But, first, the national anthem. I've never seen a debate begin like that.
UPDATE #1: McCain recirculates the same phrases over and over. I was a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution. And the candidates all seem to be in a competition to say "Reagan" as often as possible.
UPDATE #2: Fred Thompson finally showed some vigor and got a big cheer — for lighting into Huckabee.
UPDATE #3: Ron Paul is asked about his supporters who believe in the 9/11 conspiracy. He says he doesn't believe it which is all that's important, and when pressed to tell his supporters to abandon it, he gets a little pissed and says "Please, can I participate in the current debate?"
UPDATE #4: Huckabee talks tough: Just try to attack us, and the next thing you'll see will be the Gates of Hell. That gets a big cheer.
UPDATE #5: Thompson tries to top Huckabee by saying they'll be "introduced to those virgins they're lookin' forward to seeing." (I've noticed Thompson doesn't take religion seriously. He jokes about it, acting as if the "virgins" belief is true. And in last Saturday's debate, he razzed Huckabee for saying he tried to get rid of death -- when he was a preacher. Thompson was all: Didn't work out too well, did it?)
UPDATE #6: McCain looks terribly pleased after he smacks down Giuliani over Iraq. (Giuliani tried to correct him by saying that he too supported the surge, but McCain's point was that he was the only one who was critical of the Rumsfeld strategy and in support of the surge.)
UPDATE #7: Thompson: "You can tell that the news is good coming out of Iraq because you read so little about it in the New York Times."
UPDATE #8: Romney is going to "move the world of Islam" into modernity. Romney makes a lot of hand gestures, here and elsewhere, demonstrating how he's going to manipulate and reshape everything. I have no idea if he can do this — I tend to doubt it — but I believe him when he says — as he often does — that he fixed the Olympics. Later, he tells us he's going to take Washington apart and put it back together again. It sounds very dramatic, and he makes those hand gestures, so... who knows?
UPDATE #9: Thompson seems to have gotten the message that he can't be lethargic. Finally.
UPDATE #10: Huckabee, asked about his support for the religious proposition that wives must submit to their husbands, says: "It has nothing to do with the presidency — I just wanted to clear up that little doctrinal quirk." And he clears it up well. Wives are to submit to their husbands, but husbands must submit to their wives. God wants both to give 100%. And so Huckabee was good natured about getting probed about religion and he got to make a strong statement in support of marriage, which thrills the crowd and — like he said — has nothing to do with the presidency.
UPDATE #11: Now, the debate's over, and we've got Frank Luntz and his focus group. I love this part. Wow! They overwhelmingly think Fred Thompson won.
UPDATE #12: The focus group loved the Thompson humor. But a couple of the women think he was "flippant." They name the loser too: Ron Paul.