I’m live blogging the GOP debate tonight at 7:00 (CST) tonight on Fox News.

7:00pm – No Ron Paul – going to miss him.

Taxes –

Romney – Raised “fees” by $240M – no he didn’t raise taxes.  He raised fees.  See the difference?  Me neither.

McCain – We focused on cutting spending during the Reagan Revolution.  He cut taxes then.  He wasn’t in favor of cutting taxes when they weren’t cutting spending.

McCain mentions bridge to nowhere, and members of Congress sitting in prison due to corruption in spending – we need to cut.  Calls for line item veto, and will make authors of pork barrel projects famous.

7:06 PM

Huckabee – Cut taxes 94 times, ended marriage penalty, increase child care credit.  Sales tax was up by $0.01, income tax was the same, but less people had to pay that due to raising threshold.  Left with a surplus, and inherited a problem from two governors before him (Clinton).

Romney trying to take it to Huckabee,  Huckabee turning the table on Romney.  Not happening.  Remember the tax increases that Huckabee faced were due to court ordered issues (education).

Guiliani – introduced 64 tax cuts.  Lowered income tax – man it must suck to have to pay income tax to a city.

7:12 PM

Guiliani – George Will said I ran the most conservative government in the U.S. because of my tax cuts.  That is because that is the only factor that George Will looks at when he talks conservatism.  Giuliani – “I am a supply sider.”

Thompson – talking about his plan on Social Security.  Won’t increase the cost of living index as much while you are working, but would be normal after you retire.

Romney – Have a higher index for higher income individuals, but don’t cut benefits.

McCain – Admire President Bush for pointing out that Social Security is bankrupt.  We need a bipartisan approach.

Change

7:19 PM

Huckabee – talking about what typical people are going through with financial struggles.  We shouldn’t have an economic system that makes rich people poor, but one that can help poor people become rich.  Our party has to wake up the problems of the working family.

Romney – You are not going to help the wage earner by attacking the wage payer.  It is offensive.  I’ve been in the real world (so are you saying a pastor doesn’t understand the real world?).  I know how to take out people who aren’t needed and programs that aren’t needed.

Huckabee – I’m against corporate tax, income tax, capital gains tax, death tax, etc.  – talking about the Fair Tax.

7:23 PM

Guiliani – I probably helped the most people get out of poverty – he explained welfare reform in NYC.  Tied welfare to work – called it Workfare.  GOP needs to explain our programs better to those in poverty.

Thompson – likes certain elements of Fair Tax since it is radical tax reform, but concerned we would end up with consumption tax and income tax – we’d need a constitutional amendment that would prevent that from happening.  In favor of a flat tax.

Wallace – let’s get back to the topic of change.

McCain – “I have been an agent of change” – references Iraq War and promoted the surge.  (He was ahead of the curve on that.).  Talks about line item veto and campaign finance reform.  Best change is helping to save American lives due to the surge.

Romney – I can bring change because of his experience in business world, voluntary work, and leading a state.  Needs executive experience.

Which would be Giuliani, Huckabee and himself – senators need not apply.

McCain – led the largest squadron in the Pacific (during Vietnam) – not for profit, but for patriotism.  He understands war on terror, etc.

7:33 PM

Thompson – change has been mentioned in every election since the dawn of elections what is needed is leadership.  We aren’t going to be energy independent in a few years.  (Isn’t providing vision for that and setting goals toward that leadership?  Saying it can’t be done is status quo.)

Giuliani – Change for good or change for bad?  Democrats will bring about bad change.

And we have a commercial break!

7:38 PM

National Security

Romney – need a leader not an expert with national security, executive leadership not a particular expertise on a certain issue.

McCain – Maybe we haven’t gotten the best result from those “governors” over the years.  Reagan was involved in the fight against Communism for 30 years.  “I know Musharrif, I’ve been to Pakistan, Waziristan, etc.  It is important to have the background and knowledge to address national security issues.

7:42 PM

Romney – We were under-prepared and under-planned.  We were under-staffed.  I was running a state when the war began that is why I didn’t comment on particular strategy in the war.

Huckabee – I’ve been to 41 countries (Syria, Afghanistan, etc.).  I’ve got more executive experience than anyone running – running a government.  I was selected by my peers to chair the governor’s association.  Led his state well (one of the top five in U.S.).  He made verbal slips (NIE, Pakistan slips), but not a slip in judgement or values.

Giuliani – I’m the only one who has had to deal with a terrorist attack.  Talking about experience with terrorism goes back to prosecutor days.

As mayor you deal with foreign policy due to the fact the U.N. is there.

Thompson – on the intelligence committee, has made trips, Republican floor manager for the Homeland Security bill.  Criticizing Mike Huckabee on comments about the Bush

Huckabee – on Gitmo, he wanted to wait until court case.  He went to Gitmo, it is a dividing issue, it isn’t so much where we keep, but that we keep them.  He thinks that we are almost too hospitable at Gitmo.

McCain – four former Secretaries of State and over a 100 Admirals and Generals have endorsed him… experience in the military.

7:56 PM

Immigration

McCain – explains the process of bill that it doesn’t give amnesty, you had to have job, etc.  It wasn’t a freebie.  We have to work together.  Our borders are broken.  As president I will secure our borders and I’ll have governors of border states certify that they are secure.  Then we need to then deal with the existing illegal immigrants through – compassionately in a way that makes sense and is practical.

Romney – McCain’s bill is unfair to those who are waiting to getting in.  Just having them pay a fine and only get the criminals out isn’t enough.  There should be no special pathway to citizenship.

McCain – back in 2005, Governor Romney then endorsed the plan and said it wasn’t amnesty.  Fox News confirmed source.  Oops – Romney got slammed.

Huckabee – No person living in the U.S. should have to live in the shadows, they shouldn’t have to hide.  The plan he puts forth will
give illegals will give them a chance to be legal.  Children will go back with families, but children shouldn’t be punished for the crimes of parents (that is why he is committed to educate them).  This is a complex issue, and we need to work together.  Let’s drop the rhetoric and let’s fix the problem.  Seal the border and then deal with existing illegals.  Federal Government caused problem and we need to fix it.

Giuliani – turned over every criminal to INS, but they couldn’t throw them all out.  He educated them, and he got them to report crime.  Seal the border, etc.  Tamper-proof ID card.  Comprehensive solution, we are not doing any favors for illegals letting them come in when they have to work in the shadows in horrible conditions.

Thompson – I’ve been walking the walk when they were talking about it.  Talking about the problem, but didn’t really say anything.

Yeah break!

8:12 PM

Negative Campaigning

McCain – I’m running a positive campaign, I don’t think negative ads work.  I want to put my message out.  I did respond once, but I’m trying to run on my record.  Wants a recount with Fred Thompson in Iowa.

Huckabee – some of the things in the ads are misleading, I made a tough decision not to respond.  I think that the people in Iowa rewarded him in part because of that.  People want to be for somebody, not against.  Talks about vertical politics – talk about issues.  Need to get beyond left/right, Republican/Democrat, etc.

Romney – not an attack ad if they bring up the opponents record – note differences.  It is if you mislead, and his ads have been proven to be misleading and inaccurate .

Huckabee – It is an attack ad if you distort a record and don’t tell the whole story – talks about commutations in particular.  The people in my state liked the way I governed since I was re-elected twice and had a high approval record (in a state that is overwhelmingly Democrat).

Romney – explaining flip flops – He just misrepresented Huckabee again!  Since he said Huckabee pardoned people.  He didn’t pardon people!  He commuted sentences according to Arkansas law – see his website – http://www.mikehuckabee.com (the truth squad section) to see the whole story and set the record straight.

Giuliani – talking about Kerick issue and ethics – “I’ve made my share of mistakes, and when I do I own up to them.”  He can assure nothing will come out with the Kerik case that will embarrass GOP voters.

8:24 PM

McCain – won’t commit to only one term – “it would make me a lame duck” on day one.

Why vote for me and how can GOP keep White House

Giuliani – I got results – reduced crime, lowered taxes, etc.  Remain on offense on war on terror, address healthcare, etc.

Thompson – I’m the only one here who has never lost an election.  Strong on national security, fought for tax cuts, fought for good judges.  Leave country better than what they found it.

Huckabee – having lived a life like a lot of Americans have lived it.  Consistency with the principles of our party (Life, 2nd Amenment, lower taxes, etc.), executive experience that solved problems.

Romney – My family told me I ought to run.  We are at a crossroads.  Draw upon the innovation of America to fix problems.  I’ve been innovative.  I’ve been able to bring change.  I will change Washington.

McCain – America’s greatest days are ahead of us.  We need leadership.  We are in two wars.  We need to restore trust.  I can reach out to independents.

Debate done.

8:49 PM – Post-debate thoughts.  Romney didn’t take a beating tonight unlike last night.  He resonated well with the Frank Luntz focus group.  That group did not like Mike Huckabee’s answer to Mitt Romney’s question about tax increases, and that hurt him through the whole debate which is unfortunate because he had a lot of good things to say.  McCain did well, but should have been more aggressive.  Giuliani – ok, but nothing special.  Thompson should just drop out, he didn’t have anything to say really.

I had a problem with tonight’s debate because Mitt Romney seemed to have more time than anyone else.  Drove me nuts.  My suggestion to the Huckabee campaign is, yes we raised taxes (I don’t know if it was $500 M or not), and this tax that was raised is what you are referring to (sales tax to pay for road improvements), and this is why (voter initiative and court mandates).  That way he wouldn’t appear to be waffling.  He has a pretty good response to that, but answer it first.  I personally liked his response to Romney though… “I’ll let Chris Wallace be the moderator.”   Well, we’ll find out on Tuesday what impact this debate will have, and what it will do down the road.

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