Come! Hang out here. My son John is live-blogging too. He's great at this, so check him out.
7:04 — Somehow, CNN is incorporating the Tea Party. We'll see how that works.
7:06 — Thumping music. And everyone's in a black suit tonight. Kind of scary... but finally a lady! It's Michele Bachmann, in a red jacket. For a while there, I thought it was going to turn into a boxing match.
7:07 — WTF? The National Anthem precedes a debate? This is making me want to switch over to the Brewers game. Is CNN all hot to prove it's patriotic? Ridiculous!
7:09 — Santorum and Romney mouth the anthem. Perry looks staunchly patriotic. This is soooo cheeseball. The singer goes all angry-face. Freeeeeeeeeee! Yikes. Give me a break. CNN has set this up to repel us.
7:12 — Introductory statements. Blah.
7:15 — "President Obama stole over $500 from Medicare for Obamacare" — says Bachmann.
7:16 — Perry assures the oldies they'll have Social Security. But "this is a broken system" — and lots of other people have called it a Ponzi scheme.
7:18 — Mitt Romney challenges Perry for saying SS shouldn't even be a federal matter, that it's unconstitutional. Does Perry want to retreat from that? Perry does retreat, saying we mainly need to "have a conversation" about it. Romney pushes him again and asserts it's "an essential program." Perry hits him back with his own statement, that it's criminal. The audience is so supportive of Perry, cheering every Perry jab.
7:20 — I think CNN's scheme is to have packed the audience with the Tea Party faithful, making it a cheering section for Rick Perry. It's a bit irritating. I think Mitt knows what's happening, and he has a great opportunity to show that he can keep his bearings.
7:31 — Funny how no one will take away the seniors' drug benefit. Even Paul. "We shouldn't have voted for it..." but we can't cut it.
7:40 — The American economy will "take off like a rocket ship" if you let small business folk get a return on their investment, says Romney. Pushed by Blitzer, Perry blurts out a slogan: "People are tired of spending money we don't have on programs we don't want."
7:43 — Romney says there are 7 things we need to do. He's counting them off. Are we going to be tested on this?
7:45 — "If you're dealt 4 aces, that doesn't necessarily make you a great poker player," quips Romney, asked how much credit Perry deserves for all his accomplishments in Texas. Apparently, Texas is the 4 aces. He ticks off 4 attributes of Texas. This could be an amusing Romney tic: numbered lists.
7:46 — Perry has some nicely Reaganesque speech cadences. Works well to make Romney seem rabbit-y.
7:48 — "There are people comin' to Texas — for 5 years in a row, the number 1 destination — they're not comin' because we're overtaxing them. They're comin' to Texas because they know there's still a land of freedom in America, freedom from overtaxation, freedom from overlitigation, and freedom from overregulation, and it's called Texas. We need to do the same thing for America." Well spoken! By Rick Perry.
7:50 — Huntsman says, no, it's Utah that is the best state of all.
7:59 — Bachmann wants to put the Federal Reserve on "such at tight leash that they will squeak."
8:00 — Perry stands by his "almost treasonous" remark, referring to the use of the Federal Reserve for political purposes. Think that's inflammatory? I don't. I think it's rather bland. And I love the total unrufflability of Perry. He seems so happy too, even as he represents viewpoints normally considered angry. I like his temperament. I think. Or is it a little odd?
8:01 —A young guys asks a classic question: "Out of every dollar that I earn, how much do you think I deserve to keep?"
8:13 — Very intense disagreement over inoculating schoolgirls against cervical cancer. Bachmann, Perry, and Santorum all sounded strong, even as Perry had to concede he's made a mistake. Bachmann accuses Perry of being bought for $5,000 and Perry says he's insulted that she'd think he could be bought so cheaply.
8:15 — John writes: "Perry keeps defending his HPV vaccination law by saying, 'My goal was to fight cancer,' and 'I will always err on the side of life.' Isn't that exactly the same principle used by supporters of government-sponsored health care, which Perry presumably thinks is tyrannical?"
8:22 — Michele Bachmann is on fire: "2012 is it. This is the election that's going to decide if we have socialized medicine in this country or not."
8:34 — Huntsman accuses Perry of treason for saying we can't secure the border. And just before that, Perry got a lot of boos for defending the Texas law that lets young people in Texas illegally pay in-state tuition at public colleges.
8:35 — Romney takes a tough position on illegal immigration. "Of course we build a fence."
8:51 — What would you bring to the White House? Perry says, "the most beautiful, most thoughtful, incredible First Lady that this country has ever seen — Anita." That seems to overshadow the ones that went before, making it hard for Romney, who follows, not to promote his wife, but Romney does well, saying he'd bring back the bust of Winston Churchill.
8:52 — Huntsman will bring his Harley Davidson. Does he win the quien-es-mas-macho game?
9:00 — So... what did you think? Ron Paul empathizing with al Qaeda was a bit... off. Perry lost some ground with the rowdy crowd by empathizing with undocumented aliens. Huntsman and Bachmann were feisty. Perry was solid and articulate. Romney was fine. Cain, Santorum, Newt... they got their statements in well enough, but I can't see them as serious contenders.