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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Republican Arizona Debate LIVE BLOG

7:45--Good evening, and welcome to Presidential Politics for America's second live blog of the 2012 Republican Primary. (The first was the second Florida debate, found here.) Soon I'll be joined by Stephen Kurczy, fellow Wing Nuts columnist over at the online lit magazine, Construction. We post Mondays and Fridays. For the next 90 minutes, we'll make live updates throughout the second Republican Debate in Arizona, aired on CNN. To follow along, refresh the page every so often and see us update the night away. And feel free to make comments!

Without further ado, Stephen Kurczy everyone!

SK (7:48): Thanks, Ian. Big question for me tonight: Can Rick Santorum rise to the occasion? This is his first debate since surging past Mitt Romney in national polls last week and replacing Newt Gingrich as the "not-Romney" candidate. How will the candidates respond to that? You made a good point in your debate primer, Ian, that Romney was in this position two weeks ago going into the Florida primary, and he deftly took the steam out of the Gingrich surge. Tonight, how will Romney try to cut Santorum down to size? Can Gingrinch, the best debater on stage, stop the bloodletting at his own campaign? Will Ron Paul stay awake all evening?

IC (7:51): Right on, Steve. Santorum has indeed surged ahead nationally. Three of the last four national polls have Santorum up between 8 and 12 points. The thing is, Santorum's national lead will not last if Romney wins Tuesday's primaries. Arizona polls already show a huge lead for Romney, and he surely has won the early voting that, four years ago, accounted for 1/3 of total votes. In Michigan, they're neck and neck and Romney has the momentum. Thus, it's clear that if Santorum falters tonight, Romney will win both states Tuesday, which then means he'll also win Super Tuesay, which will all but end the primary.

In sum, Santorum needs a way to hold momentum for the next 13 days so he can compete on Super Tuesday, and tonight is essential to that end.

It's not evening in Arizona, so perhaps the biggest threat to Paul is an afternoon nap. Short of that, we know what we'll get out of Paul, and that's consistent libertarianism, holding the others' feet to the fiscal flames, and a couple good one-liners that will earn widespread chuckles. As for Gingrich, I wonder if he is more concered with limiting Romney or reclaiming the #2 position from Santorum. I suppose there's nothing saying he can't do both.

IC (7:52)--And a quick add on to the above thought: Unlike most of the media, I think there is more pressure on Santorum than Romney to win Michigan.

(7:55)--Reader question from Vic: Who are Democrats rooting for?

IC (7:57)--Great question. I think Santorum for three reasons. 1) His success now extends the primary longer than Romney success would. 2) They feel they can more easily beat Santorum in November. 3) If Santorum became President, he'd hand the White House back to the Democrats in four years.

SK (8:00)--Here we go!

IC (8:02)--Gotta love the movie trailer intros for these things.

IC (8:03)--John King is back to moderate. You think he's been working on a comeback for another Newt Gingrich attack on his moderating skills? I bet he'll bring, "Oh yeah? The jerkstore called, they're all out of YOU!"

IC (8:04)--Romney got the biggest ovation, Santorum got the smallest. Sounds like Romney's ads are working quite well.

SK (8:04): Gingrich rocks the purple tie. Gay pride?

IC (8:05): Haha, maybe. Is it safe to say Rick Santorum has never worn a purple tie?

IC (8:07): Huge pop for Romney. I think he packed another house.

SK (8:08): Whoa, whoa... did Romney just quote Seinfeld?

IC (8:09): He did! And at 8:03 I thought it would be John King. I was way off!

SK (8:09): Intros set a tone as Santorum mentions Middle East unrest and Gingrich mentions high gas prices.

IC (8:10): Ah, Gingrich wins question #2 from my Arizona preview.

SK (8:12): Rick Santorum vows to not cut the humongous defense budget. Instead, cut health care. And Santorum is a compassionate conservative?

IC (8:13): You can't be a conservative country if terrorists are everywhere, Steve.

IC (8:14): Round 1 for Romney vs. Santorum. Ding ding.

SK (8:14): Oooo, Santorum accuses Romney of adopting the "Occupy Wall Street" rhetoric by attacking the top 1%. Low blow!

SK (8:15): Hey Ian, how long until moderator John King pisses off Newt Gingrich?

IC (8:16): I give him four questions. That's one.

8:15--Comment from reader TakeOurCountryBack: 15 mins and no Ron Paul. Gimme a break.

IC (8:17): CNN saw your comment, TOCB! Paul's up.

SK (8:18): Oh man, Newt Gingrich just tried to flash some historian cred by saying today is birthday of George Washington's. Duh, like, it's a holiday!

IC (8:20): Ron Paul points out that it's weird that conservatives like spending overseas. Nailed it.

SK (8:20): Ron Paul is bringing the heat to Rick Santorum. Love it. "If you're a strict fiscal conservative "you don't vote for spending."

IC (8:21): Romney challenged on what the heck "Severely conservative" means. I wish he used "morbidly" instead.

SK (8:23): Re: last comment--Not much from Gingrich, either. This is a two-man debate so far.

IC (8:23): Gingrich has the professorial tone down. I think I'm going to bring it into my classroom.

IC (8:26): Where the party ultimately decides Santorum lies on the fiscal spectrum might decide if he has the legs. His explanation of earmarks is subpar. I think Romney has a winning issue here.

SK (8:27): Santorum always has a confused look on his face. Romney looks smug. Gingrich looks bored and bothered. Paul looks half-asleep and completely unimpressed.

IC (8:28): Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 GOP candidates!

IC (8:28): Loving the back and forth here. Round 2!

IC (8:29): These are all jabs, though. No one has landed a blow.

IC (8:29): Oh, good, Gingrich is getting in.

IC (8:29): False alarm. Two man debate, I forgot.

SK (8:29): What a crew, huh Ian? What's going on with Gingrich tonight? While Santorum and Romney duke it out, Newt is just sitting on his hands.

IC (8:30): He is. I'm wondering if he might play the "rise above" card again and re-attack President Obama.

IC (8:31): I feel like everyone listens intently to Gingrich to find out how things actually work.

IC (8:32): While Paul rants, I'll get back to your question, Steve. A Gingrich strategy tonight and through March--if the primary remains competitive--might be to lay low while Romney and Santorum spend and damage each other.

IC (8:34): Very important segment here. Because of the up-for-grabs Michigan Primary, Michigan-specific questions will be the most relevant portions of tonight's debate. Let's see how they handle it.

SK (8:35): What a second, where is Buddy Roemer?! Oh yeah, he's busy tweeting about the debate @BuddyRoemer

IC (8:36): Steve, what do you make of Romney staring at his opponents while they speak, while Santorum looks around when his opponents do? Which is more effective?

SK (8:38) Romney's mannerism is more effective, makes him seem more aggressive, bold, and confident.

SK (8:38): On that note, Romney's sudden Arizona twang is also pretty affective is seeming like a man of the people.

IC (8:39): He thinks he's more chameleonic than he is. His career has shown that quite well.

IC (8:40): The GOP just lost Michigan as all four candidates nod in agreement against the auto bailout.

8:41--Commercial Break #1

SK (8:41): I do not understand the candidates' universal opposition to the auto bailout. Michigan's Republican governor has said it "really worked" in saving jobs and getting the vital auto industry back on track. Even aside from ideology, I don't understand it politically in terms of voter-support.

IC (8:43): It's a Republican Primary, and conservatives don't like bailouts. It might hurt in Michigan, but it'll play well across the south and Midwest. The nominee will moderate for the general; the question is, will it be too late?

IC (8:44)--Steve, who has the early lead tonight?

SK (8:45): Early lead goes to Romney, definitely. Gingrich and Paul haven't said much, but at least they've looked good saying it. Santorum is sucking it up. I think I could see his neck turn red a few times in embarrassment during the whole earmarks back-and-forth.

8:45--End of commercial break

IC (8:46): Gingrich hating on the media! Take a drink.

IC (8:47): Romney fighting a religious war. Don't make it about religion, Mitt! You'll lose the issue.

SK (8:48): Gingrich just said "let's be clear here" and started criticizing Barack Obama. Holdup, isn't that a Obama line?

IC (8:48): Just wait until Ron Paul croons, "I... I'm so in love with you."

IC (8:49): And here's why Romney can't be pulled into a religious debate. Santorum speaks the evangelical language better than anyone on stage.

IC (8:50): Yep. Santorum's best moment by far ("that's the difference between me and the left, and they don't get it.").

SK (8:51): Ron Paul says, "Guns don't kill people, criminals do! [And wars, and refusal to wear seatbelts, but never mind.] ... The birth control pill can't be blamed for the immorality of our society."

IC (8:52): Romney lamenting on the situation of the very poor. I could have sworn he didn't care about them. You know... safety net.

IC (8:55): Gingrich strongly targeting Paul's voters, using the language of tyranny. Not a bad idea to attempt the consolidation of the bottom two candidates' voters, but Ron Paul's voters aren't going anywhere.

SK (8:58): Amid all this horse shit being tossed around about Planned Parenthood, The New Yorker actually gave a close and intelligent look at the organization in this November article.

IC (9:00): Wow, Santorum just transitioned Ron Paul's attacks on his conservatism into Romneycare. A skilled pivot.

IC (9:02): Santorum vs. Romney, Round 3. Santorum might have his first round here. Great line about "Dukakis balanced the budget, too!"

SK (9:04): Good eye, Ian. Santorum just landed a few punches.
IC (9:05): It's noteworthy that Santorum is winning over the crowd, after starting tepidly with what was a pro-Romney introduction.

SK (9:05) ... adding to that last line... The New Yorker's political reporter Ryan Lizza just tweeted "That was a pretty devastating and as far as I can tell factual takedown of Romney by Santorum."
IC (9:05): On to immigration...

8:57--Comment from reader John: Why are they even talking about this stuff? The president controls the economy!!

IC (9:07): Rick Perry! Can we get him on stage? Please??

IC (9:08): Random observation: all of the candidates have brown eyes. John King has blue eyes, as does Wolf Blitzer and (dreamy) Anderson Cooper. Take what you will.

SK (9:10): Comedian Andy Borowitz just tweeted this from Santorum: "I believe in the life of the unborn child until they grow up and try to sneak across the border."

IC (9:11): Or until a public defender can't get them off a capital charge.

9:13--Commercial Break #2

IC (9:13): I'm eagerly awaiting Santorum vs. Romney for Round 4. Romney took the first two rounds 10-9, but I think Santorum came through with a 10-8 dominant Round 3.

IC (9:14): Wow, John King... "Define yourself with one word" is neither great nor a question.

SK (9:15): What do you think, Ian? Has Romney clawed back his lead from Santorum?

IC (9:17): Tonight, a tie goes to Romney, and I think a tie is what have so far. Santorum's momentum is fine nationally, but that's irrelevant. It's Tuesday's momentum that matters, and Romney has it. If Santorum can't reclaim it, Romney moves forward tonight's technical winner. Think the split-decision at the end of Rocky; the champ keeps the crown.

SK (9:17): (Meanwhile in the real world, Jeremy Lin and the Knicks are crushing Jerry Stackhouse and the Hawks tonight. Knicks up by 20 points in the third quarter.)

IC (9:18): Really, Steve? "Jerry Stackhouse and the Hawks"? Have you even played fantasy basketball since 2004?

IC (9:18): Regardless, my poor Celtics are getting schooled by the young Thunder.

End Commercial Break

IC (9:19): On to foreign policy...

IC (9:20): Enormous expenditures that Romney just listed off in terms of defense. Enormous. Decidedly unconservative spending.

IC (9:23): Wow, Gingrich just called the President the most dangerous in terms of national defense ever. Does he realize the British burned down Washington under Madison?

IC (9:24): Paul, the Christian "Just War Theory," justified the slaughtering of thousands of Muslims and Jews in the First Crusade. I'm not sure that's a full-proof ideology, either.

IC (9:25): Iran's nuclear capability brought up by a walrus with a microphone.

SK (9:26): Finally, 90 minutes into the debate, after questions about pills, roads, and dating columns, a question about Iran and the Middle East.

SK (9:28): Gingrich says he is "inclined to believe dictators." Does this mean he does not believe in bluffing?

IC (9:29): Like religion, Romney cannot make this about being a strong foreign policy president. Santorum served in the US Senate, and Gingrich has written entire books on international relations. He's handing it to Santorum, who has been a huge proponent about a hawkish foreign policy against Iran.

IC (9:30): Did Santorum just insult the 2013-2017 US Secretary of State, Joe Biden? (Yeah, I said it.)

SK (9:30): Santorum says he's been "on the trail of Iran for years now." Still searching for it on a map, I guess.

IC (9:31): ZING!

IC (9:32): Crowd: "Boooo, evidence!"

SK (9:33) Santorum just criticized Iran for being theocratic. Uh, this is the guy who believes the US is at war with the devil.

IC (9:34): I've spent years pointing out the irony of far right, evangelical conservatives criticizing far right, Muslim theocracies.

SK (9:35): Ninety minutes in, a question about Syria. That alone is wrong.

IC (9:38): It is so easy to be critical of foreign policy in a debate, when what you say doesn't actually affect lives. The Democratic candidates were similarly critical in the last two elections. Don't thump your chest when it comes to this stuff. You just don't know. Say what you think, but don't act like you know.

SK (9:39): Romney just said that Syria provides Iran with "a path to the sea." Uh, he does realize that the two nations do NOT border, right? And also that Iran already borders the Caspian Sea and Arabian Sea?

IC (9:40): Boo, evidence!

IC (9:41): I've watched so many debates that I no longer have to look at the television to know what facial expressions the candidates are using as I listen to their responses.

IC (9:44): Gingrich with a nice little education rant there. Once again, he sounds like he knows what he's talking about in the big reform areas more than Santorum or Romney. Plus, as a teacher, I can say he was right on probably more than half of that rant.

9:46--Commerical Break #3

SK (9:46): OMG, you mean this isn't over yet?

SK (9:47): Why can't the Republicans be consistent: lower taxes, smaller federal government, and shorter presidential debates!

IC (9:49): They'll meet you halfway--John King says this could be the last debate of the primary! Say it ain't so. When's our next live blog?

End of Commercial Break

IC (9:51): Great question! "What's the biggest misconception the public has about you?" Ron Paul: That I can't win.

IC (9:52): Newt Gingrich: "The amount of work it took to get to welfare reform." Ummm, is that the misconception?

IC (9:53): Mitt Romney: "We need fundamental change." Huh? "You get to ask the questions you want, I get to give the answer I want." Not cool. Play by the rules, Romney. See if Santorum capitalizes...

IC (9:54): Rick Santorum also speaks to supposedly being unelectable. Not bad. He promotes himself while taking a swipe at Romney, pointing out that President Obama will outspend the challenger, so the GOP needs a candidate who doesn't need to outspend his opponent 5 to 1 to win.

SK (9:55): Last question is what's the biggest public misconception about you? Paul says the misconception that he can't win. Gingrich doesn't answer question. Romney doesn't answer question. When King steps in to say he's not answering the question, Romney responds: "You give the questions you want, I'll give the answers that I want." Classy. Santorum actually decides to answer question, saying "Maybe you want a candidate who can win without spending a bizillion bucks." (translation: I'm out of money, honey, toss me a few campaign dollar)

9:55--End of debate. Final thoughts soon!

SK (10:10): The key question tonight was whether Mitt Romney could cut the surging Rick Santorum down to size. The verdict? Romney won the first round, Santorum won the second round, and both of them looked silly when they debated earmarks and the auto bailout. Santorum looked better on birth control, health care, and religion. They all looked bad on foreign policy and taxes (except for Ron Paul, the only candidate who is actually consistent over the years and would be into a general election). Overall it's close, but I think Santorum won tonight. Everyone was gunning at him, highlighting that he is now the man to beat. Romney is still Romney, and in a standoff Santorum is the defacto winner by mere virtue of being not-Romney. That's enough to propel him into Michigan for the win, I think.

IC (10:10): The headline: Rick Santorum did not step up tonight. The media is trying to push that he still has the momentum and has this big national lead, but he'll lose winner-take-all Arizona and his lead in Michigan has evaporated. If he loses those states on Tuesday, his national lead will follow them out the door. Santorum needed to reclaim momentum tonight and did not do so. Romney held serve, despite a rather weak back and forth with Santorum the third time around, and leaves here the de facto winner.

Gingrich was probably best tonight, once again acting like the knowledgeable adult in the room, but he wasn't good enough to make any kind of a major splash and make a run at the big two. Ron Paul was good for keeping the candidates more honest than the moderators ever do, but he can expect bottom-half finishes in all contested states through Super Tuesday.

I expect Romney to once again take over the process, and the Republican establishment will do all it can to make sure he's never threatened again.
---
Okay, a couple of different takes tonight! We hope you enjoyed our second live blog! Sleep well, America.

-IC and SK

8 comments:

Vic said...

Who are Democrats rooting for?

IC said...

Great question. I think Santorum for three reasons. 1) His success now extends the primary longer than Romney success would. 2) They feel they can more easily beat Santorum in November. 3) If Santorum became President, he'd hand the White House back to the Democrats in four years.

TakeOurCountryBack said...

15 mins and no Ron Paul. Gimme a break.

Stevie K said...

Not much from Gingrich, either. This is a two-man debate so far.

Anonymous said...

Where's Newt!!

IC said...

There. But only for a bit.

Jon said...

Why are they even talking about this stuff? The president controls the economy!!

Stevie K said...

Who has the best hairdo? I say Gingrich. It's so perfectly coiffed, straight out of "Leave it to Beaver."

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