Liveblogging tonight’s GOP presidential candidates debate (EXIT QUESTION: IS CHRIS MATTHEWS THE WORST MODERATOR EVER?)

ELECTION 2008: The Republican Candidates Debate – 5/3/07

The stage is set, and tonight’s the night for the first of several scheduled debates for the Republican hopefuls for president. USA Today has a who’s who of the candidates here, and also writes about the underdogs in the race and how this could give them the opportunity to shine, presuming that one of the ‘big 3’ (McCain, Giuliani, and Romney) make a mistake:

Ten Republicans, one stage, 90 minutes — just enough time for Rudy Giuliani, John McCain or Mitt Romney to make a major gaffe as underdog rivals scramble for relevancy during the first GOP presidential debate Thursday.


Lesser-known candidates like Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and former Govs. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin and Jim Gilmore of Virginia were simply looking for respect, hoping to be seen as serious contenders in the jam-packed field.

Reps. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Duncan Hunter of California were sure to use the gathering as a platform to plug their signature issues: immigration and national security, respectively. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas also was to be on stage for the debate, scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library north of Los Angeles.

MSNBC and The Politico were co-sponsoring the debate, moderated by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. Library officials said the former president’s widow, Nancy Reagan, would attend.

Ahhhnold is scheduled to be in attendance as well.

Since the debate is being held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, expect to hear the Gipper’s name referenced a few times as each candidate will try to impress upon the voters their conservative credentials (cough cough to the ‘big 3’ on that!).

Will a modern-day Reagan emerge? Stay tuned …

If you can’t get to a TV to watch the debate, The Politico will broadcast the debates live tonight. MSNBC carried the Dem debate live online, but I’m not sure they will be tonight since their debate partner will be broadcasting it. If there is a link from MSNBC to a livestream of the debate, I’ll post it, because I think it’s a good idea to have an alternate place to visit and watch in case the other link experiences technical issues.

I’ll be back later tonight to start the liveblogging festivities :) Don’t forget: The debate starts at 8 Eastern Time.

BTW, there’s a storm passing over this area, but hopefully it won’t affect my I’net connection – it hasn’t before, but there’s always a first time! Just letting you know, just in case …

Update 1: Sheesh. It’s bad enough that Chris Matthews will be moderating the debate, but Keith “I’m not trying to cater to the Nutroots even though I sure as hell act like it” Olbermann will be hosting pre and post debate coverage on MSNBC, too. Ick.

Update 2: Video of Reagan and his mastery of one-liners. A trip down memory lane :)

7:12 PM: Politico has reports of what’s happening “behind the scenes” before the debates get started.

7:20 PM: As promised, for those who can’t get to a TV to watch the debate, here’s a direct link to MSNBC’s upcoming live online broadcast of the debate (right now, they are showing a clip from yesterday’s Hardball). I haven’t yet found Politico’s link.

7:59 PM: Here’s Politico’s live link.

The following takes place between 8pm and 9:30 pm:

8:02PM: Matthews appears, thanks Mrs. Reagan and the camera pans to Mrs. Reagan and Ahhnold. Intro’d the candidate. Is now going over the rules.

8:04: Matthews: Invokes Reagan. How do we get this country on the right track – to Rudy. Rudy said we need to bring back optimism.

8:05: To McCain: What would he need to win the war in Iraq. Answer: Support of the American people. The current strategy is succeeding.

8:06: McCain slams Harry Reid’s “war is lost” comment.

8:07: Same question to Gov. Thompson: Answer: Must support the troops. Iraq should vote so we can find out if they want us there. If they don’t, we get out. Huh? Would also split oil reserves. Had another answer but I didn’t hear it.

8:08: Duncan Hunter said the key to succeeding in Iraq is the Iraqi military. He sounds really strong.

8:09: Same question to Gov. Romney. Said we shouldn’t govern by polls, even though majority of American people say war can’t be won. Says we can’t leave before the job is done in Iraq or we will have to go back, due to regional conflict.

8:10: How do we win the war when there is another terrorist to take the place of the dead ones, and Islamic support of the US in Middle eastern countries is low? (Sorry, didn’t get the answer to that one)

8:11: Would Gov. Huckabee have fired Rummy prior to the last elections. Huckabee said it was the President’s call, but that the generals with boots on the ground should have been listened to.

8:13: To Gov. Gilmore, on Rummy removal: Would a shakeup in the admin be good for the admin? Gilmore: says changes have already taken place, we must engage not just Iraq, but all of the Middle East to get support in defeating Islamofascism.

8:14: Congressman Paul: Voted against the war. Said we should have a non-interventionist foreign policy. Going off on the vote in favor of war.

8:16: To McCain: Has Iran already committed an act of war? What would his response be? McCain is talking about how Iran poses one of the greatest threats to the world, to the security of the ME, we must bring greater pressures to Iran using our allies, we can’t rely on Russia and China. At the end of the day, we can’t allow Iran to get nukes.

What is McCain’s “trip wire”? He’s not really answering.

8:18: Hypothetical to Tancredo: Israel says Iran is getting ready to launch a nuke strike, what will you do? If Israel is put in that position, of course we response in appropriate fashion – under conditions.

8:20: Rudy said war with Iran would be very dangerous. We’d need to rely on our intelligence rather than Israel’s. Invokes Reagan.

To Gov. Gilmore: Moderator quotes Romney on Osama quote (“It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”) – Gilmore says it is important to capture him.

Romney explains quote: says he doesn’t want to fall into the Democratic trap of this war being about one man.

Questions coming from Politico readers:

To Mccain: Would he have Tancredo as head of Immigration. No.

Question: Should we change the Constitution to allow Ahhnold to be president. All candidates are saying no.

8:25: Matthews is an awful moderator.

To Rudy: Any regrets with the African American community during his time as mayor? Talks about his low crime rate, getting people off of welfare.

To Romney: What do you dislike most about America? There’s nothing to hate about America.

***These questions are stupid!****

To Gov. Huckabee: Is global warming real? It’s all of our responsibility to leave this planet better for future generations, no matter who is responsible for ‘causing’ it. Non-answer.

To Tancredo: I didn’t catch the question. I think it was about stem cells.

To Hunter: Does he consider himself to be a compassionate conservative? Yes. Goes to Iran question. We should use whatever means necessary to confront the threat from Iran.

***Bring back Brian Williams!***

To Paul: Would he work to phase out IRS? Paul says “yes” – we have to change the way we view government.

8:29: Next segment – values:

Roe v Wade? All say it would be good when Roe v. Wade is repealled, Rudy says yes, but make it a state right if it’s not overturned.

More on abortion: Gilmore says woman should have right to abortion up to 12 weeks, but worked as pro-lifer in his state.

Thompson: Should be left up to the states.

Romney: Says he changed his mind on abortion when he started studying stem cell research and cloning.

Questioner says some would see him as doing this for political reasons. Romney is explaining his answer again.

Brownback: Could support someone in his party that is pro-abortion, even though he has a pro-life record.

Rudy is struggling on the abortion question. Matthews is badgering him.

To McCain: Can you restore Reagan’s unified national purpose? McCain says he can, and is prepared to take on the greatest challenge of our time.

8:36: To Hunter: Giving defense background, says he’s strong on national defense and is looking over the horizon for other threats.

8:37: Huckabee: We need to return to Reagan’s “city on a hill” vision. We are a culture of life. Life issue is not insignificant.

To Ron Paul: He just sounds wacked.

To Romney: What would he say to Roman Catholic bishops who would deny communion to abortion supporters. Romney said “nothing” – it’s not government’s place to tell them who to give communion to.

To Huckabee: Faith should impact decision process. Matthews is badgering him like he’s on Hardball.

****This debate is going all over the place – no rhyme or reason *****

Brownback: We should celebrate our faith, and shouldn’t be shouted out of the public square.

To Hunter: Should candidates take centrist positions in order to get elected, like Ahhnold did? Hunter said we need to take the “right” positions on immigration, etc. Talking up his immigration credentials.

To Gilmore: Karl Rove is your friend. Would you keep him in the WH if you were pres.? Gilmore isn’t taking Matthews bait.

Tancredo: No, Rove would not be in the WH if I were pres because of his immigration position.

Rudy: Has increased influence of Christian conservatives in Republican party been good for it? Yes.

Thompson: I’m a reliable conservative, elected four times as Gov. in Wisconsin.

8:47: To Brownback, asked about Republican corruption – Brownback responds there are corrupt Democrats, and says all corrupt politicians should be punished.

Brownback said we need to get back to family values. Too many children born in illegitimacy.

Tancredo: Corruption not unique to Republican party. Responds to “centrist” question – “we’re not in a centrist place” – Reagan won because he believed in principles with all his heart.

8:49: To McCain: asked about first responder radios. Didn’t catch the answer. Says Republicans didn’t win in 2006 because they lost their way.

More Politico questions:

8:51: What specific programs would McCain cut in budget? Would start with defense acquisition, cost overrun. Each program must justify existence every year.

8:52: Huckabee: How would you rate the Bush administration’s handling of the war? Grade? Says grade shouldn’t be given until job is complete.

8:53: Romney: I didn’t catch the question but it’s about abortion.

8:54: Rudy asked about ‘nuanced’ position on abortion. He hates abortion, wouldn’t encourage abortion but encourages adoption, he respects the woman’s right to choose. Supports PBA, supports Hyde Amendment.

To Thompson: Does racism exist in our society and what can a pres. do about it? As Gov. of WI, I tried to bring the two sides together.

To Tancredo: Who should be president other than himself? Says he should be president. Brings up immigration says it should be a major focus of debate.

McCain responds: We’ve been working for a comprehensive solution to illegal immigration problem. Need temporary worker program.

Hunter: (Politico question) Did you watch Al Gore’s documentary? Hunter says no, but we should be energy independent.

Paul: Can he make good decisions in a crisis situation. Cite an example of when you have done that. Paul says he’s done that as a doctor.

Gilmore: Asked about women prison population – what would you do to address issue of mothers behind bars, and the children left behind. Gilmore says the court should make decisions on those matters.

Down the line question:

Embryonic research question (because Mrs. Reagan is in the audience):

Romney: Altered embryonic research – supports?? (don’t understand his answer). Won’t create new embryos through farming.

Brownback: We are curing people with adult stem cells. Does not support embryonic SCR.

Tancredo: No.

Huckabee: No.

Hunter: No.

Thompson: Can’t answer the question yes or no. (Riiight!)

McCain: Yes, fund embryonic stem cell research.

Paul: No – programs like this are not supported by Constitution.

Rudy: No – sort of. (Another nuanced answer).

Tancredo: No.

9:02: Romney: question on healthcare – he’s proud of his statewide healthcare program. Says it’s not socialized healthcare.

9:03: McCain, now supports extending President’s tax cuts – didn’t used to. He said he originally opposed it because of the out of control DC spending.

Down the line:

What tax would you like to cut?

Romney: No interest on capital gains for middle income Americans.

Brownback: Would like an alternative flat tax.

Gilmore: Alt. min. tax.

Huckabee: Cut taxes 94 times as gov. Advocates fair tax, get rid of IRS.

Hunter: Agrees with Huckabee, especially on import/export double taxation. Eliminate manufacturing taxes on companies that stay and keep workers in America.

Thompson: Vetoed 1900 items as gov. Reduced taxes. Would elimiate alt. min. tax. Advocates flat tax.

McCain: Give pres. line item veto. Eliminate alt. min. tax. Give $3K tax credit so poor people can afford healthcare.

Paul: Get rid of income tax, get rid of inflation tax.

Rudy: Reduce AMT. Get rid of death tax.

Tancredo: Agrees on AMT and flat tax.

9:09: Would appoint a Democrat in his administration. Who would it be? Besides Joe Lieberman. Says he wouldn’t look at party when appointing people in his admin. He knows how to reach across the aisle.

****I know how to reach for a different button to vote, too, Senator.****

Hunter: Gov’t does poor job on immigration, good job on military precision.

McCain: Do you believe in evolution? Yes. And I believe in creation, too. Oookay.

Romney: What cabinet official would you carry into your admin? Romney said he would bring in a whole new team.

9:12: For Rudy: What is the diff. between a Sunni and a Shia Muslim? Explains the answer.

Gilmore: Do other candidates deserve the label of ‘conservative’? – Gilmore said he’s a consistent conservative, didn’t dis other candidates.

Paul: Do you trust the MSM? Some of them. He trusts the Internet more. Never voted to regulate the Internet.

Brownback: Do your religious beliefs influence your foreign policy thinking? Faith influences everyone. It doesn’t dominate it, but it does influence it.

Rudy: What do you consider to be your most significant weakness? Says he has strengths and weaknesses – won’t describe weaknesses.

Brownback: Can you find faults in Rudy? No. (Chris Matthews impromptu question).

****Anyone got a count on how many times Reagan’s name has been mentioned?****

Huckabee: Which mistakes have you learned not to repeat? Corporate corruption must be stopped.

Tancredo: Will you work for women’s rights on abortion and fair wages? Will on fair wages – says there is no right to kill another person.

Thompson: How many American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq and how many have been injured? Answers, and says we must give the troops what they need.

Rudy: National tamperproof ID card? Yes, he thinks it’s critical to have that database.

Romney: On board with the card, too.

Brownback: No, we don’t need a temperproof ID card. We need to secure the border, and make sure the Social Security card means something.

McCain: On board with the tamperproof ID card.

Paul: Totally opposed to card. Purpose of government is to protect citizens privacy.

Tancredo: Agrees with Paul.

Scooter Libby – should he be pardoned?

Romney goes off on Fitzgerald for knowing Libby wasn’t leaker and proceeding with investigation.

Brownback: Leave it up to President.

****This is a stupid question. These guys won’t make that decision****

Tancredo: President must make his case to American people if he pardons Libby. Tancredo says he would pardon him. Should pardon two border agents, too.

Terri Schiavo question:

Should Congress have acted: Romney – family should make decision. Congress’ decision to get involved was a mistake.

Brownback: Yes, Congress should have gotten involved. Schiavo’s life was sacred. We should stand for life.

McCain: Very difficult issue. Says Congress acted too hastily.

Rudy: Courts, not Congress, should decide.

Would it be good for America for a Clinton to be living in WH?

Romney: You’ve got to be kidding.

Brownback: No.

Tancredo: No.

*** This is another stupid question. What does this have to do with the issues?***

Huckabee: No one knows Hillary better than I do on this stage. LOL.

McCain: No.

Paul: No.

Rudy: No. Would mean we are back on defense on terrorism.

Tancredo: No.

How would you be different from GWB?

Romney: we each have our own values.

McCain: I would not mismanage the Iraq war. Veto spending bill.

Gilmore: Homeland security must be a BIG effort.

Huckabee: States need more power, not feds.

Hunter: We’re losing our industrial base with bad trade policy.

Brownback: Would push three state country in Iraq. Need political solution included in Iraq success.

Tancredo: President is a good man who has made some bad, overreaching decisions.

Thompson: Transform healthcare. Set up peaceful way to settle Iraq situation.

Rudy: Remind ourselves that on 9-11 we thought we’d be attacked on our homeland, we should remind people of how GWB made the right decision after 9-11 and other Republicans need to remember that. Good answer.

Paul: Would never abuse habeas corpus.

Matthews is wrapping up.

Strange, right before the live feed cut off I heard someone say “you jerkoffs”!


My thoughts on this debate: It was very tough to follow. Matthews was a terrible moderator and treated the candidates as though they were on Hardball, not debating. Chris, take pointers from your colleague Brian Williams next time, ok? You’re a lousy debate moderator.

I don’t think there was any clear winner to the debates tonight because there was no rhyme or reason to the questioning. Duncan Hunter made it a point to focus on the border and security, which was good, Rudy was all over the map on abortion, but no one really stood out. They didn’t have enough time to answer the questions, because Matthews was too busy wasting it badgering people on their answers and not letting them finish (IOW, he’s acting like he’s hosting Hardball). And a lot of the questions that WERE asked were not issue-related. Like the one about having Bill Clinton back in the WH (if Hillary were elected). Huh? That has nothing to do with the issues.

If you watched the debate and were unimpressed with Chris Matthews as moderator, let MSNBC know it:

I know I will.


Lots of good liveblog links and commentary at Instapundit’s, though, even though he didn’t include the ST blog ;) Some good liveblogging from Malkin, too.


Exit question: Is Chris Matthews the worst debate moderator ever? Let me hear from you in the comments!


Take the “who won” poll at Drudge. Right now, Romney is in the lead.

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