Newt Gingrich has repeatedly hidden behind a veil of Republican unity when it was to his advantage, while pulling out daggers when it wasn’t. I don’t begrudge him that. He’s running a campaign to be president of the United States. That’s his interest. In a debate setting, the interest of reporters (among others) is to make candidates defend their statements in detail.
Often those two interests collide. That’s a feature, not a bug. It was good to see Wolf Blitzer–even with the crowd turning on him–lean into that collision a bit last night. The ref isn’t there to make sure the crowd cheers for him, or to make sure the combatants “approve” of him.
Nobody really likes Wolf Blitzer anyways, right? So he had nothing to lose.
More seriously, Romney took advantage of this moment beautifully, dealing Newt the killing blow. Once Gingrich lost his footing it was just done. And this race is done. Romney is the nominee – or he will be soon enough.
More damning revelations about the Ron Paul newsletters probably won’t hurt Paul too badly at this point, but the congressman really doesn’t have a chance at winning at this point anyways. He’d be wise to go third party at this point, even though it guarantees Obama’s victory.
Obama is still better – in spite of his many civil liberties shortcomings – than Romney or Gingrich on innumerable issues of war and peace and torture. Paul going third party makes sense because sinking the real hawks in the Republican party makes sense, even if Obama is way to the left of Paul.
The debate went well for Romney. He’s up on Intrade to 91.3% at the time of writing.
Gingrich needed a comeback coming into this debate and he didn’t get one. Tuesday may be a long ways away, but it’s unclear to me what could shake Romney at this point, or propel Gingrich the seven or eight points he needs for the win.
Read my live blog and post-blog musings (plus music and beer!) here.
Live blog of the CNN Jacksonville debate is below in reverse chronological order. Excuse the time-stamps. I’m blogging this from Arizona.
This was a boring debate for the most part. No Newt Gingrich feasting on the moderator’s flesh. No pivotal moments where races are won or lost.
Fundamentally, Romney was much better than we’ve seen him in some time. He started out a little sketchy, but rallied early on and got plenty of kidney punches in at Newt.
Both Ron Paul and Rick Santorum sounded more sincere than either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney. Of course I find most of the things Santorum actually says fairly repulsive, while I find Ron Paul to be a continued breath of fresh air and sanity. Yes, I find most of what Paul says thousands of times saner than what his GOP rivals say. And Paul says a lot of crazy things.
I think he had a “sparkly” performance tonight, as Andrew Sullivan noted during his live-blog. But it’s just not enough. Paul talks about civil liberties, peace, and other issues near and dear to my heart. But the American electorate just isn’t on the same page, and the GOP is on a different planet.
I think if anything, this debate goes to Romney, possibly even shoring up his victory here. Newt wasn’t able to pull off the same red-meat-magic he performed in South Carolina. He seemed defensive, petulant, and insincere. His attempts to preemptively bury the hatchet with Romney and try to team up on The Media fell flat on their face, and Romney was ready and waiting to pounce – which he did quite adeptly.
Santorum may as well bow out. He did fine but he has no momentum. Sticking around is a mistake. Ron Paul has a national network and even if he never leads the pack he can make it for the long haul – which is good, because he can keep the conversations he’s started going. A one-on-one debate with Romney in Virginia could be very interesting. If Newt loses Florida, he may as well stay in for one or two more races I think, but it’s not going to be easy after a Florida loss.
Romney is probably all grins right now. A much-needed comeback for the former governor, if not anything particularly inspiring.
7:59 PM. (Arizona time.) If this was the drinking game I would have had like four or five “fundamental” shots and at least a couple more “Reagan” shots. I’ll need to think of better rules.
The debate is over. My closing thoughts in a moment.
7:57 PM. Suddenly this leaped into my head:
7:54 PM. My timestamps are weird because I’m blogging from Arizona. I’m not going to transpose.
Nice to hear Ron Paul talk about civil liberties a bit. But civil liberties won’t win presidencies, unfortunately. Maybe some day, if we can work together toward that goal.
Romney does seem smooth tonight. Much more polished and maybe even a little personable. But his answer is rambling here on what makes him the better candidate to take on Obama.
7:52 PM. Why doesn’t CNN have ads online between breaks? Missed opportunity.
7:49 PM. I took a ten minute break to tell a story to my daughter before bedtime. Moments like this – telling a story to a four and a half year old in between segments of a Republican debate – remind me what America is really about. It’s not about all of this. It’s not about politics at all. It isn’t about all the things that make all these people so damn angry at liberals or conservatives or whatever. It isn’t even about America.
I totally lost my train of thought here, but you get my point hopefully. We fret about this stuff because it’s like a Soap Opera to us now. So much of our entertainment is derived from politics, even if that entertainment is just to make us feel angry. To feel something.
7:48 PM. Just got back. Thought that Santorum just called the Constitution the “Howl” of America. I have seen the greatest mind of my generation write a long document about the rights of individuals…
7:38 PM. The CNN plant in the audience asks about Israel-Palestine. (Okay, I kid, but c’mon.)
I have a hard time imaging any of these guys negotiating peace in the Middle East. Ron Paul holds views on the region closest to my own, but of course Ron Paul believes we have no business negotiating peace.
Newt is asked about his “invented people” remark and doesn’t really back down. They were “Arab” before he said. Does he honestly not understand what the definition of “Arab” is? Seriously? We are given platitudes about “mutual prosperity” and digs at the political leadership there. I’m waiting for Newt to attack the Israeli media next.
Newt wants to move the embassy to Jerusalem? And Ron Paul is not given a turn.
7:36 PM. “When Fidel Castro leaves this planet…” We demonize our political opponents. But the problems in Cuba go much deeper than Castro. The country won’t miraculously change when Castro is flung to the fiery depths of hell. We need to work to bring these so-called rogue nations into the global economy.
Newt Gingrich is speaking again, but I find him dreadfully dull tonight.
7:34 PM. Ron Paul isn’t going to win this race. More importantly, Ron Paul’s message is going to fall on too many deaf ears. On Cuba, Paul is once again 180 degrees away from his opponents. Common sense on better relationships with Cuba, trade with Cuba, openness. No “jihadist under the bed every night.” I wish Ron Paul could just keep running for president.
Romney wants to avoid Ron Paul’s answer even when pressed by Blitzer. Let’s attack Obama’s policy instead! He will, in the process, ignore Obama’s actual record on this.
7:31 PM. Gingrich is on the defense. Whining and squirming.
Nob Akimoto says my beer blogging is more interesting than the debate. Next time we’ll do a drunk blog. Every time anyone says “fundamentally” take a drink. Every time someone says “Reagan” take a drink. Every time someone says “freedom” take a drink. We’ll come up with more rules.
We’re on to Cuba again now. It’s funny to hear so many people who pretend to advocate free trade so badly misunderstand the problems with our trade policy toward Cuba.
7:28 PM. A question on the Reagan mantle. Like we have to actually put Reagan in the questions. Come on Wolf, they’ll insert Reagan all on their own. Romney manages to be both humble and talk himself up at the same time. He’s got this whole job interview thing down.
7:24 PM. Oh goodness, I thought Newt was going to say “having gotten to know them I think all three of my wives would be great first ladies” but of course he was saying all the wives of the other candidates.
I get the feeling that this debate, unless it changes course very soon, will not change the debate in a, ahem, fundamental way; will not alter the course of the race at all except that Romney may be able to win this thing after all. Gingrich just isn’t doing his thing.
Santorum has a nice little smile when talking about his wife. He sounds more sincere than Romney or Gingrich. He and Paul are certainly more authentic than the other two. Interesting that the least sincere of the candidates is the front-runner, and the second least sincere is nipping at his heals. Ah democracy.
7:23 PM. What a dumb question. We’re asking the candidates to defend their wives? This is all fine for three of the candidates, but if Gingrich answers wrong Callista will eat his heart with a spoon.
7:21 PM. Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale. Malty. I’m on a big hops kick so the IPA is a little better in my book. But this is still a very tasty beer.
7:17 PM. Ron Paul doesn’t name names. He wants people to understand monetary policy. He says Hispanic community should understand a non-interventionist foreign policy. Oh good it’s a break. Beer me.
7:16 PM. Rick Santorum kisses Marco Rubio’s ass from a distance. A very impressive ass-kissing if I do say so myself. What did Newt say? I wasn’t listening. Romney is ready for the answer, naming just about every Hispanic Republican in elected office in America. At least Republicans.
Wolf wants to move on. Santorum wants to hit Romney in the face. Romney wants to smirk. Ron Paul chuckles. He’s sort taking on a prankster shape tonight – almost Puck-ish. He’s the only one who seems like he’s having any fun, that’s for sure.
7:09 PM. I need that second beer in a fundamental and profound way. Going across the house to get the beer may be a grandiose vision that will cost me a minute or two of this riveting debate. But I am fundamentally in favor of getting a top-down beer that I can drink from the bottom-up. Or something.
7:08 PM. Damnit. The beer is gone. The fridge is all the way across the house. What can the candidates do for me to help me get my beer? Eh? Eh?
7:02 PM. Audience member asks about lack of healthcare. Ron Paul shows once again that he understands that the employer-insurance problem, but he only understand part of the problem with healthcare. Yes, subsidies (among many other factors) lead to increased healthcare costs. But what about the other factors? There are other market problems – such as a lack of price transparency – but there’s also the fact that we have a lot more medical care than we used to have back in Paul’s younger days. It would be more expensive regardless. Neither Paul or Gingrich has a good answer on how to actually get to a point where people can afford insurance on their own.
Romney is in uncomfortable territory, but he’s right so far about employer-based insurance coverage. But again, how do we get individuals on their own insurance plans? If we have any pre-existing conditions we can’t get coverage. If we’re too old, too sick, too poor, we can’t get health insurance. Government may have made a hash out of healthcare but there isn’t a clear market way back.
6:59 PM. Roland Dodds in the comments: “I do love that in an election focused on jobs and the economy, we have now spent 5 minutes on moon colonies. Says a lot about the Republican Party.”
My thoughts exactly.
6:58 PM. Romney is talking about firing people again. This must be a favorite of his. Careful, Mitt, you may call back Donald Trump from the dead…
6:53 PM. Newt talks about the inefficiency of NASA. Wants prizes to get private companies into the space race. Gingrich knows his futurism; Romney knows it’s a bad investment. Gingrich tries to make the case that Americans should colonize the moon before the Chinese. Can we rekindle the old magic of the Cold War space race?
Santorum seems to be backing Gingrich’s enthusiasm but takes him down a peg on responsibility when it comes to spending big money on big ideas. Paul wants to send politicians to the moon. Good idea.
6:51 PM. Okay we’re on to the moon colony. I like the idea, honestly, but not the idea of Newt being behind it. This is his opportunity to shine, though. Romney is talking about cost. It’s true – it’s a costly thing to run a space program. But the Space Coasters are thinking about jobs.
6:50 PM. Ron Paul says he’d gladly race anyone on a bike. You can’t campaign with as much vitality as this guy without being in great shape, even in your seventies. Gingrich has nice things to say about Paul’s health.
6:45 PM. Since when is Gingrich an advocate of the flat-tax and the gold standard? Is this a new thing tailored specifically to this election or has Gingrich had these ideas listed out before somewhere?
Santorum is taking a slightly more populist approach. He calls it the Reagan approach.
Ron Paul says he wants to get rid of the 16th amendment. Then he talks about having sympathy with the 99%. He’s the only Occupy Wall Street fan who talks about sound money and a sound currency. It’s sort of wonderful, this Austrian take on income inequality. No reason why libertarians and progressives can’t work toward common goals.
6:41 PM. And….we’re back. On to taxes and tax returns because Blitzer wants everyone to know everything they can possibly know about these guys. Newt gets in his first viper-strike at the media when Blitzer asks about his attacks on Romney. “This is a nonsense question.” Blitzer strikes back, unlike John King, pointing out that Gingrich made the accusation. Good for Blitzer, but the crowd boos. Romney hits Gingrich hard again, saying that it would be nice if Gingrich would stick by what he says in an interview rather than try to dodge the question. Romney is picking Newt apart tonight. Is the speaker’s shtick wearing thin?
6:38 PM. I’m drinking a Founders Centennial IPA for the first part of the debate. Something tells me I will need to resupply very soon. It’s a hoppy, delicious, strong brew.
6:35 PM. Paul gives a clear answer, at least, to the question rather than just slam the other candidates. You know how I can tell he’s not serious about running for president? He’s not nearly interested enough in scoring cheap points against the other guys. He wants to actually answer the questions – a rare quality in a politician and something nobody who is serious about winning ever does.
6:34 PM. Gingrich is comparing investment size. He describes his as a tiny mouse and Romney’s as a giant elephant. Is this a pissing contest? Why yes…it is.
6:31 PM. Gingrich is indignant. Trying to spin his work as a lobbyist for Fannie by pointing out that Romney has investments in Fannie and Freddie. Sort of a big difference, though. Romney hits back by pointing out that Gingrich also has investments in Fannie and Freddie. Gingrich is off his game tonight. No opportunity to slam the media so far.
6:28 PM. Wolf Blitzer changes the subject from South America to housing. A question about phasing out Fannie and Freddie. This is a lovely softball.
6:25 PM. Santorum rises to the occasion. Hitting Obama on Honduras. Says we need to support freedom in South America. Ron Paul has another good answer to American force and arrogance. Santorum pretends like he doesn’t understand the history of American involvement in the region.
6:23 PM. A good answer on South America from Ron Paul. Paul gets very few cheers for promoting trade with Cuba. A Florida crowd, after all. But yes, we should expand free trade to as many South American countries as possible. Paul is forthright and honest as ever on the issue. Get ready for some tough talk on Cuba from the others.
6:21 PM. Now that I have the formatting figured out…so far I think Romney is scoring some points but he seems too outraged. I mean, how dare Gingrich call him anti-immigrant. Gingrich is hardly better, of course, but neither of them sound as hard-line as they have in previous states.
6:12 PM. Sorry, I meant to start this at the opening but between helping with kids, getting a beer, and technical difficulties I’m late to the game. Apparently I’ve been missing some immigration debate. There’s never much debate on this subject – at the moment we’re discussing the utterly absurd topic of “self-deportation.” It’s impossible to have this debate when the premise is so off the mark.