aired: Fred Thompson on Leno.
Rachel (10:42:48 PM): And on that note, we sign off. Thanks for joining us tonight, hope it was useful or at the very least passably amusing. Let's all work to make "Fifi" stick.