GOP Debate Liveblogging

The first Republican party debate of the 2008 is set to begin in about 15 minutes. Right now on MSNBC, which the debate will be shown on, the most vicious partisan hack on television, Keith Olbermann, is doing a pre-debate show.

Quickly, all the candidates have a to do list for tonight. The differences in their list are based on their position in the national and early state polls and how well known they are nationally. Rudy Guiliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney need to show that they actually have principles that actually don’t change with the latest poll and/or election. Sam Brownback needs to show that he has more issues than banning gay marriage and abortion. Mike Huckabee needs to demonstrate that he is actually a fiscal conservative. Duncan Hunter needs to actually connect with Republican voters. Tom Tancredo needs to show that he has more issues than stopping illegal immigration. Ron Paul needs to increase his profile with actual Republican voters and actually address issues the Republican base cares about. Tommy Thompson and Jim Gilmore both desperately need a Mike Gravel moment.

Tonight will also be a factor as to whether or not men like Fred Thompson, Newt Gingrich, and Chuck Hagel will get into the presidential race.

6:58 PM (all times in Central): Expect no major fireworks tonight. Everyone’s going to be on their best behavior, according to one of the MSNBC hacks, because Nancy Reagan is in the audience.

7:00 PM: Let the games begin.

7:02 PM: Ron Paul will accomplish part of he needs to do tonight, just by where he’s placed; between John McCain and Rudy Guiliani.

7:03 PM: Candidates not allowed to bring in notes; this will be interesting.

7:03 PM: Guiliani is citing his record in New York, comparing himself to Reagan by claiming he turned New York City around. He’s making an appeal to strength.

7:04 PM: McCain on Iraq; basically he’s saying he needs to show success in Iraq and continuing to fight. He’s attacking Harry Reid and he’s giving the worst case scenario. He says Bush is doing a heck of a job.

7:06 PM: Tommy Thompson is calling for al-Malaki’s Iraqi government to decide whether or not they want us there, calling for federalism, and sharing of the oil among the Iraqi people, national government, and state government. Not a bad plan.

7:07 PM: Duncan Hunter wants to build up the Iraqi Army.

7:08 PM: Mitt Romney doesn’t listen to the polls. Yeah right.

7:09 PM: Sam Brownback wants to stand up for our values and work with those who are with us in the War on Terror. We have the Jimmy Carter/Bill Clinton candidate in this race.

7:11 PM: Sam Brownback wants to engage the “moderate Muslim” states.

7:11 PM: Mike Huckabee would have fired Donald Rumsfeld before the 2006 election. He’s accusing Bush of not listening to the generals. I’m guessing he doesn’t read polls either.

7:12 PM: Jim Gilmore is dodging a question about whether or not a shakeup in the Bush cabinet would be a good thing. He’s giving a stump speech about the Middle East.

7:13 PM: Ron Paul is talking about a non-interventionist foreign policy. He’s discussing how Republicans have traditionally run on it. Although I wouldn’t have cited Nixon as an example. He’s bashing the UN. He knows his audience.

7:15 PM: John McCain, “Iran is a bad country, but I’m not sure what I would do about it”. Will bomb Iran on behalf of Israel though if they get a nuke.

7:17 PM: Tom Tancredo addressing something other than immigration. Will aid Israel if Iran threatens them.

7:20 PM: Mitt Romney will move heaven and earth after all to get Bin Laden. He’s actually describing the real enemy, Islamofascism in general.

7:18 PM: Rudy Guiliani citing Ronald Reagan again. Saying Iranians must see Ronald Reagan.

7:19 PM: Jim Gilmore babbling about how we need to catch Bin Laden.

7:21 PM: John McCain asked whether or not Tom Tancredo should be head of ICE. McCain says no. Now making a speech about he’ll capture Bin Laden.

7:22 PM: This stupid question from Chris Matthews about changing the constitution to allow foreigners to run for president. Comment of note: Ron Paul tries to be funny but fails with a joke about original intent.

7:24 PM: Rudy Guiliani in response to a question about his record concerning African-Americans in New York City touts his record….again.

7:24 PM: Mitt Romney asked what he hates about America. Turns it into what he likes about the American people and cites Reagan. Not bad.

7:25 PM: Mike Huckabee got a question about global warming. He dodges it with a speech about how we need to leave the planet in better shape than we got it.

7:26 PM: Tom Tancredo says government should not be involved in organ donation supply. He makes a speech against cloning.

7:27 PM: Duncan Hunter calls himself a compassionate conservative. Calls for war against Iran. Scratch another one off the list.

7:28 PM: Ron Paul will end the IRS and he’s calling for smaller government….a dramatically smaller government.

7:29 PM: Guiliani tries to take both sides of Roe vs Wade. Every other Republican is against it.

7:30 PM: Jim Gilmore is a pro-lifer, except in the first trimester.

7:30 PM: Tommy Thompson wants abortion decided by states.

7:31 PM: Mitt Romney asked about his flip-flopping on abortion. He studied it at great length…trust him.

7:32 PM: Sam Brownback will support pro-choice court nominees. He likes a big tent.

7:33 PM: Rudy Guiliani flip-flops (again) on taxpayer funding on abortion. He’s against it tonight.

7:34 PM: John McCain is using his experience as an asset. Vote for him, he’s a career politician.

7:35 PM: Duncan Hunter is now touting his membership on House Armed Services Committee. Playing the China card.

7:35 PM: Mike Huckabee says America is a great nation because the people are great, not the government. Unfortunately is record says the opposite. The most important issue is life.

7:36 PM: Ron Paul says the freedom message unifies all conservatives. Says we’re too concerned about nations with no army, no navy, or air force after we stand up to the Soviets.

7:38 PM: Mitt Romney doesn’t care who Catholics give communion to.

7:38 PM: Tommy Thompson says companies should make their own decisions on hiring and firing of gays. Imagine that.

7:39 PM: Mike Huckabee says his faith impacts his decision making process. Dodges the question about him attacking Romney on that issue.

7:40 PM: If Mitt Romney had core principles, I could like him. He turned Huckabee’s attack into a positive thing.

7:41 PM: Sam Brownback says faith is important to this country.

7:42 PM: Duncan Hunter says the key to winning is building a wall on the Mexican border. Yep, that worked last year.

7:43 PM: Jim Gilmore dodges question about Karl Rove. It was a stupid question and he’s turning against Chris Matthews and getting out his stump speech.

7:44 PM: Tom Tancredo will fire Karl Rove. They hate each other. He’s playing the outsider.

7:44 PM: Rudy Guiliani says Christian conservatives are nice, but we need to reach out. He’s a conservative, trust him.

7:45 PM: Tommy Thompson “I’m really a conservative”. My response, Medicare Part D.

7:46 PM: Sam Brownback “Democrats are corrupt too”. We need more morals and to rebuild the family to prevent government corruption. He will lead by example…a bold new idea for a government official.

7:47 PM: Tom Tancredo “a conservative can be elected president”. He calls Guiliani an opportunist.

7:48 PM: John McCain is ranting about the “special interests”. Republicans spent too much.

7:49 PM: John McCain wants a line-item veto. He wants to stop the pork in defense acquisitions. Sites the DDX program. Programs must justify their existence. My pick if he didn’t support McCain-Feingold.

7:51 PM: Mike Huckabee won’t grade Bush on Iraq.

7:51 PM: Mitt Romney says he’s the real pro-lifer. Attacks McCain-Feingold.

7:52 PM: Rudy Guiliani is “personally pro-life”.

7:53 PM: Tommy Thompson wants to unite the country to end racism.

7:53 PM: Tom Tancredo clears it up, he is the single issue anti-immigrant candidate in this race.

7:55 PM: John McCain is working on an immigration bill. Bush likes his bill.

7:55 PM: Duncan Hunter did not watch Al Gore’s movie, but he wants to solve global warming and be energy independent.

7:56 PM: Ron Paul when asked about when he made a critical decision in a crisis, says nothing. He attacks the Iraq War, again. He’s coming off as too angry.

7:57 PM: Jim Gilmore does his best with a stupid question about unwed mothers in jail. Reminds everyone that he was governor during 9/11.

7:58 PM: Mitt Romney is doing very well tonight. He’s making stem cell research seem interesting.

7:59 PM: Sam Brownback is against embryonic stem cell research.

7:59 PM: All candidates except Tommy Thompson, John McCain, and Rudy Guiliani are against embryonic stem cell research. Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul make federalist arguments against it.

8:01 PM: Mitt Romney likes RomneyCare. Touts it as a free market program, the facts say otherwise.

8:03 PM: John McCain called on his flip-flopping on the Bush tax cuts. He says he opposed it because there were no spending cuts.

8:03 PM: Mitt Romney thinks middle-income Americans should have 0% taxes on capital gains.

8:04 PM: Sam Brownback likes an optional flat tax.

8:04 PM: Jim Gilmore wants to kill the AMT.

8:04 PM: Mike Huckabee supports the FairTax. Still don’t trust him.

8:05 PM: Duncan Hunter wants to keep jobs in America. It’s the damn foreigners. He likes Kerry’s plan to stop outsourcing.

8:05 PM: Tommy Thompson wants to kill AMT and a flat tax.

8:06 PM: John McCain, no AMT and a $3,000 tax credit for health insurance. A flatter, fairer tax.

8:06 PM: Ron Paul, get rid of income tax. Get rid of inflation tax. No one knows what he’s talking about.

8:07 PM: Rudy Guiliani, keep Bush tax cuts with minor cuts.

8:08 PM: Tom Tancredo, FairTax plus killing the 16th Amendment. Wants spending reforms. If he wasn’t the single issue candidate, I would like him.

8:08 PM: John McCain, I like Democrats but I can’t name any.

8:09 PM: Duncan Hunter, government kills very well; but can’t secure the border.

8:10 PM: John McCain believes in evolution. Another irrelevant question.

8:10 PM: Mitt Romney wants an entirely new team. Very good answer.

8:12 PM: Rudy Guiliani knows the difference between Sunnis and Shias.

8:12 PM: Mike Huckabee is the consistent conservative, except for flip-flopping on taxes and immigration.

8:13 PM: Ron Paul likes the Internet. Turns a stupid question about the lamestream media into a good argument about freedom.

8:13 PM: Sam Brownback says faith is an influence on his foreign policy views. He likes a compassionate foreign policy. Again, Jimmy Carter likes him.

8:14 PM: Rudy Guiliani won’t admit any weaknesses, very smart.

8:15 PM: Sam Brownback is being the nice guy, very smart.

8:15 PM: Jim Gilmore wants to fight outsourcing. So far, we have Hunter, Paul, Gilmore, and Tancredo fighting to be the heir to Buchanan.

8:16 PM: Tom Tancredo likes women, but he’s against abortion.

8:17 PM: Tommy Thompson doesn’t know how many have died or been wounded in Iraq. Another stupid question.

8:17 PM: Rudy Guiliani supports national IDs. If I’m understanding him correctly, it’s only for immigrants.

8:18 PM: Mitt Romney touts Salt Lake City Olympics as his security experience. Supports ID for immigrants.

8:19 PM: Sam Brownback let it slip, Social Security numbers are a National ID.

8:19 PM: John McCain is against hiring illegal aliens.

8:19 PM: Ron Paul is passionately against a national ID.

8:20 PM: Tom Tancredo is also against a National ID, cites Dr. Paul in his reasons.

8:20 PM: Mitt Romney is against the prosecution of Scooter Libby.

8:21 PM: Sam Brownback dodges the question. But feels Libby was railroaded.

8:21 PM: Jim Gilmore also dodges the question.

8:22 PM: Tom Tancredo wants to pardon Scooter Libby after the two Border Patrol agents are pardoned.

8:23 PM: Ron Paul supports jailing Libby, it appears based on his role in the Iraq War leadup.

8:23 PM: Mitt Romney, all sides were right, except for Congress, on Terry Schiavo.

8:24 PM: Sam Brownback supports Congressional action on Terry Schiavo.

8:24 PM: John McCain, Congress should have taken more time.

8:24 PM: Rudy Guiliani, courts should have settled the issue.

8:25 PM: The Republicans are against Bill Clinton’s third term and Hillary too.

8:26 PM: Duncan Hunter says Congress did the right thing on Terry Schiavo.

8:26 PM: Tommy Thompson says no National ID, Congress wrong on Schiavo, and Clinton and all Democrats suck.

8:28 PM: Mitt Romney is his own man, respects Bush’s character, and agrees with the War on Terror.

8:29 PM: John McCain would not have mismanaged the war, vetoed a spending bill.

8:29 PM: Jim Gilmore talks about Homeland Security, not sure what’s he’s saying.

8:29 PM: Mike Huckabee supports federalism.

8:30 PM: Duncan Hunter wants to protect industrial jobs from the evil Chinese.

8:30 PM: Sam Brownback wants to create a Swiss-style federation in Iraq.

8:30 PM: Tom Tancredo is slamming Bush on spending, overreach, and was saying something on Iraq.

8:31 PM: Tommy Thompson is repudiating BushCare, touts his Iraq plan, and wants more Fulbright scholarships.

8:32 PM: Rudy Guiliani wants to change nothing.

8:32 PM: Ron Paul attacks Bush on foreign policy and civil liberties.

Debate is over.

Debate Wrap-up:

Overall, not as bad as I thought it would be. They did jab at each other and candidates did go off the script.

As for who did well, I believe several candidates did well. Mitt Romney had a great night and he did very well. John McCain was more like his candidacy in 2000 as the maverick. Tom Tancredo, despite his best efforts, showed he was more than just a single issue candidate. Mike Huckabee is not only answering criticisms about his fiscal record in Arkansas, but is outlining some bold fiscally-conservative positions.

As for everyone else:

Sam Brownback failed to gain traction on anything other than abortion; except for his rhetoric about a political solution on Iraq. Funny thing is, he doesn’t give what his political solution is.

Ron Paul came off as too angry, but once you got past that, you tell he has very reasoned arguments for his positions. He also needs to start discussing issues other than the Iraq War or he’ll fall into the single issue trap that Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, and now Duncan Hunter are falling into.

Jim Gilmore came off as an empty suit with no issue ideas or serious accomplishments. He talked more about Virginia’s car tax than the Federal tax system. He’ll be out by Iowa.

Tommy Thompson has many great ideas, but he needs to work on his technique as Brad points out in the comments

Rudy Guiliani under performed and came off as too much of an authoritarian. I think after tonight we can drop the “Rudy is a libertarian leaner” meme.

Finally, Duncan Hunter was too much of a protectionist and a big government conservative. He just guaranteed that he won’t receive the Club For Growth endorsement.

The next debate and probable live blog will be May 15 when the Republicans debate again.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
  • Brad Warbiany

    Tommy Thompson looked stiff and unnatural up there. While his plan might be decent, he has about as much charisma as John Kerry…

  • Brad Warbiany

    McCain on Congress: “Work for you and not for their reelection.”

    Yeah, then why did you create the Bipartisan Incumbent Protection Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2003?

  • trumpetbob15

    Dr. Paul has an edge in this debate simply because he sounds different. However, how many Republicans are actually watching?

  • Brad Warbiany

    Ron Paul is pushing the foreign policy aspect too hard. He turned the IRS question into that, he turned the Goldwater Libertarianism question into that. He needs to move on.

  • Brad Warbiany

    Did Romney just take a big shot at McCain-Feingold? Nice!

  • Brad Warbiany

    These viewer-supplied questions really suck.

  • trumpetbob15


    I looked up the questions. The choices are horrible. No wonder the questions suck.

  • Brad Warbiany

    Huckabee for the FairTax? Interesting…

  • trumpetbob15

    Is it just me, or does McCain remind you of Bush with his mannerisms?

  • Brad Warbiany

    Paul had a good response to taxation… Not a single other person mentioned inflation, and I think as Americans are watching prices rise, that might play well.

  • Brad Warbiany

    What’s next, is Giuliani going to start wearing one of those Halloween Reagan masks?

  • trumpetbob15

    Dr. Paul’s answer has to have been the best.

  • Rock Howard

    Thanks for doing that so I didn’t have to watch!

  • Stephen Littau

    Great job on the live blog Kevin! I was very glad to see Ron Paul in this debate though I would still have a hard time supporting him based on his surrender solution for Iraq.

    It seemed like they were saying alot of the right things such as government spending…the question of course is which ones whould deliver? They also said a bunch of things which prove the G.O.P. is not the party of limited government.

    If not for McCain-Fiengold I would give McCain some serious consideration based on his approach to government spending. I couldn’t help but cheer when he brought up how he would veto the pork and force government programs to justify themselves (his record shows that he’s not all talk on this issue).

    The only thing I am for sure decided on is that I cannot support Sen. Brownback under any circumstances. I was also bothered by how often the canidates said they would ‘strengthen the family’. How do they propose to do this? Does anyone know?

  • Stephen Littau

    Oh yeah, we could have made a great drinking game for every time they envoked the name of Ronald Reagan…probably would have even made Sam Brownback fun to listen to.

  • Kevin

    Huckabee for the FairTax? Interesting…

    Inoculation from further criticism by the Club for Growth.

    BTW: Jim Gilmore is actually doing better on the post-debate wrap up than he did during the debate.

  • trumpetbob15

    I will add my thanks Kevin. I don’t know how much I learned from this debate (with the exceptions of seeing Tancredo speak about something other than illegal immigration and figuring out who some of the other guys actually were). My problem with this debate was that the questions were pretty worthless. I much would have preferred seeing actual conservatives or libertarians asking questions about issues. Then again, there might be a few candidates who wouldn’t want that system. Chris Matthews also would not be my choice as moderator since some of the dumb questions came from him. The Bill Clinton in the White House question? Was that supposed to be a joke or an easy question? Then again, we did get to see which candidates can handle stupid questions in an effective manner so there is that.

  • Kevin

    I was very glad to see Ron Paul in this debate though I would still have a hard time supporting him based on his surrender solution for Iraq.

    I’m looking for an alternative to Ron Paul. He’s too much of a Big “L” libertarian, fringe candidiate. Right now; Tom Tancredo, Tommy Thompson, and even Mitt Romney are possibilities.

    It seemed like they were saying alot of the right things such as government spending…the question of course is which ones whould deliver?

    See above, plus Ron Paul. Sam Brownback also has a decent record on spending.

    If not for McCain-Fiengold I would give McCain some serious consideration based on his approach to government spending. I couldn’t help but cheer when he brought up how he would veto the pork and force government programs to justify themselves (his record shows that he’s not all talk on this issue).


    I was also bothered by how often the canidates said they would ’strengthen the family’. How do they propose to do this? Does anyone know?

    Hopefully, through libertarian means like the old Goldwater-Reagan fusionists.

  • Kevin

    Chris Matthews also would not be my choice as moderator since some of the dumb questions came from him.

    On May 15, Brit Hume will be asking the questions. He will do a much better job than Chris Matthews.

  • Stephen Littau

    “Hopefully, through libertarian means like the old Goldwater-Reagan fusionists.”

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by that Kevin.

  • Kevin

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by that Kevin.

    Copy the link into the address bar.

  • Adam

    Overall, I think Mitt Romney had a good night. You may not agree with him, but he looks and acts presidential. Unfortunately, that tricks people into thinking charasmatic people can be president (think Obama here). Anyway, I like Romney.

    Guiliani came off as the liberal he is, at least socially. Then McCain wanted to “reach out.” That lost any general election vote right there.

    The other guys were so-so. Gilmore performed well, and others like Tancredo just looked confused.

    I have great respect for Ron Paul and he should be treasury secretary.

  • Michael Hampton

    Put 300 Ron Pauls in Congress and the country has a shot at being free again.

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