And we begin with Rick Perry touting his record in Texas. He says 95% of all jobs he's created have been above minimum wage.
Romney's first question deals with his own jobs record. It's dismal. Romney is somehow trying to defend it and says he's created more jobs in Massachusetts than Obama has created in the entire nation. He's got a tiny jab at "career politicians" in his response. Romney touts his economic chops while jabbing career politicians.
Perry's rebuts with a criticism of Romney's jobs record; Romney's rebuttal of Perry's rebuttal explains the differences between Texas and his own state.
It's the Perry/Romney show. They've both done their homework and come out firing.
7:15: Herman Cain has the first laugh line with his 9-9-9 plan on taxes. "If 10% is good enough for God, 9% should be good enough for the federal government!"
And they're all firing at Perry. Huntsman touts his own jobs record in Utah. He also touts his "world" experience. "I've lived overseas four times..." and can speak Chinese.
Bachmann's first spiel has to do with Obamacare killing jobs and her experience as a foster mom. "Kids need jobs."
7:20: Ron Paul. Who does he sound like? Some cartoon character but I can't put my finger on it.
Fed Up! He's not interested in plugging the book right now (though he wrote the forward). He wants, instead, to talk about more serious issues. Newt jabs Obama and says "he's so committed to class warfare" that he can't possibly be interested in forming jobs. Applause.
Gotta love live TV; the clip of Romney they had cued up doesn't work.
The question is about Romneycare and the individual mandate. Romney says, "I understand health care pretty darned well...." and promises an executive order on Day One to grant waivers from Obamacare. He beats Perry to the punch who said in South Carolina that on day one he would issue an executive order repealing as much of ObamaCare as he could.
Perry's response is that Medicaid needs to be "block granted" back to the states and says the federal government needs to get out of the way. This seems to be his answer to everything. He's got to do better than that. And Perry gets to deliver his Executive Order line on wiping out ObamaCare.
Moderators want to know why so many in TX are un-insured. Perry doesn't exactly answer as best I can tell. He dodges.
Why is Jon Huntsman orange?
7:30: Bachmann is dying to get into this. "Obamacare took over 1/6th of the American economy" she says and insists than an executive order is pretty much meaningless. "It will take a very strong leader," she says. She is correct that if we fail to repeal Obamacare in 2012 "it will be with us forever."
Newt: "I'm not interested in your effort to get Republicans fighting each other." Amen.
Newt: "Every person up here understands Obamacare is a disaster." And he goes on to bash Obama other than other Republicans. Point to Newt. Amen! Newt says he will "repudiate every effort" by the media to pit Republicans against each other in order to protect Barack Obama. AMEN!!!
7:35: Ron Paul is digging around in his pockets while Herman Cain goes on about HillaryCare, ObamaCare and RomneyCare.
Perry: "The best thing we can do in this country for those who need help is create an economy where those who work hard" can take care of themselves.
Oh joy. Twitter questions. To Romney a question about gas prices. His response is to quit buying foreign oil. "We've got to develop our oil, our gas...our clean coal...". Yep we can have an impact, he says, but he won't promise $2.00 per gallon like Bachmann did. "He keeps talkin' about green jobs. Where are they?!"
Bachmann: "Energy is one of the greatest opportunities for job creation we have!"
Huntsman says $2.00 predictions aren't realistic. Ron Paul wipes his nose.
To Ron Paul: Do you advocate getting rid of the minimum wage? "Absolutely." Ron Paul, "I'm a physician but you sure weren't gonna ask me a medical question."
"Medicare - isn't THAT a mandate?" he says.
Paul promises a gallon of gas for a silver dime (which is worth $3.50).
Rick Perry and Ron Paul go toe to toe now. Perry mentions the letter Ron Paul wrote to Reagan telling him he was going to drop out of the Republican party because of what Reagan believed in. Paul says he supported the message of Reagan but the consequence was "not all that great. Huge deficits in the 80s."
7:50: To Perry. The Social Security question. "Explain your view...". Perry acknowledges that Social Security can't be changed now. How to change it going forward is his focus. "Men and women who are receiving those benefits today....or those nearing retirement...don't have anything to worry about." But he insists still "it is a Ponzi scheme." He's right - it's true.
To Romney, another Social Security question. Romney agrees that the funding isn't working. Romney jabs at Perry who had said "Social Security is a failure." Romney says it isn't. Romney insinuates that Perry wants to "abolish" Social Security. I don't think that's what Perry said; he wants reform, not abolishment.
Perry: "You cannot keep the status quo in place and call it anything else but a Ponzi scheme."
Herman Cain is sick of the "rhetoric" and offers a solution of personal retirement accounts: the Chilean system, he says.
Perry says he feels like "a pinata." Welcome to front-runner status.
He says "we allowed for an opt-out" in the HPV program.
Santorum is offended by the Gardisil program. "Instead of an opt-out, how about an opt-in."
Romney almost defends Perry here, acknowledging that Perry's "heart was in the right place" and should have done it differently. Says Obama "doesn't have a clue" how to fix this country.
On to the TSA: Ron Paul call the TSA agents abusive and the airports a monstrosity. He bashes FEMA.
8:05: Herman Cain: "Don't eliminate FEMA, let's FIX FEMA" and Homeland Security. Cain says the federal government is "not good at micro-managing anything" and touts states rights.
Huntsman's hands aren't orange; why is his face?
"I just want to point out..." with his pale fingers...
His response? Texas has made great progress in the 10 years I've been governor and our graduation rate is 84%. "We're makin' progress." He says Texas has a unique situation by "sharing a border with Mexico." So that's why they get in-state tuition for college? Someone ask him that, please?
Race to the Top: Newt likes charter schools. He'd like a Pell grant for k-12 so everyone has choice.
8:10 For border security, Perry wants "boots on the ground...aviation assets in the air," and secure the border before you deal with immigration reform. "It is NOT safe on that border," Perry says.
To Romney - "We got to have a fence." And agents. Romney says, yep, they can get a ladder, but we've left "the magnet on," i.e, incentives. Like tuition breaks! Romney opens the door.
Oh come on. Go back to Perry on that! But no, to Newt - discussing Reagan's policy. "We ought to control the border, have a legal guest worker program...." be tough on employers, make English the official language of government, and insist that they learn American History. And we have to find a way to deal with those folks that have been here , some for 25 years.
Oh. Santorum is still here. He's the son of an Italian immigrant.
Bachmann: "In Mexico right now we're dealing with narco-terrorists." I think all the Republicans agree that the border must be secured. Either challenge Perry on the tuition question or move on.
Huntsman says Reagan felt immigration was "a human issue" and that we should look at it that way, then he attempts to channel Reagan and tell us what Reagan would say if he were here.
8:20: Ron Paul says American a not about fences, barbed wire, machine guns, and ID cards. A fence is "to keep us in!" Paranoid much?
8:30: Perry is for cap, cut and balance. Something about cutting off the snake's head. And now Bachmann channel's Reagan and says he would be for it too.
Back to Perry - a question on national security: "I don't think America needs to be in the business of adventurism." On Obama, Perry commends him for maintaining "the chase" on Osama. Also, "He has proven for once and for all that government spending won't create one job." In addition, "He kept Gitmo open," against the wishes of his base.
To Bachmann - a Libya question. "Are you advocating a shift away from the George W. Bush Freedom Agenda?" Bachmann says Obama has weakened us militarily. She says it was wrong to go into Libya.
8:40: Santorum dislikes "the isolationist" view he sees on the stage. He says Obama was indecisive and confused on Libya and only went along with it because the UN told him to. Invokes Reagan.
A bizarre question to Huntsman about "crazy and inane statements" and attempts to pit him against other Republicans on the stage. Huntsman says "we can't run from science," and "we can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy." Global warming? Really?
Heh - Huntsman: "I can get elected." Okay.
Perry on global warming: "I do agree that ...the science is not settled on this,"...but that we shouldn't put the American economy in jeopardy on "science that is not settled yet."
"Find out what the science truly is before you put the American economy in jeopardy," Perry says.
Bachmann says that tomorrow night "the nation won't be seeing permanent solutions," but instead more gimmicks. Agreed.
Newt says he would fire Bernanke tomorrow. I tell you, Newt livens up a dull debate. He tells it like it is. He blows off questions they've asked and answers whatever he wants to. He's by far the best speaker. Not electable but a good debater.
Romney: "I don't want to raise taxes on the American people." He says the middle class is the population most hurt by the Obama economy. "No tax on interest, dividends, or capital gains," he says. He's a negative on Bernanke as well.
To Perry on the death penalty - (and applause when his total of executions was announced). Perry says, No, he hasn't lost any sleep over that and explains the appeals process. You "will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas" if you kill one of "our citizens." More applause. "When you have committed heinous crimes against one of our citizens," you will face the ultimate justice. The audience likes this.
8:50: Ron Paul gets a question about free lunch and feeding poor school children. He resists the accusations that if you don't support the welfare state you aren't compassionate. Applause.
And done. So who won? I'd have to say Newt. Romney continued to fly under the radar while still getting a few early jabs in at Perry. Perry stayed true to script and used a lot of the same lines I heard him use in South Carolina and in his book. Santorum and Cain seem to struggle for attention and when Bachmann doesn't get called on she tries to jump in. Nobody screwed up or gaffed, as far as I could see. But Newt seemed to have the most commanding presence.
I was anxious to see how Perry would do as his first debate. I think Perry is vulnerable on a couple of issues, immigration being one. I haven't seem him pressed or challenged on that in-state tuition issue which concerns a lot of conservatives. He took a couple of hits on it tonight as others insisted that the incentives for illegals be removed. He has to come up with a response to that.
He's also vulnerable on the Social Security issue although I do agree with him that it is a Ponzi scheme. If you're using today's payments to pay current recipients, and the number of people paying into Social Security is decreasing, as it is, then there is no guarantee that the money you're paying into it will be there when you need it. That's the very definition of a Ponzi scheme.
Perry will need to articulate better his message of reform because what people are hearing is "abolish."
Mark me as still undecided. Lots of time left.