Live-blogging the GOP Vegas debate

The seven major Republican Party presidential candidates are debating in Las Vegas tonight beginning at 6:00 pm MST. The event is being hosted by CNN, where you can watch it live. (Read the original introduction to this blog below the live thread.)

The candidates include Minnesota US Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Godfathers Pizza CEO and motivational speaker Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas US Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and former US Senator Rick Santorum.


7:50 In the last election, Obama was denigrated as a community organizer. Cain just touted his experience cleaning the parking lots of his restaurants. Parking lot cleaner? That’s qualified!

7:48 Santorum is touting his election record in swing state Pennsylvania as a reason to vote for him to face Obama in the general election. The man lost the last election… in Pennsylvania. He is no longer in office!

7:46 Bachmann blames Obama for “the hostilities in the [Middle East.]” She’s probably not referring to the Arab Spring but that’s just because she didn’t think before she spoke. On the other hand, she may well be referring to the Arab Spring. In either case she tips her hand that she doesn’t think much of the Arab Spring. For its part, Israel may not love the developments for the instability/unpredictability they have brought. But the Arab Spring uprisings are a long run positive development that any fan of democracy can appreciate. Democracy is incremental.

7:40 Two-ways Cain. He won’t negotiate with terrorists. But he would look at the whole situation and then consider negotiating with terrorists.

Same line on abortion. He’s pro-life. Definitely pro-life. Except he doesn’t think the government should be involved in a woman’s personal decisions. Well which is it?

Amanda Marcotte: “I think Cain could very well be doing something brilliant here, at least in the sense of appealing to the base. After all, many people who consider themselves “pro-life” don’t actually want to ban abortion. They just dislike it and associate it with dirty sluthood, but they haven’t really thought through the ramifications of what being “pro-life”–aka, anti-choice–means.”

7:37 Ron Paul is the vegetarian at the GOP’s bloodthirsty buffet: “We have enough weapons to blow up the world 20-25 times. … And we can’t cut a penny?!” he asks incredulously.

7:33 Candidates throw red meat to GOP crowd: Michele Bachmann says: “The president of Iran is a genocidal maniac. We need to stand up against Iran.” Clap, clap, clap. Loud applause when Newt Gingrich says he’s a hawk but a “cheap hawk.” Double score for fiscally conservative warmongering!

7:31 The Mormon question tonight more charged perhaps than usual in light of New York Times magazine article detailing Romney’s deep invovelment as an LDS Church leader.

Perhaps related note: Lots of pro-Mormon commercials running in Colorado TV these days. Diverse people attesting: “I’m a Mormon,” attempting a friendly introduction to the religion for heartland viewers. The church has said there is no connection between the ads and the fact that a prominent Mormon (or two–Huntsman anyone?) is running for president.

7:25 The Mormon question. Santorum answers. Look at values not denomination. This is a huge question for the GOP base.

Would Romney face less bigotry as a Mormon from Democrats than from Republicans. Maybe he’ll run next time as a Democrat.

7:24 Got religion? These guys do. Asked if Romney’s Mormonism should matter, Gingrich said “How can I trust you with power if you don’t pray?”

7:16 Ron Paul takes issue with Herman Cain’s thoughts on Occupy Wall Street protestors. Cain says don’t blame Wall Street, blame yourself. Paul says the unemployed are “victims of the business cycle. You can’t blame the victims. … Federal Reserve creates the financial bubbles. … The banks were involved and the Federal Reserve were involved. The middle class got stuck …. You should have given the money to the people who were losing their mortgages — not the banks!”

7:15 Perry again touting deregulation on the energy industry (mining, oil and gas) as a “jobs plan.” He says the Obama administration is blocking mining in Nevada. He doesn’t offer crucial details. As mentioned below, oil and gas drilling is as high as ever and there remain 14 million people unemployed in the country. Any ban on mining in Nevada is sure to be a complicated matter. The details will emerge. Perry meantime also derides the green economy or new energy economy. But, as studies that appeared this week have shown, that is the sector that is growing fastest nationwide, creating more jobs than the drilling sector. According to many, it is the kind of all-new industry that can generate jobs for generations, and so is worth a real sustained and committed investment. Talk about “unpredictability of markets” tanking job growth. If Republican lawmakers could get behind the new energy economy, stabilized high investment could put it over the top. (A bad GOP idea: Surrender the renewable industry to China!)

Related: Rick Perry should quit pressuring bureaucrats in Texas to strip out references to climate change written by scientists in commissioned government reports on the environment in his state.

7:12 Herman Cain is still against the Occupy movement, and his words against it drew large applause.

7:02 Stop the presses! The GOP is agreeing with Ron Paul. Mitt Romney says he agrees Ron Paul on Yucca Mountain nuclear waste. “The idea that 49 states gets to tell Nevada, ‘You get our nuclear waste’ isn’t fair,” Romney says.. And then Perry says he agrees with Romney on the same issue he’s hit the nail right on the head,” Perry says of Romney. So the transitive property says Perry agrees with Paul! Kumbaya coming next?

7:01 Rick Perry and Anderson Cooper get testy: Perry tells Cooper: “You get to ask the questions. I get to answer them how I want.” Cooper shoots back: “That’s a response. Not an answer.”

6:59 When talk turned to the 14th Amendment, Bachmann jumped right in with talk of magnets and anchor babies. One of the things in the way of real immigration reform may be the demonizing language used by some in this heated discussion.

6:51 Perry knocking Bachmann who knocked Perry on immigration. This is a federal problem. The federal government has fallen down on the job. It’s a stretch for you, he tells Bachmann, a member of Congress, to attack a governor working to clean up your mess

6:51 Who can be the toughest on immigration? It’s a race to the bottom. At least none of them have mentioned Ronald Reagan yet, a man famous for his desire for an open border.

6:48 Perry says Texas has a “great health care system” mainly because it has a really big hospital in Houston. That’s a Texas argument if there ever was one. Access to health care that you can pay for is a system. Not one big hospital, even if it’s the biggest in the land! He blames the bad health care numbers in Texas on the large illegal immigrant population. That may or may not be true.

They all say: “Let’s leave health care between doctors and patients.” Has health care ever been between doctors and patients? Not for ages. When was the last time anyone in the US paid their doctor directly for anything? If we leave the sytem to “patients and their doctors (ie, their insurers and patient insurers and lawyers)” patients are going to keep #losing the way they have been for 30 years.

6:45 It’s a good thing for the candidates that the debate is in Vegas. If it was in an elementary school, some school teacher would be rapping knuckles with a ruler. What a bunch.

6:44 Perry blasts Romney as being soft on immigration and hiring illegals to work in his home, but Perry has his own immigration issues, supporting a DREAM Act, and then trying to get tough as he runs for president.

6:35 Romney taking a ton of heat for his Massachusetts health care reform plan or “Romneycare.” It’s the candidates’ way of attacking Obamacare and tarring the frontrunner. It has been a tactic for months and it will be until November 2012 or beyond, if Mitt runs again for any office as a Republican. He actually defended Romneycare fairly well. It was a state plan, he said. It was particular to Massachusetts [read: a liberal constituency]. It’s a states rights issue and great in that way because, if it doesn’t work and the citizens of Massachusetts choose to reject it, they can vote to end it.

6:30 Perry championing energy independence (oil and gas drilling) as a jobs plan. Romney jumps on board but with a nod to new energy. But more drilling is going on now under Obama than at any time since the Reagan years. Long lists of leases all over the country not being acted on by oil and gas companies. Weld County in Colorado, represented by GOP Rep Cory Gardner, who keeps assailing regulation, is the MOST drilled county in the country.

Drilling is not a jobs plan. We’re already drilling.

6:27 Romney talking like all the others about tax relief for the middle class and lower classes “Working Americans.” Yet the GOP plans have consistently shifted the burden away from the upper classes onto the lower classes. (See; The Warren Buffet plan). Obama has cut taxes for the middle class and lower class and wants the millionaire class to pay more.

Cooper asks Bachmann if she wants all Americans to contribute. She says Yes. She wants to “abolish the tax code” which would create job growth. Attacks Obama. His plan has been “a plan for the destruction of America.”

Cain is under attack for his 9 9 9 tax plan, as expected. He wants Americans to do the math themselves. “We take out invisible taxes and replace it with one tax,” he says. Most of the candidates agree with analysis that says the plan is deeply regressive in that it shifts the tax burden onto middle and lower class voters.

Ron Paul wants to slash taxes altogether and balance the budget.

6:18 As Herman Cain’s standing in the polls shot up over the last week, it was inevitable that he would become a target, and he has. Everyone on stage had things to say about 9-9-9, none of it good.

6:10 Congresswoman Bachmann doesn’t want what happens in Vegas tonight to stay in Vegas. What has she done in Vegas in the past? Some National Enquirer reporter is going to make a name for him/herself!

6:00 intro video: “Vegas, where dreams are made and dashed!” The candidates will be asked about matters of particular interest to the West: immigration high on the list. Anderson Cooper in a purple tie.


Original introduction:

Tonight the Republican presidential candidates are meeting in Las Vegas for another in what already seems a long string of debates. There were two in Florida, one in California and another in New Hampshire. You could also make the argument that anything that has transpired in Iowa over the past ten months could one way or another qualify as a primary election debate.

The next GOP debate is scheduled for November 9 in Michigan. The first real voting comes on January 3, when Iowa holds its caucuses.

Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the race swaggering weeks ago, shooting up into the polls to rival perennial presidential candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as frontrunner, but Perry has fizzled as a full-fledged candidate in the time since. He struggles in debates. His lines of argument and responses to criticism have come out mangled and plodding. The nation has been treated to Rick Perry thinking in realtime and it has been a slow and painful thing to watch, as conceded on the right and the left and which likely accounts for his dipping poll numbers.

Romney has shined in the debates, coming off as competent and well prepared. Problem is, primary elections are about pleasing true-believer activist voters, and GOP activist voters don’t like Romney. He passed a health care reform plan before President Obama did, which is anathema. He was at one point in his career pro-choice. And he is not an evangelical Christian, like a lot of the party’s primary voters. He is a Mormon, which megachurch pastor and Perry supporter Robert Jeffress told “values voters” last week was a cult to be viewed with deep suspicion. Jeffress was saying out loud what has been whispered and murmured and passed around in email chain letters for months.

“I think those of us who are born-again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney,” he said.

Herman Cain is the onetime CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, a Tea Party favorite and a black man– no small consideration in a GOP national electoral contest with Obama. Cain is also now, according to a recent CNN poll, locked in a statistical dead heat with Romney for the top spot among the remaining seven major candidates.

Perhaps as significant as any CNN poll, however, is the fact that online political tchotchke retailer CafePress reports an ongoing run on merchandise referencing Cain and typically blasé sales for anything Romney.

“[Knick-knacks] tagged with Cain’s name accounted for 58 percent of merchandise sales totals for potential GOP nominees,” CafePress said in a release. “Merchandise tagged with ‘Mitt Romney,’ on the other hand, has accounted for only 6 percent of the nominee sales… Interestingly, the merchandise tagged with ‘Romney’ that has been doing well are flip-flops.”

Cafe Press speculates that the reason Romney flip-flops are selling is that Romney has been called a flip-flopper (on the issues) by candidates and campaign strategists punching from every corner of the political ring, which is probably a good guess.

The three frontrunners will be joined by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (a GOP “ideas man”), Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (head of the Tea Party caucus), Ron Paul (the libertarian who says the things you think Republicans would want to say but don’t) and high-profile anti-gay one-time US Senator Rick Santorum.

Along with discussion of immigration, deregulation, national security and jobs, the candidates will be sure to touch on the Occupy Wall Street protests raging in cities across the country and around the world. Will they embrace the anti-Wall Street populist message? Or will they skirt the topic and fail to advance any plans to address the protester concerns?

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