Rudy Giuliani the winner today. This is partly because he performed the best, and partly because the other candidates under-performed. Putting aside the obvious fact that his social positions are liberal, he is (by far) the most "ready for Prime-Time" candidate in the debate. Rudy has clearly thought-through the questions and answers to a greater degree than the other candidates. His answers are not platitudes, but well-reasoned responses. He is already attacking the Dems, which earns him points with me. What is more, he is rhetorically ready to lead the country, and defend his positions. And rather than merely answering questions posed from a liberal worldview, he rejects the incorrect premises (this is most likely a product of his law training).
11:21 - For 10 1/2 years, Huckabee had a framed picture of average Arkansans in his office, with the words, "Our Boss," below.
11:19 - Rudy points out the three leading Democrat candidates haven't been in the executive branch, they haven't run a city, etc.
11:18 - Sam Brownback says as president he would hope to appoint the next justice to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
11:15 - Tommy Thompson vows to end breast cancer by 2015.
11:14 - Romney says the biggest defining mistake he ever made in his life was running for Senate, being pro-Life, but saying we should keep the status quo.
11:11 - Tancredo says income tax gives the government the power to manipulate behavior. Brownback wants a flat tax, not a fair tax.
11:07 - Huckabee absolutely supports the fair tax. Says more Americans fear an IRS audit than getting mugged. Huckabee and Romney spar over the fair tax. Romney says we should: "Get rid of the tax on savings."
11:04 - Brownback says Bush has "over-relied" on Cheney's experience.
11:02 - Tommy Thompson makes a good point that the media will likely mis-report that all Republican presidential contenders don't care about children having health care (just because they prefer a free market solution, as opposed to the S-Chip).
10:56 - We're on commercial. Live blogging is neat, because it's an excuse to take notes. And that tells you things. For example, it has now become apparent that Rudy Giuliani is the leader when it comes to ideas. Several times, he has injected a new idea which then, other candidates copied. One example of this was when he was the first to call the S-chip socialized medicine.
10:54 - McCain makes the point that not a dime of the pork-barrel projects had anything to do with inspecting or repairing bridges.
10:52 - Rudy is brillaint at these debates. By reminding folks of his background as Mayor, he gains credibility. And, perhaps more important, he refuses to accept the assumptions of the questioners: "There is a liberal Democratic assumption that you raise taxes to get money," he tells Yepsen. Other candidates should learn this lesson.
10:50 - Huckabee is asked if taxes should be raised to fix bridges. Taxes seem to be his Achilles heel. He seems to duck the question. Huckabee is doing well, but I must say I don't think he's making the same splash he has in the other debates.
10:44 - McCain defends Bush's Inanugural address (and the argument that we should care about spreading Democracy, by invoking JFK's pledge to, "bear any burden" and Ronald Reagan's "shining city on a hill."
10:43 - Rudy makes the point that before building Democracy in other countries -- before having elections -- you need to first instill a culture that understands the "bedrocks of democracy," such as rule of law. This is a very, very good point.
10:32 - On the "S-Chip," Rudy scores points by being the first to refer to "socialized healthcare" (and compare it to health care in Europe, Cuba, etc.).
10:26 - Nice touch having David Yepsen, the dean of the Iowa press corps, as a guest moderator.
10:25 - Is Ron Paul the Eugene McCarthy of the right?
10:23 - Tommy Thompson thinks Iraq needs 18 states -- not 3 (as Brownback wants).
10:20 - Tancredo wonders when he will ever field a question ...
10:19 - "He's gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in one week." - Romney on Obama.
10:17 - Giuliani points out that in 4 Democrat debates, the words Islamic extremism were never mentioned. He points out that Iraq is a battle in a larger war.
10:15 - Brownback is proposing essentially a three-state solution for Iraq. This sounds similar to what Joe Biden has proposed.
10:11 - Taking a page from YouTube, ABC includes video clips from "average" Iowa voters. To answer the first question, Ron Paul says we're losing the war, and "should just come home." In the next question, Duncan Hunter scores some points by attacking the Democrats for wanting to cut and run.
10:06 - George just showed a clip of Romney attacking Rudy (will this entire debate be a "gotcha" game?) on guns and social issues. This isn't good for Rudy. He wins when the questions are about terrorism.
10:04 - Wow. This got off to a quick start. George started off by putting up an audio clip of Sam Brownback's robo-calls about Mitt Romney. Sparks are flying. This is the first true "debate" I have seen. Romney and Brownback are going at it over the abortion issue. Brownback points to a YouTube clip of Romney. Romney calls Brownback "desperate" and says he's "holier than thou for being pro-Life longer than I have." (Brownback is smart not to back down. It's one thing to be caught "going negative," it's even worse to backpedal and look weak)...
I'll be watching the GOP debate this morning (10 am ET). Then, I'm interviewing Theodore Olson, the Former Solicitor General (who is now a big Giuliani supporter). Stay tuned ...
11:24 - I've got to declare