Mary Katharine Ham
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Chris Matthews is moderating the 4 p.m. (ouch!) debate on CNBC, which is on as we speak (and in which Maria Baritromo is showing him up in more ways than one).

Because there are so many debates, I struggle with ways to make the coverage thereof--how shall I say?--interesting. So, Townhall super-new-employee Kevin is helping me out with his Photoshop skills as we recreate LOLcatz for presidential candidates. If you're not familiar with the Internet phenomenon, here's the Wikipedia entry.

We'll try to have a few more up for you throughout the debate, recreating the conversation as faithfully as possible using sentence fragments and funny pictures. Because that's journalism, blog-style.

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The Romney/Rudy fight-- advantage Rudy? Allah has the video, so you can decide for yourself.

Is Rudy's team ruling the spin? Or, is it Team Thompson?

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Giuliani lands another 9/11 punch on Paul. The move lost a lot of its punch the second time over, but fair game. Highlights just how differently Paul thinks about threats and attacks and security than anyone else on the stage.
Giuliani suckerpunches Ron Paul for saying we've never had an imminent attack: "I wonder where he was on September 11th."  This time around, it seems a little less powerful. Ron Paul insists that was a strike on U.S. interests here, instead of overseas. Rudy points it was planned on Afghanistan.
Video, here.

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Stephen Green likes Fred's AMT answer, as did I (although I heard a lot of it Friday):
2:42pm Finally, a question about the AMT! Fred T says, "we shouldn't confuse the wealth of government with the wealth of the nation." In other words, ditch the AMT (or maybe bracket for inflation), and let people keep their money. Amen, brother. And his delivery was the best he's done so far.
Ouch:
My Romney guy, who predicted that Law and Order actor Fred Thompson would excel at the debate because he's only being asked for short, rehearsed answers, says, "I was wrong. He can flub one minute answers."
For the record, I think Fred's not great, but fine tonight. That may be all he needs, especially given the cheap shot Chris Matthews took at him after his answer on government intervening in the Chrysler labor dispute.

Fred first said "no" and stopped, and Maria prompted him with "why?" When Fred finished, Chris said "took a long time, you should have just stopped with 'no.'" Fred should have slapped him harder than he did, but I think he said, "who asked your opinion, Chris?," which should earn him some points.

Video, here.

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A couple nice closers for Fred. He parries a blatantly set-up (but still kinda funny) Mitt joke about Thompson with "and here I thought I was the best actor out here." (Ace has the full Mitt joke, which is funny.) He also answered a criticism about getting into the race late with "it was getting kind of boring without me." He had the crowd going at the end, there.

Geraghty gathers the closing funnies:

Huckabee on the airlines: “We have Jetsons technology in the cockpit, and Flintstones technology in the air traffic control.”

McCain: “France is very helpful. It just goes to show, if you live long enough, you will see everything.”

Rudy: “If we institute HillaryCare, there will be no place left for Canadians to get health care.”

Fred Thompson: “I’ve been watching these debates, I’ve gotta admit, it was getting a little boring without me.”

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Huckabee's answer on S-CHIP covered a thousand bases, was realistic about politics while being obviously empathetic toward people with health care issues. He strikes a balance that many Republicans have trouble striking when talking about the economic dangers of social programs. He really is a fine communicator. I wish he weren't so nanny-statish on a few issues, but I'm glad to have him on our side when he's talking fair tax and other issues.

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Rudy's still doing well in polls. Is it the rude factor?

Bottom line: Fred was fine, but a little flat. He perked up toward the end, and I think will continue to perk up as he gets more debates under his belt. He needs to attack his answers a little more and fill up the time he's given, but he left people with a couple good laugh lines and good, basic assurances of his free-market conservatism. Probably a win for him, overall.

Rudy was strongest for me. He was optimistic, funny, comfortable talking about these issues. He thrives on the little dust-ups with Romney and Paul, and continues to play presumptive nominee by taking shots at the absent Hillary.

I appreciated McCain's unabashed defense of free trade on a stage with a bunch of hemming and hawing. Well done, informed history lesson for everyone. McCain is generally good in debates, but I'm not convinced this is a comeback for him.

Romney was solid, but he's gonna get hammered on his quote about letting "lawyers" decide whether he goes to Congress about going to war. Too reminiscent of Kerry's "global test" moment.

Update: The Fred team was liveblogging. So bloggy.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of HotAir.com, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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