1. Yes, I'll do it. And I'll do it without TiVo assistance. Going TiVo-less is not just to make me completely spontaneous. I don't want to get bogged down in it. Once I start pausing, I start feeling responsible for everything. But there will be a transcript later for that. And, dammit, I want the TiVo for "Survivor"!
2. I didn't realize there was a debate today until someone asked me this morning if I was going to watch it. Oh, no. I guess I am. But how many candidates? 8 for the Democrats was pretty annoying, though the 8th guy -- Gravel -- did provide some comic relief. I have to listen to 10 Republicans? 10! Who the hell are they? 10? Let's see there's Giuliani and McCain... uh.... and Tommy Thompson but not Fred Thompson... conversation about whether Tommy gets any boost in popularity by having the same name as the strangely longed-for non-candidate Fred... so, come on, you only got 3. There's 10! Where's my coffee? I can't believe you don't even remember Romney. Oh, yeah, Romney. How could I forget? Who else? A Senator from Kansas? A Senator from Kansas, really? Not Dole... Brownback! Oh, he's from Kansas. How perfectly boring. Huckabee. Oh, yeah, Huckabee. He used to be fat. Yikes, that's still only 6! Who are the other 4? And I'm committing to listening to them? Ron Paul. He might be amusing. Who else? I look it up: Jim Gilmore, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo. Oh, the pain.
3. The Reagan Library set is glossy, what with the reflection on the underside of Air Force One, suspended over the heads of the audience. So are you pouring a big glass of wine and planning to take a sip whenever anyone says "Reagan" and drain the glass if anyone says "I knew Ronald Reagan, and you're no blah blah blah"? Nancy Reagan is there, sitting with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The voiceover guys are gushing about how "regal" the setting is. Chris Matthews gives a snazzy introduction, brimming with enthusiasm for Reagan. Reagan Reagan Reagan. Agghh. Where's my wine glass?
4. Ooh, it's closed book. No notes allowed. The first question is about optimism (like Reagan's) and pessimism (shown in the current polls). Giuliani has one minute, and he leverages in statements about immigration, health care, and the war on terror. McCain is next. He stammers a bit but sounds very strong -- and angry at the congressional Democrats for cheering surrender in Iraq. Tommy Thompson looks awful, but he lays out a point-by-point political solution for Iraq. Mitt Romney looks great.
5. They're all asked if they'd amend the Constitution to let Arnold Schwarzenegger run for President. Nearly all of them say no. Right to his face. Take that. Now, we're getting some questions submitted and voted on through Politico.com. That's a nice touch. What does Romney dislike most about America? He just acts like the question is: What do you love about America?
6. Values! In other words: abortion. Okay to "repeal" Roe v. Wade? All must answer. All say yes, with different levels of passion. Giuliani says it's okay to "repeal" it, but it would also be okay for a "strict constructionist" judge to uphold it based on stare decisis. Romney is confronted about his change of mind on abortion rights, and he clearly says he changed his mind. Wasn't that purely political? He denies it and ties his change of mind to thinking about cloning. I don't believe that.
7. McCain: "I know there's good and evil in the world. I've seen it."
8. Can a business fire an employee because he's gay? Tommy: yes.
9. Romney is asked about religion, and he is speaking very well about it. Matthews keeps asking the question about whether religious faith has any relevance to the presidential race. The right answer here is rather obvious, and I think everyone on the stage knows what it is. A person's religious faith gives rise to values that matter in public life, but which religion it is doesn't matter and we shouldn't argue about that. It's really just a matter of saying that in a clear and inspiring way: America is great because of our religious tolerance, etc.
10. Halfway into this, I'd say the person making the most headway is Romney.
11. Romney takes a shot at the McCain-Feingold Act in the middle of an answer about abortion. He's referring to the effect of the Act on issues ads close to the election (something that is before the Court in the Wisconsin Right to Life case argued last week).
12. Stem cells. Tommy Thompson talks about the research going on at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. That appealed to me.
13. Wow! Romney on health care! I have no idea if his policy is good. I'll have to read about it. But his form of expression was great here.
14. Tax. It's very hard to compare tax policies on the fly. Thompson struck me with his idea of dealing with the AMT by giving people the option of a flat tax: you get whichever is lower. He brags about all the vetoing he did as governor of Wisconsin and acts like he could bring that vetoing style to the White House. But Wisconsin has an extremely strong veto power. You can't do that in the White House.
15. A yes-or-no question: Do you believe in evolution? It looks like 3 of them raised their hands on no, but I didn't quite catch who.
16. Gilmore is asked a question and I realize he's made no impression on me so far.
17. Brownback is too conservative for me, but I give him credit for speaking well. He's a good voice for his position, not that I want it to succeed. "This is a set of quality candidates" he says, when asked what he doesn't like about Giuliani. I like that he doesn't take a shot at Rudy. Clearly, the two men have very different positions. People can see that, and it's cool of Brownback to be magnanimous about it.
18. Giuliani seems natural and good-humored. I think he's showing what he is in an attractive way. A moment ago he was asked the sort of pop-quiz question that isn't at all about trying to find out what his policies are: explain the difference between Shiites and Sunnis. He does it exactly right. Later, Thompson gets a question like that: How many Americans have died in the Iraq war? I don't like this sort of smart-ass question, especially when only some of them get hit with one. The idea is to see if they'll screw up. There's nothing to be learned in a positive way. Let's just see if this guy is clueless.
19. Guy! They're all guys! It just hit me. They're all white too. Should be a question on that.
20. National ID card. McCain's all for it. Ron Paul lights on fire: ID cards are eeevvviiilllll.
21. Romney lights into Patrick Fitzgerald and the way he went after Scooter Libby. I like the way Romney is cool and controlled but gets passionate -- in a controlled way -- when it goes with his issue. Or do you think he's too slick? I think he's doing well. He's seems ready to play the role of candidate. Republicans ought to want to take advantage of that.
22. I confess to being moved to tears by Brownback talking about the sacredness of Terri Schiavo's life (even though I disagreed with what the Congress did). I'm impressed by the way this man believes what he believes and expresses this. But, of course, it would be a terrible mistake to make him the candidate.
23. Hey, Chris Matthews is doing a great job. He's keeping it lively, without seeming like he's lording his power over them. He's making it seem like fun, when it can't be fun. Nice going.
24. Closing statements. Jabbery details. Moving too fast. Okay. Time up. Stop already.
25. Giuliani uses his time to compliment the President, giving him credit for the lack of additional terrorist attacks after 9/11. He distinguishes himself in the group by going positive here.
26. In the after show hubbub, we see Romney getting into a photogenic encounter with Nancy Reagan.
27. The commentators. They're going to go on for another 90 minutes. Wow. Who will listen?
28. Glenn Reynolds has a good collection of links to other "live-blogging." I can't bring myself to use that term when I'm not there in the room. He includes a link to me, which is nice, and characterizes me as blogging "from her very own perspective." Well, yeah. What are other people doing?