I'm not live-blogging (nor is John tonight), but I'm watching and very interested in how they will talk about the death of Antonin Scalia.
Please comment. I'll drop in if I can (and if not, will say a few things tomorrow).
ADDED: The first question was about the vacancy left by Justice Scalia, and all of the candidates were called upon to address whether President Obama deserves to have control of the nomination. The moderator, John Dickerson, was heavy-handed enough pushing the idea of Obama's power and duty that the audience resorted to booing. As for the candidates, it was interesting. Each showed something of his personal style in addressing the question:
Trump: "If I were President now, I would certainly want to try and nominate a Justice, and I'm sure, frankly, I'm absolutely sure President Obama will try and do it." One powerful man thinking about himself, and identifying with another powerful man. It's a power game, and powerful men must play. And the powerful men in the Senate — "Mitch and the entire group" — must stop Obama. "It's called delay delay delay delay."
Kasich: If he were President, he says, we wouldn't have the divisions that make a Supreme Court nomination such a difficult ordeal. He bemoans the quick descent into politics. The President should think about nominating no one or nominating someone that everyone could agree upon. What a stark contrast to Trump.
Carson: He bemoans "divisiveness" and wants to "create some healing in this land." But we can't get that with Obama. He shouldn't be allowed to have an appointment.
Rubio: He plugs in prepared material: Scalia will go down in history as one of the great Justices, who understood the Constitution should be interpreted according to its original meaning. But, no, Obama should not have an appointment. "It's been over 80 years since a lame duck President has appointed a Supreme Court Justice." This election is important he says, because "Someone on this state will get to choose the balance of the Supreme Court, and it will begin by filling this vacancy that's there now." He assumes the Republican candidate will win, for some reason (or is he just misspeaking?).
Bush: He's asked to address the way Republican Presidents have chosen Justices who've turned out not to be so conservative. Would he have a "litmus test"? Bush sensibly says he wouldn't have a litmus test on particular issues (like the way Bernie Sanders says he will (the nominee must commit to overruling Citizens United)), but he'd want someone with "a proven record." Bush acknowledges that a proven record makes it hard to get the person through the Senate confirmation, but he thinks it's possible to find a person who is "a lover of liberty" and "believes in limited government." Of course, liberal judges can sign on to those abstractions. The difficulty lies at a more particular level where if a conservative President seeks more assurance, the Senate will have its ammunition to defeat the nominee. I'm sure Bush knows that. His task here is to convince voters that he's the man to put in the position of President. Whether he'll be successful in getting real conservatives on the Court (or in anything else) is a matter to struggle over at some later date. Bush says the President has to "fight and fight and fight" for that nomination. He stresses that the President does get his choice: "I'm an Article II guy... We're running for the President of the United States. We want a strong executive, for sure." Okay... but that's kind of making Obama's argument for him? No, he pivots away from that. In return for the power Article II gives the President, the President ought to have to pick a consensus nominee, and "there's no doubt" that Obama won't do that.
Cruz is up next, last, but Dickerson can't hold back from inserting the constitutional opinion he hasn't been able to drag out of anyone yet: "The Constitution says the President shall appoint with advice and consent from the Senate, just to clear that up, so he has the constitutional power." Dickerson sounds very agitated. It's weirdly unmoderator-like. He then invites Ted Cruz to talk about the time line: When should the President exercise this power?
Cruz: Cruz repeats the talking point Rubio already dished up, except that Cruz says it wrong: "We have 80 years of precedent of not confirming Supreme Court Justices in an election year." Dickerson interrupts him with an apt correction: Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in an election year, 1988. Cruz has to scramble: Kennedy was nominated before the election year, in 1987. That's an awkward beginning. Dickerson says, "I just wanted to get the facts straight," and gets some serious booing from the audience. Cruz proceeds to extol Justice Scalia: "He changed the arc of American legal history." But it shows how important this vacancy is: "We're one Justice away" from a ruling that would take away the individual right to bear arms and that would "undermine the religious liberty of millions of Americans." (I note that Justice Scalia wrote the opinion that narrowed the meaning of the Free Exercise Clause.) So: "Who on this stage has the background, the principle, the character, the judgment, and the strength of resolve to nominate and confirm principled constitutionalists to the Court?"