OK, not sure how long this will last . . .
9:01. Brian Williams skips the introductions. "Everyone knows each other," indeed. More like, "Everyone hates each other."
9:02. Three candidates get congratulated for winning something. Sorry, Ron Paul.
9:02. Gingrich asked whether he's erratic. Is Williams trying to throw the fastball down the middle? Wait, Gingrich doesn't attack the question? He compares himself to Reagan, instead. First mention of "the Washington establishment." "Manage the decay" line. He's prepared to be controversial.
9:04. How have you changed, Newt? He goes back to his record as Speaker. He's selling his record by highlighting Clinton's accomplishments!
9:05. First Romney question: electability? No, Romney says, its leadership. And Gingrich wasn't a leader . . . he resigned in disgrace. Hits "disgrace" twice. Calls Newt an "influence peddlar," Ouch. So off to a battle of records.
9:06. "I'm not going to spend the evening chasing the Governor's misinformation." Newt calls it "the worst kind of trivial politics." I wonder what the four wrong things were?
9:07. Romney asked, why don't Southern GOPpers like you? He falls back on New Hampshire. Which is south of Canada.
9:08. Romney back to attacking Newt's record, "resigned in disgrace" again. Didn't Jim Wright resign too? (Yes, the missus looked it up.) And now "Freddie Mack." Mitt's coming out blazing. And he says he learned this in South Carolina. Maybe he learned this from his own ads?
9:10. Newt wants more than 30 seconds to respond. Newt asked the House Republicans to reprimand him, "to get it over with." The reprimand greased the skids for the tax cuts and balanced budget. Imagine what great things would have happened if they had fined him!
9:11. Santorum comes in, "a choice b/w an erratic and a moderate." Like Santorum's tie. What is his path to victory? He offers a clear contrast with Obama. Yeah, that makes him special in this field. Ron Paul offers no contrast with Obama.
9:13. BW throws Santorum's 18-pt loss in his face. He says, a rising tide sinks all Republicans, but he stood tall and took the loss like a "consistent conservative."
9:14. Ron Paul gets his first question. BW: Do you have a path to the Oval Office? Are you running as a third-party candidate? Not sure I'm following his argument . . . he says he might get delegates in Iowa?
9:16. Paul disagrees with Newt's history of his fall. But not terribly clearly.
9:17. Paul "not an absolutist." Would he support Newt? Likes Newt on the Fed and gold, but not foreign policy . . .
9:17. "A gold commission"? Interesting to see Paul and Newt playing nice with one another, sort of, on policy.
9:18. Romney on taxes: "what's in there?" BW asks. Romney: "No surprises." But is that we expect surprises? Romney pivots to the taxes of the American people. Pushes his tax cut for middle- and low-income Americans on interest and capital gains, which wouldn't make much of an impact, of course.
9:20. "I'm proud that I pay a lot of taxes."
9:21. Newt goes flat tax, calls it the Mitt Romney flat tax. Then Romney says that under Newt's plan, he wouldn't pay any taxes. Is that a selling point?
9:22. Romney putting out two years of tax returns, not twelve. "The right number."
9:23. "I do not apologize for being successful." Is this a winner? "I'm not going to apologize for free enterprise"?
9:24. Santorum says he hasn't attacked Romney on Bain (he hasn't). Where is he going with this . . . oh, "if you believe in capitalism so much, why did you [Romney and Newt] support the bailout of capitalism?" OK, BW, Santorum is doing your job now.
9:26. Romney wants to see Newt's "work product" for Freddie Mack. This is a good one. Newt says it was consulting, not lobbying. OK. BW: "You never peddled influence?" (What does that mean?) Newt: "I have never, never done any lobbying." He has an expert who defined the bright-line b/w participation and lobbying. I would love to hear that expert.
9:28. Romney, "they don't pay historians that much." "You were hired by the chief lobbyist."
9:29. Newt: "I offered strategic advice." I know what this means (I think), but does this resonate with voters?
9:30. Newt asks Romney how much Bain made. Romney doesn't like this. Is BW going to just let these guys go at it?
9:31. Newt steps back again, where is he going . . . oh, he defends his support for Medicare Part D . . . in Florida! He hits it hard. Newt: "I did what any citizen could have done."
9:32. The only money Romney doesn't like is money that Newt made. BW steps in to stop the fight, but only to cut to commercial.
First commercial break thought: I re-iterate that Newt needs a better way to describe what he did as a "consultant." I think that it's very likely that he didn't do anything that looks like traditional lobbying. (That would probably be too much like real work for Newt.)
9:36. Santorum gets a question about Florida real estate. BW: "Was it too easy to own a home?" Santorum saw the problem, voted a bill out of committee to constrain the GSEs. He signed a letter (with 24 other senators). (Only senators consider signing a letter an action.) Now, he would let "capitalism work."
9:38. Let folks deduct losses on real estate from taxes. That's interesting. Need to look into that. Doubt that it could be temporary, as Santorum says.
9:39. Paul raises Community Reinvestment Act. Paul favors letting housing prices fall some more. Will that be popular in Florida?
9:40. I've heard it said that Newt is what a dumb person thinks a smart person sounds like. I think that Ron Paul is what a conspiratorial thinker thinks a smart person sounds like.
9:41. Newt: Repealing Dodd-Frank would improve the economy tomorrow?
9:42. BW: "Is the finance industry really over-regulated?" Newt, yes.
9:42. Romney, "you have to have regulation." Oops, a Kinsley gaffe!
9:43. BW goes 3 am phone call. But Cuba? I guess Cubans in boats are now a national security crisis. "Thank Heavens that Fidel has rejoined his Maker." Not Mormon nice.
9:44. Newt: "Fidel isn't going to meet his Maker." Mormons don't really believe in Hell. Newt clearly does.
9:45. Newt would use covert forces in Cuba.
9:46. Paul: "I would do the opposite. . . . The Cold War is over." Paul is right that the U.S. as enemy was/is a valuable asset for the Castro regime.
9:47. BW goes meta on Santorum, question of Chinese dissidents in a state "like Florida." This is a very strange question. Is Santorum supposed to answer this? Good that he didn't try.
9:48. Santorum: Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua are working with jihadists, and they want platforms to attack across the Southern border. Does he have anything to back that up?
9:49. Romney gets the Straits of Hormuz question. Romney wants to build 15 ships a year instead of nine. BW, obvious follow up: How would you pay for that? Not asked.
9:50. BW to Newt, are the American people tired of war? Newt says that the Americans never want to go to war. "We like peace." But we will fight for freedom of the sea. Newt: "Dictatorships respond to strength."
9:51. Romney wants to "beat" the Taliban. We can accomplish this (and a working Afghan military) in a couple of years. But I'm sure he wasn't brain-washed.
9:52. Even Paul wouldn't negotiate with the Taliban. Paul says that the U.S. is blockaded Iran, and that's an act of war. It's true, a blockade is an act of war. But are we blockading Iran? "The people don't want a hot war in Iran."
Second commercial break thought: Debate moderators should never ask Republican candidates about foreign policy. I would almost say, any candidates. But last time, the debate b/w Obama and Clinton was actually pretty substantive. Obama has basically done what he said he would on many things, including targeting Bin Laden in Pakistan. But on the GOP side, it's saber rattling, all raging is, except Paul. (And the GOP won't adopt his views on foreign policy.) It's very unlikely that anything these candidates say about foreign policy (including Paul) will have any impact on a future GOP administration.
9:58. Adam Smith (obvious joke?) and Beth Reinhardt join Brian Williams.
9:59. Santorum gets an Iran question. BW asks about "the target list." That's the military problem with attacking Iran? Santorum warns about Iran getting a nuclear weapon. "The threat that Iran poses to the world and the United States." The government of Iran is "equivalent to al Qaeda running a country with oil"?
10:00. Santorum: "A long list of attacks" from Iran. "It would be reckless not to do something" to prevent their getting a nuclear weapon! Oh, my.
10:01. Santorum on off-shore drilling. Need oil for tourism, lady. But will the off-shore drilling reduce energy prices?
10:02. English as official language question, hypocrisy slant. Newt actually avoids the frame and pivots to number of languages, beyond just English and Spanish.
10:04. Romney agrees with Newt. Goes foreign language teaching in Massachusetts. Note that he never said "Massachusetts." "Home state." Compare to how many times Santorum says "Pennsylvania."
10:05. Paul: "If Florida wanted ballots in Spanish, I wouldn't support a national law" to require English (locally). Not a bad answer.
10:06. DREAM Act to Gingrich: he wouldn't veto the DREAM Act, would create path to citizenship through military service. So going to college, no. Military service, yes. Romney agrees.
10:07. Romney gets the deportation question. "The answer is self-deportation." Oh, why hasn't anyone thought of that before? The illegals can deport themselves! Smith follows up: "Don't we have self-deportation already?"
10:08. Santorum says self-deportation is going on now. Lots of talk about enforcing the laws that exist now. Not rewarding breaking the law.
10:10. Newt gets ethanol/sugar subsidies question. "Too many beet sugar states." I agree. "Hard to get to" doing away with farm subsidies. He's right.
10:11. Romney: "people in Florida hurting." Pivots from sugar to employment. I guess the clock is running out, and he wanted to hit the Florida economy and NASA. "He plays 90 rounds of golf." "We're heading to a Greece-style collapse."
10:12. Paul getting Everglades question. He would commit to preserving the Everglades.
Third commercial break thought: Not new, but immigration is one of the most difficult issues in U.S. politics right now. Probably more difficult than the deficit and budget. There, one could actually imagine a policy solution, however bad the politics. I.e., tax increases and budget cuts could actually balance the budget. But there are so many illegals, even if you could agree to a "path to citizenship," it would be very difficult to process that many applications in anything resembling a thorough process (without creating a massive but temporary bureaucracy). Then there's the amnesty problem: politically, there must be a sanction for being in the country illegally (to avoid the "amnesty" label). But if there's a sanction that is actually a sanction, it discourages applicants for legal status. So you need a sanction severe enough to punish (not reward), but weak enough not to deter. There is a name for that: impossible.
10:17. Santorum gets a Terri Schiavo question. Santorum went to her bedside? No, he didn't. Whew. He didn't call for a federal intervention, but for a federal court to hear the case. Hmm. All Southerners know that the federal courts aren't really federal. But Santorum actually gave a good response.
10:19. Santorum doesn't think that do not resuscitate orders are not immoral.
10:19. Newt: Death row inmates have lots of appeals. Schiavo was effectively on death row. But there was lots of judicial review in that case.
10:20. Paul: we should all have living wills. Paul wanted decision made at state level. So he disagrees with Santorum?
Battery power is low, and my energy is low, too.
10:21. Lady claims that Florida put men on the moon? Nonsense. Romney wants to have a vision for NASA. Would use NASA for military development. I know that that's the direction NASA has gone (Shuttle Atlantis), but still think this is a bad idea. NASA was set up as a civilian agency so it wouldn't be dominated by the Air Force.
I'm going to stop typing and just watch. Enjoy.