Melania Trump Club

Thursday, September 22, 2011

GOP presidential debate in Tampa

TAMPA, Fla. — Despite the rumors, a publicist for actor Chuck Norris said the tough guy did not attend Monday’s Republican presidential debate.

Earlier in the day during a brief interview, Sal Russo of Tea Party Express told The Daily Caller that Norris, who played a major role in generating excitement for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign in 2008 and contributed to the political action committee, would be attending the debate as a guest of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

But Jeff Duclos, a publicist for Chuck Norris, shot that down.

“He won’t be there,” Duclos said in an email.

During a media viewing of the debate set earlier Monday, a chair in the audience was labeled with the name tag “C. Norris.”

Very bad news for Rick Perry. David Gergen on CNN said the Texas governor "walked out the front-runner". Under the Reverse Gergen Rule, the opposite of what David Gergen says is actually the case. So that means Perry had a disaster.

The best news for Perry tonight is that no-one was watching, not even in Florida – thanks to the Monday Night Football: the New England Patriots versus the Miami Dolphins.

10.00pm ET: A final thought from Ana-Marie Cox:

Maybe it's because I'm an American with no attention span but I do appreciate the kind of wacky wrap-up question CNN ended with, though clearly the candidates had been given some time to think it over – though if Mitt Romney had more time he wouldn't have picked such a back-handed compliment from Churchill. My favorite answer was Herb Cain's response that he'd bring a sense of humor the White House, because, clearly, if he won it would have to be some kind of joke.

9.55pm ET: Oh sweet Jesus, now Wolf Blitzer is asking what changes the candidates would make to the White House. Really.

Newt says he'd bring ballet and a chess set. Bachmann wins: "I'd bring a copy of the declaration of independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and that's it."

Frankly, I'd vote for any candidate who would pass a bill that bans CNN from ever hosting a presidential debate ever again.

And that's it, it's over. Rick Perry retires to bind his wounds.

9.50pm ET: In the comments, @tsubaki picks up on Perry's performance.

Is Perry sinking before our eyes here? He just got seriously booed (albeit for a relatively sane immigration policy).

9.50pm ET: To clarify: Ron Paul was booed by crowd members for explaining al-Qaida's stated reasons for the 9/11 attacks, he wasn't advocating it himself. Unless it meant lower taxes.

9.46pm: Newt Gingrich thinks we "celebrate" the anniversary of 9/11. Um, not quite sure that's how 9/11 is commemorated. At least not in the US.

The CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential debating hall in Tampa. Photograph: Scott Audette/Reuters
9.45pm ET: Rick Santorum upbraids Ron Paul for his isolationism and especially his comments that America was "asking" for the attack on 9/11. When Paul defends himself on the grounds that America has been bombing the blazes out of various countries, there are boos in the crowd.

Ron Paul has been bravely (in the circumstances) saying this stuff for years. In fact he reduced Rudy Guiliani and John McCain to spluttering rage during the 2008 presidential debates.

9.42pm ET: "We don't need to be building airplanes that were used in World War Two," says Ron Paul.

I think we can all agree on that. Are we building planes that were used in World War Two? Whatever.

9.41pm ET: The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg sums up the debate so far:

How would I remove illegal immigrants from this country? I would give them the HPV vaccine

No, I know that doesn't make sense, but that's the level of things tonight.

9.40pm ET: Oh man, now even Jon Huntsman is accusing Rick Perry of being a left-wing crypto-Marxist. In fact he says: "For Rick Perry to say that we can't secure the border, that's treasonous."

Memo to Republican party: they have these things called airplanes, and believe it or not but Latinos can actually fly on them.

9.38pm ET: To immigration, and another chance to take a shot at Rick Perry, who as governor of Texas actually has to deal with immigration every day and so is sane on the subject, while the others all just chant "Build the wall!" (apart from Ron Paul).

Blitzer takes a question from Twitter: "What are candidates doing to attract the Latino voters?" As they say on the internet: LOL. Other than Perry, zero.

Rick Santorum gets in a snide comment about Texas's policy that gives in-state college tuition, and says maybe that's what Perry is doing to attract "illegal immigrant, I mean Latino votes".

Perry then gives a defence of the Texas education policy, which again is moderately sane – and he gets boos from the audience.

As they say, wait long enough and you'll see everything. I never thought I'd see the day when Rick Perry was too left-wing for the Republican party.

9.35pm ET: Ana Marie Cox thinks Rick Perry's answer to the funding question (see 9.22pm ET) is revelatory.

Zinger! Perry says: "If you're saying I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended." I like that he didn't rule out completely the idea he could be bought. Let the bidding begin!

It's probably important to work out that just because the Tea Party views are more extreme than those of most Americans – it's a strangely non-representative group to co-host a debate – the questions coming from the audience have been really good. They've been well-informed, if a little shrill, and certainly reflect an attentiveness to issues beyond those in the headlines.

9.29pm ET: Prof Larry Sabato, the Sage of Charlottesville at the University of Virginia, tweets:

Bachmann goes after Perry again on anti-Obamacare executive order. He shakes his head. Knows he's punching bag tonite.

9.28pm ET: Twitter lit up at Ron Paul's suggestion that the government should let a comatose uninsured accident victim die. Here's a tweet from HuffPost Media:

Wolf to Ron Paul: should society just let a sick man die? Some audience members: yes!

Charming. Like all those who went "woo!" at the last debate when the host mentioned that the state of Texas had executed 234 people under the Rick Perry.

9.25pm ET: Another break. "When we come back, national security, immigration, and a lot more!" says Wolf Blitzer. Oh joy.

9.23pm ET: Dr Ron Paul wants alternative health care legalised, which somehow explains why he is against the government paying for the healthcare of an uninsured person injured in an accident.

9.22pm ET: The HPV vaccine business reminds me of the "drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants" issue that – in my mind – may have tipped the scales against Hillary Clinton in 2007. That hurt her even though the attack came from a fringe candidate (Chris Dodd) and not Obama.

9.18pm: Rick Perry is asked again about his decision to mandate the HPV vaccine for girls as young as 11. He acknowledges the way he implemented the policy was a mistake, but defends the principle on the grounds of public health. Which is not an approach he takes to climate change, strangely.

Michele Bachmann is offered an open goal on this one, and she makes the most of it.

Perry responds by saying that parents had an opt-out. "At the end of the day I am always going to err on the side of life," says Perry, getting in a sly pro-life message.

Bachmann is back at him, saying that the policy was backed by a huge pharmaceutical company that had donated to his campaign. "Was it about life or was it about millions or potentially billions of dollars? she asks.

Perry says it was a $5,000 donation from Merck. "I raised $30 million and if you are saying I can be bought for $5,000 then I'm offended," says Perry. "I'm offended on behalf of all the young girls," replies Bachmann, her best shot of the campaign so far.

That was a very bad exchange for Perry on so many levels. At this rate, it could derail his campaign.

9.09pm ET: A question now about the "Fair Tax", a flat tax idea that has been knocking around forever.

Like most of the questions tonight, much of the discussion is on policies that wouldn't come within miles of being considered even by a Republican president. This is a classic example of a party talking to itself.

9.08pm ET: Maine blogger Gerald Weinand notes something interesting, via Twitter:

All the candidates except the tallest are standing on boxes to equalize height differences

And he's right, looking at still photos running on the wires. Otherwise everyone is eerily the same height.

Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry at the Republican debate. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images
9.03pm ET: Wolf Blitzer asks Michele Bachmann if she agrees with Rick Perry that the Fed chairman Ben Bernanke should be tried for treason – and the question gets a big round of applause from the crowd. (Bachmann dodges the question, saying she thinks he should be fired.)

I think there's a message there for anyone who thinks Rick Perry is too conservative for today's Republican party.

Asked if he stands by his remarks, Perry says it was a clear statement of fact. He goes on: "It is a travesty that young people in America are being devalued – we don't know if it was political or not because of the transparency issue."

Not quite sure what that means, and crowd have a smattering of confused applause.

Once again, the lazy attacks on Ben Bernanke are appalling. The trouble is that with that rhetoric, no credible economist would want to serve on the Fed with some of the people on stage as US president.

8.55pm ET: We're back to the exciting game of whose state created the most jobs, although Newt Gingrich makes a desperate bid by claiming that when he was speaker of the House in the 1990s America created shedloads of jobs and he was somehow responsible for them.

Oh good. Another break for ads. Somewhere back stage Rick Perry is poking Ron Paul in the eye again.

8.53pm: Herman Cain claims that a restaurant is the basic building block of the American economy. He reminds us once again that his experience includes being president of the National Restaurant Association. (Whose national HQ, incidentally, was next to the Guardian's old office in Washington DC. And the staff canteen was rubbish.)

8.50pm: ET Ron Paul – a veteran congressman from Galveston, Texas – isn't a fan of Perry's record. "I don't want to offend the governor because he might raise my taxes."

8.46pm ET: All the other candidates want a bold solution, and that bold solution is cutting taxes.

Mitt Romney is asked about Perry's record in Texas, and he makes sure he's effusive about Texas: "Great state," is Mitt's thought.

Does Governor Perry deserves any credit for all those jobs he created, asks Wolf of Romney. Mitt delves into an elaborate poker metaphor about being dealt four aces. "Mitt, you were doing pretty good until you got to poker," says Perry, who reminds everyone that Texas has created a million jobs during his tenure during a national recession.

8.42pm ET: Back from the break to the economy and how to get it moving again. Perry keeps it short and sweet: "People are tired of spending money we don't have on programs we don't want."

8.36pm ET: As CNN goes to a break, political commentator Ana Marie Cox files her first take on the debate so far.

Huntsman continues to pander for the irony vote with an oblique and deeply weird Nirvana reference.

Nice of Ron Paul to wear a tie picked out by a child. Or designed by one.

Romney is breaking just slightly out of his robotic shell, but it is kind of a bad sign when "testy" is an improvement, personality-wise.

It is looking a little like it will be the fringe candidate night – maybe taking away the moderator's podium has unmoored the race's static seeding.

8.33pm ET: Everybody wants to cut federal spending – and Ron Paul wants to cut $1.5 trillion dollars being spent on national security, as well as abolish the department of education, the department of energy, and many more. (I'm not joking either, that's what he wants to do.)

8.28pm ET: Blitzer asks Rick Santorum if he backs the Perry or the Romney view. "The question is, who's with me?" says Rick.

It's no surprise that Santorum refers to himself in the third person. According to the polls, only about 2% are with Rick, and given the margin of error, that could 0%.

8.26pm: 8.25pm ET: Newt Gingrich gets asked about social security. "I'm not worried about Governor Romney and Governor Perry scaring the American people, when President Obama scares them every single day."

Oh dear. Newt goes on: "I just want to make two simple points about social security," a pledge he fails to honour. Big applause, though.

8.23pm ET: Here's Jon Huntsman: "Sensible sensible sensible sensible." Thanks, Jon.

8.21pm ET: Mitt Romney gets his chance, and he's asked if Perry can beat Obama. He wants to know if Perry thinks social security should be abolished?

Perry bats it away but Romney comes back at him. "I think we should have a conversation..." says Perry. "We're having that right now," responds Romney. Perry riposts by accusing Romney of "scaring seniors" – and that gets a big cheer from the crowd.

Now Perry and Romney are going back and forth. "Governor, you said that if it happened in the private sector it would be criminal, that's what you said in your book," Perry grins back, Cheshire-like, and gets a laugh. Romney does a fish-out-of-water impression: "You've got to quote me accurately..."

See, running a debate isn't hard: you just have to ask questions and get answers.

Protesters outside the debating hall in Tampa ahead of the Republican presidential debate. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
8.18pm ET: Now Rick Perry gets to answer – and he wants to tell retired people, especially those in Florida who might vote, that everything is going to be fine. But young Americans need to be told the truth. Basically, if you're old you get the social security cheques but soon you will die and the young must feast on your flesh. Roughly speaking.

8.16pm ET: Finally, a question, and it's about reforming social security and Medicare and so of course it goes to Rick Perry. Oh no, it goes to Michele Bachmann, for some reason.

Bachmann is trying to say how great social security is and why it needs to be gutted. "I am a person who had feet in the private sector and a foot in government," says Bachmann. That must have been painful.

8.13pm: "My name is Michele Bachmann..."

Well, that's cleared that up.

8.11pm ET: Oh man, now they are each given an introduction. Really, NBC skipped all this nonsense and got straight into it. Remember, tonight's hashtag is #CNNfail

8.10pm ET: Seriously, in the last debate, Perry and Romney had already scratched each other's eyes by now. Come on CNN.

Now Wolf Blitzer is explaining the rules. Even by CNN's low standards, this is awesomely bad.

8.10pm ET: The Economist's live bloggers are on top form:

I appreciate the dramatis personae. And the theme song. If it was a movie they all would have exploded.

8.07pm ET: Oh man, now the national anthem. Excuse me, I have to stand up and stop eating Sun chips.

8.06pm ET: Now he's introducing the candidates individually up on stage like it was a tag-team wrestling match. "The former president and CEO of Godfather's Pizza, Herman Cain!"

Jon Huntsman gets zero applause.

8.03pm ET: CNN is running an extended promo for the Republican candidates, trying to make it sound like a trailer for a particularly gruesome action movie.

8.01pm ET: Oh, host Wolf Blitzer is on stage, the traditional opening to a CNN debate, much like the Queen's speech to parliament.

Preparations get under way for the Republican presidential debate. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
7.59pm ET: Ready to go. The last time CNN hosted a debate it was awful so let's hope this one is better. There's a live feed of the debate right here.

7.58pm ET: We are not the only people live-blogging this debate, of course. The Economist also ran a fantaistic live blog of the last debate, with the different bloggers writing in different colours so they could archly call each other "Mr Pink" and "Mr Brown," just like Reservoir Dogs. Here's a highlight:

Brown: I say, this Rick Perry fellow wouldn't have got into Balliol.
Pink: Steady on Sebastian, I mean Mr Brown.
Green: He looks like a beefy fellow so he could probably have made the Oriel eights crew!
Brown: Oh hahaha Adrian. You're so cruel.

If anyone can translate this into English, please do so. Here's hoping they are live-blogging again tonight.

7.52pm ET: Steven, a Ron Paul fan, emails:

As far as I can see Richard, Ron Paul seems to be winning the argument and in all probability will win the GOP nomination. Prestitutes like yourself have purposely ignored Ron Paul and consistently denounce him, either by callous omission, or by regarding him as a crank with no chance.

He is the logical truth, and will win.

If your angry right now, don't blame me for pointing out that your piece had nothing to do with journalism and everything to do with propaganda.

I'm not angry as I understand. Forgive yourself and make a difference.

Kind regards

Thank you Steven, but I believe the correct spelling is "presstitutes".

7.50pm ET: The Los Angeles Times also thinks Michele Bachmann is struggling to stay above water:

Bachmann was riding high after her last month win in the Iowa Straw Poll, but has failed to capitalize on the victory. Since then, her campaign manager, Ed Rollins, has departed, and she was something of a non-entity in last week's debate at the Reagan Library in California.
Part of the reason may have been due to Bachmann herself.

On the trail, she has not engaged in the sort of rhetorical hand-to-hand combat that Perry and Romney have, preferring to stick to scripted talking points attacking President Obama. But she has also suffered from diminishing media attention. A press conference last week on Capitol Hill following the president's jobs speech was sparsely populated.

"Sparsely populated" here means it got no TV coverage, which means it may as well have not happened, frankly.

7.46pm ET: Politico's Ben Smith reports that Karl Rove thinks this will be a long, drawn-out primary:

[Rove] anticipates a dragged out Republican primary, depending on "one or two" more candidates getting in, an apparent reference to Sarah Palin and perhaps Chris Christie.

"We could have a long extended contest that could be as good for the Republicans" as 2008 was for Democrats. In Iowa, Perry "does not have an insurmountable lead, particularly in a state where organization matters a lot."

Given Karl Rove's track record of late, that probably means there will be a Republican nominee once polls close in New Hampshire.

7.05pm ET: Here's some background about Rick Perry's career as a politician in Texas.

It includes clips from a 1990 ad when he was running for state agricultural commissioner (a big job in Texas and many US states).

7.04pm ET: Romney appears certain to zero in on Perry's remarks from the last debate about social security. Already today I've received emails from the Romney campaign headlined "RICK'S LATEST RETREAT ON SOCIAL SECURITY".

Tampa Bay Online reports:

Mitt Romney didn't wait long to begin his attack on Rick Perry over Social Security — his campaign is doing door-to-door distribution of a flier attacking Perry on the issue.

The flier, which a campagn spokesman said is being left at the doors of Florida GOP primary voters, portrays the GOP primary as a two-candidate race — "Two candidates. Only one will protect what's important to you," is the headline.

Of those two, it says, Perry is "reckless and wrong on Social Security." The bold-face tagline: "Rick Perry: How can we trust anyone who wants to kill Social Security?"

The New York Times has the background:

The Republican candidates for president are likely to find themselves in the middle of an intraparty feud over Social Security as they take the stage in Tampa, Fla., on Monday night for another nationally televised debate.

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, has sparked a high-stakes political fight over Social Security by calling the popular retirement program a "failure" and a "Ponzi scheme" on the campaign trail and in his recent book.

And his rivals have pounced.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, warned during a debate last week that the Republican Party should nominate someone "who isn't committed to abolishing Social Security, but who is committed to saving Social Security."

7.01pm ET: There was a boost for Rick Perry before tonight's debate: the news that Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal – still a rising star in the modern Republican party, despite being overshadowed recently – has endorsed Perry's bid for the nomination.

That rather trumps Mitt Romney's big news earlier today that one-time presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty – who pulled out before the race had barely begun – is now backing him.

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