I'm actually noticing in time to watch. These things are so elusive. And it was not easy to figure out the time and channel. But I have ascertained that it is on FoxNews at 9 ET. So maybe I'll be simulblogging (AKA "liveblogging"). Haven't done that in a while. Fred won't be on. He's oozing into the competition via Leno later tonight. How absurd.
9:02. Wow. I haven't done this in so long! Don't expect me to be as detailed as in the past. This will be done in real time and will contain... whatever the hell I'm in the mood to type.
9:04. The first question is about Fred Thompson. Was he smarter than you guys? Brit Hume asks. You've been dragging yourselves around on the campaign, and this guy comes waltzing up now and gets to be in second place. Brit is basically taunting them, but he's giving them a chance to take a shot at Fred. They get to portray themselves as hardworking, close to the people, and generous about accepting a new competitor. Giuliani is going for a balder look. And, going last, he also uses his time to take a shot at the Democrats: You have 3 leading Democratic candidates, none of whom have run a city, a state, or a business.
9:13. Immigration. Huckabee is pushed on his accusation that opposition to immigrants is, to some extent, racist. He acknowledges that statement and says: "If people are looking for a President with a mean spirit, I'm not their guy." After Huckabee, Ron Paul yells about "the rule. of. law." I'm appreciating Huckabee's mildness.
9:25. We've got to rebuild the family, says Sam Brownback. In fact, he says "family" about 20 times. Oh, they seem to be talking about Larry Craig. "When our guys have problems like this, they leave," says.... hmmm.... not sure who that is. [ADDED: It's Hunter. I'll never memorize his face.]
9:28. Abortion is "without question the taking of a human life," says Mitt Romney, but the rights of women matter too. Huckabee is invited to explain what Romney just said. He declines and speaks (mildly but firmly) about his state's human life amendment.
9:33. I can't stand Ron Paul. He's cantankerous. Anyway, before RP got cantankerous, Giuliani did a nice job of claiming superheroic powers to stop crime. They cut away to a restaurant to take statements from regular citizens. That's supposed to add texture to this scintillating event, apparently. But we're on our way to a long commercial break, so go get something to eat, because all you'll be missing is Sam Brownback going on about the decline of the family again.
9:42. Mitt dithers about Iraq, and McCain follows on with "The surge is working. The surge is working." He makes a strong statement on Iraq and gets good applause. Chris Wallace asks Ron Paul about the bloodbath that would follow the withdrawal of troops. RP says those who are saying "bloodbath" are the same people who said all sorts of other wrong things about the Middle East. We ought to get out and mind our own business. Big cheers from the audience. We are invaders, violators of international law.
9:58. A man in the diner addresses Mitt Romney. How dare he compare his sons' working on the campaign to men serving in the war? Romney blandly says there's no comparison and moves on to his more general policy statement on the war. Stylistically, Romney is limited. He didn't reach out to that man. He just disqualified what the man said.
10:05. Giuliani again. Haven't seen much of him. He's asked about Guantanemo. He says we can't close it, because there is nowhere to send those detainees. No one will take them.
10:21. A polisci major in the restaurant wants to know what Guiliani thinks about "family values." He asks us to look at his real, public accomplishments, not his private life. He goes back to the subject of managing New York City.
10:27. Ron Paul is raving again. The subject is Iran. He seems to think the President has no power but must go asking Congress whether there's a threat to the United States. Tancredo: "We don't immediately use the button." Man, he sounds nervous. "Political correctness is going to kill us all." He really seems to be struggling. I feel a little bad for him. Not that bad though. Why is he wasting our time? Now, Huckabee is being very sensible -- and general -- about how seriously he would take the job of President. Well, I should think so. But he sounds like a giant among men after Paul and Tancredo. Giuliani invokes Reagan: He won the Cold War without firing a shot, but he aimed "like a thousand" missiles at the them. McCain has the last word.
10:39. Ah, it's over.
10:40. Here's what I think. Get Hunter, Paul, Tancredo, and Brownback out of there. Huckabee, McCain, and Giuliani are serious and have a lot to say. Sit them down at a table and let them talk to each other. With Fred. Gotta bring Fred in too now. Let's go into a new stage of the campaign. It's really wearing to sit through Paul's ravings and Tancredo's fumblings and Hunter's blahness and Brownback's family, family, family. Enough.
IN THE COMMENTS: It's pointed out that I left Mitt Romney out in that 10:40 final comment. I guess that means something...