GOP presidential candidates: The 2nd debate (MORE: TRANSCRIPT LINK ADDED)

We’re one hour away from the second debate amongst the GOP presidential hopefuls. Tonight’s debate, hosted by Fox News and moderated by Brit Hume (yay!), takes place at 9 ET in Columbia, SC at the Koger Center on the campus of the University of South Carolina. The same ten candidates who appeared at the last debate will be at this one. If you can’t get to a TV to watch the debate, Fox will be broadcasting it on their website.

All eyes, of course, will be on the ‘frontrunners’: Giuliani, McCain, and Romney, although I think most of us are hoping one of the second tier candidates like Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) will stand out from the pack. Romney, I think, will work hard to distinguish himself from the other candidates in a bid to appeal to South Carolina voters because he is not polling well there (more here) despite strong campaign efforts to get his name and message out to conservatives. Giuliani lwill likely once again be asked about his position on abortion and I predict the answer will satisfy very few people.

SC (also known as the Palmetto state) is an important state to win for the candidates in the primaries, if history is any indication:

The winner of South Carolina’s primary has become the Republican nominee in every election since 1988, when the state moved up to be the third contest in the nation. George H.W. Bush won the state that year.

SC’s primary will also be held ahead of “Super Tuesday” next year, which gives the state some added importance to the candidates.

I expect at least a couple of candidates to mention the death of Rev. Jerry Falwell tonight, partly out of a mixture of respect for him but also to try and appeal to conservative Christian voters. Many of the candidates were already offering their condolences as they arrived today.

The Palmetto Scoop has pre-debate photos from outside the Koger Center (h/t: Jim Geraghty).

I’ll be back shortly.

*** Note: Please utilize yesterday’s open thread for any non-GOP candidate related news. I’d like to keep this one strictly about the candidates***

8:45: Hi Instapundit readers!

8:50: I’ve corrected the live link for the debate that I had originally posted in the opening paragraph. Here’s the right link.

8:59: Sheesh. I hope they get the sound right on their Internet stream. It’s awfully low.

9:01: Wendell Goler and Chris Wallace are along with Brit on the debate.

9:02: The candidates are being introduced. The ‘net feed is a few seconds slower than the network broadcast.

9:04: The look good. I’m liking it already before the first question has been asked.

Let’s hope Thompson has taken his bathroom break already ;)

Chris Wallace to McCain: You are willing to be last man standing on Iraq. Why should Americans continue to die while Iraqi politicians do so little? McCain: It’s vital for our security interests as well as Iraq’s. We have a good strategy. It’s long, hard, tough, difficult, Americans are frustrated because of mishandling of the war. Maliki gov’t must improve.

To Thompson: Question on his position that Iraqis should vote on whether or not they want us there. Please explain. Thompson: Vote must happen. They must also vote in all 18 provinces, split oil revenues. All people in Iraq must feel they have a stake in Iraq’s future.

To Romney: Any circumstances where you would pull out of Iraq? Answer: No. It is critical for us to remember that we need to know that Iraq is the center of what’s happening in the Middle East. What is happening in Iraq is important for us in the global war on terror struggle. We must provide stability in Iraq.

To Brownback: You favor ISG findings. Is it any way to fight a war to win a concensus in DC? Brownback: yes – we will win if we pull together. Condemns statements of those who have said we lost, like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Pushes 3 state, 1 country solution.

9:11: Debate is flowing nicely so far.

To Rudy: Congressional Republicans who want to see a timetable in Sept are irresponsible according to you – is your committment to Iraq open-ended? Rudy: Corrects Wallace on question. Brings up Fort Dix. We must remind ourselves that we are facing an enemy that wants to kill us here – the worst thing is to show them weakness in Iraq.

To Tancredo: Are you giving our enemies a timetable for retreat, due to your position? Answer: We are not going to be removing our troops from the area. The question is what capacity should our troops be there? The president is the one that said I am establishing a benchmark of Nov. and by Nov. Iraqi gov’t should be in control of all 18 provinces. Tancredo supports that.

9:15: To Paul: You voted against the use of force in Iraq. Republicans don’t agree. Are you running for president of the wrong party? Answer: Paul said the Republican base has shrunk. We don’t go to war unless Congress declares it – he predicted it would be a quagmire. Brings up Reagan and Lebanon. We need the courage of a RR.

To Hunter: We now have as many troops in Iraq as we did when the war started. Why should we believe the replacement troops will help? Answer: Hunter said the Iraqi units are getting ready more and more each day.

To Hucakbee: You said the pres. didn’t listen enough to the generals and too much to others. If the generals came to you and said we needed more troops, would you listen? Answer: the CIC better be ready to listen to the generals more than the civilians. CIC must get the best advice he can get, and must come from people who have earned the right. It takes more time to do it over than to do it right.

To Gilmore: Internet question: What would you do to solve Iran issue? Would you launch a pre-emptive nuke strike? Answer: There is no choice other than to join with other countries in the world and put serious pressure on Iran to give up nukes. We must have honest discussion with American people. Are we prepared for a nuclear Iran? Are we prepared for the consequences with other countries arming themselves with nukes?

Wendell Goler’s questions:

9:19: To Romney: Critics have called you flip flop Mitt. How you do you explain your change of heart on raising taxes? Answer: DC is broken. We must have leadership that can reorganize in the gov’t, must go through all the agencies and cut out all unnecessary and wasteful spending. We need benchmarks in DC as well as Iraq.

9:21: To McCain: Explain your changing position on tax cuts. McCain said he originally opposed the tax cuts because spending wasn’t being cut. He supports the cuts now because tax revenues are high. GOP needs to get back to fiscal responsiblity.

9:22: Huckabee is advocating a fair tax. Fair tax is ‘family friendly.’ LOL! We’ve got a Congress that has spent money like Edwards at a beauty shop. OUCH! Audience laughs and claps.

9:24: To Rudy: Line item veto question. Rudy: Touts Club for Growth praise, spending decreased in NY in more than just about any other state. I lowered spending in NYC and it’ll be easier to lower spending in DC. Did Reagan-like budget cuts in NYC. Pledges not to fill 50% of the 50% of gov’t workers who will retire in the next several years.

9:25: Missed the question to Brownback. Something related to gas prices. We can do better, increase supply, need to become energy independent.

9:26: To Thompson: What are three federal programs you would eliminate? I reduced taxes in WI while there, reduced spending, cut taxes. Would make every agency come in at 95% of last year’s budget, would use that exercise to reduce budgets across the line. So many programs need to be reduced and in some cases eliminated. Didn’t catch his answer on what dept’s he would cut.

9:28: To Paul: I would eliminate the Dept. of Education, Homeland Security. We can’t police the world and run an entitlement system. Followup on Homeland Security: would you really? Yes. We had all the info we needed prior to 9-11 to handle the threat, no need to add to the gigantic bureaucracy w/ Homeland Security.

9:29: To Gilmore: Baby Boomers will be retiring soon. Social Security question. We have to work to save Social Security. Said some of the people on the stage acted very liberal on stage in California. Plugs website.

9:31: Hunter: All US exporters want access to China’s market. You will deal with trade deficit. How? Hunter: China is cheating on trade. We’ve lost 1.8 million jobs to China. 27,000 lost in SC alone. He would enforce trade rules with China. Would zero the manufacturing tax on manufacturing businesses. This is important for national security as well.

9:32: To Tancredo: Re: Budget deficit, interest on national debt: Would you reduce it and how fast? Answer: We must have fiscal discipline. Republicans have lost the mantle of fiscal responsibility. Some of the Republicans on that stage voted for increase in size and scope of gov’t.

9:33: Ah! Fox is taking a short break. A breather at last :)

9:37: Chris Wallace questions again:

To Gilmore: You like to say Rudy McRomney is not a conservative. Would you tell us why? He essentially says they are hypocrites with their position on abortion, taxes, healthcare. I’m sure those accused will respond.

To Rudy: Are you really a conservative? Answer: Rudy McRomney wouldn’t make a bad ticket. Audience laughs. Kind of dodges and said we need to focus on Democratic candidates and what they are saying and how starkly different they are than Republicans are. Those are the things we should be debating. LOL – Wallace says please answer my question: are you a conservative? He says George Will says he ran the most conservative gov’t in NYC in 50 years. Touting his low abortion, high adoption rate. Hmmm.

To McCain: Are you really a conservative, with your stance on campaign finance reform (other issues conservatives disagre with him on)? McCain: I like to reach across the aisle in the spirit of bipartisanship, we need to be able to work together like we ‘used to.’ He says he is most prepared to lead against Islamofascism.

To Huckabee: I cut taxes 94 times, the times I raised taxes the people supported it. I don’t apologize for being a Republican governor in a Democratic state getting all those tax cuts passed.

To Romney: Are you a clear and consistant conservative with your old positions on gay marriage, abortion, gun control? Answer: He’s had to stand up for life in a blue state. He’s fought for life. He has leadership skills that will benefit America.

To Brownback: You’re a Reagan conservative? Would Reagan take your stands on immigration (amnesty) and the surge (against)? Brownback, I think so.

9:47: Wendell Goler questioning:

Abortion and stem cell questions:

To Thompson: How would you convince embryonic stem cell researchers they have all they need? Answer: Embryonic and adult stem cell research have shown great results (really? Re: Embryonic? That’s news to me. –ST). Touts amniotic research and not expanding embryonic sc lines.

To Rudy: Question on abortion: How can you be against abortion but pro-choice? Answer: He says government should be out of people’s lives on the issue of abortion. Let’s figure out how to reduce abortion. We need to do what he did in NY (reduce abortions, increase adoptions).

To Huckabee: I am pro-life, and disagree with Rudy. I really like the way he has been sounding. Contrasting Islamofascist culture of death with our culture of life. Good answer.

To Brownback: You oppose abortion in every instance except for life of a mother – how would you explain to a rape victim why she should carry her baby to term? Answer: The question remains: is the child a viable life? Is it a person? Abortion is a procedure. The baby is a life. Rape doesn’t change the fact that it is a child. Another good answer.

To Romney: You were once pro-choice. What would you say to someone else who lost a wife or daughter to an illegal abortion if you named the USSC justice who tipped the balance and overturned Roe v. Wade? I can tell you that I’ve looked at this long and hard – I’ve always been pro-life, the question for me is what should gov’t do? He’s explaining how his position has changed. People should make this decision not the court.

Round 4:

Chris Wallace questions on immigration:

Tancredo: Fight against illegal immigration is central focus on your campaign. Are other candidates soft on immigration? Answer: Yes. Slams McCain’s support of Bush’s amnesty plan. Says tonight sounds like a Baptist convention with so many people converting.

McCain: I have never supported amnesty. What the American people expect us to do is to sit down and work together on a comprehensive plan. We are close to an agreement that would secure our borders, guest worker program, will address the issue of the 12 million who were here. Fort Dix six were here with expired visas. Solution must be bipartisan. I intend to lead, no follow.

Romney: Missed the question to Romney – was about immigration, says McCain supported ‘special pathway’ plan for illegals. Romney doesn’t support that. Those that are here illegally, get in line with everyone else. Very critical of McCain’s fence but doesn’t disrespect McCain First applause of the night for anyone’s stance.

McCain: Slams Romney indirectly by saying he’s (McCain) never changed positions based on the office he’s running for. Feeling the heat, Senator?

Rudy: I’m not soft. The focus on immigration should be to know everyone who is in the US. Need tamperproof ID card. Need a database. (Someone sighed (don’t know who)). We must be sensible on illegal immigration. We need a fence, techofence, need a way that people in this country can come forward sign up for the database and pay their way.

To Hunter: Question: What would you do to prevent foreign nationals from using our services here? Talks about the border. It’s a Homeland Security problem, not just border security. People need to knock on the front door because the backdoor is going to be closed.

Paul: Are you out of step with your party for your position on Iraq? Paul: Party has lost its way. Conservative wing used to advocate non-interventionist policy. No nation building, policing the world. Followup: You don’t think that policy changed after 9-11? Ohhhh. He’s blaming America for 9-11 (“we’ve been in the ME bombing for years, that’s why they attacked us”).

Rudy: That is an extraordinairy statement, that we invited attack on ourselves. He says it’s absurd, and gets huge applause for it. Asks Paul to retract his comment, Paul won’t, says he believes what the CIA says about “blowback” (payback).

**** The candidates are really standing out tonight.***

Argument going on about getting extra time on question. They move on to next question.

To McCain: Should the state gov’t of SC be free to fly the Confederate flag? In 2000 you said yes, then regretted it. Should it come down now? Answer: There is an agreement that the flag no longer flies on top of capital of SC. The issue has been decided. Is content with where it is now. It is time that we moved on on this issue. Indeed! Applause from the crowd.

To Huckabee: Do you bear any responsiblity for the release of a killer as Governor of your state who killed again after his release? Answer: I denied his clemency. I regret saying he had met the conditions for parole. I am not perfect, but I will be one who will do my best to repeat mistakes or to make them in the first place.

To Tancredo: The ambassador to EU says the US has a great responsibility by global warming. Do you agree? What should we do about the problem? Tancredo: for every scientist who says one thing, there is one who says the opposite. We could be responsible for global warming – we need to reduce dependence on petroleum products. This is a national security issue, we need to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

10:11: Breaktime. This debate has been SO much better than the MSNBC debate, hasn’t it?

Hypothetical terrorism question: Three shopping centers are hit by terrorists, thousands killed, but a fourth attack has been averted and the terrorists have been taken to Gitmo.

McCain: How would you question the detainees? I would take responsiblity for that myself. We should not torture people, it does nothing for our crediblity. He’s not really answered. The more pain you inflict on someone, the more they will tell you what you want to hear.

Rudy: (From Brit) What is your view on waterboarding? Answer: I would tell the people to use every method they could think of short of torture to get information. Applause for that answer.

Romney: The key to electing to next president is to find the person who will prevent the next attack. He wants them on Gitmo. He doesn’t want them here. We ought to double Gitmo. YEAH! The President has to make the call and enhanced interogation techniques must be used (not torture).

Thompson: (From Brit) How would you respond to potential terrorist attackers? Answer: Trust but verify (“it’s what Reagan would do”). President should lead effort to take out terrorist camps as swiftly as possible.

Brownback: (From Brit) Would you do the same? I would not go to the UN. What are you measuring here? Is your primary concern US lives or how you are going to be perceived in the world? The issue is US lives. I will do everything to protect US lives. That should be the standard.

Hunter: This would take a one minute convo with the Sec. of Defense: Get the info, have it within an hour, get back to me and we’ll get special operations in place.

McCain: “Enchanced interrogation techniques”? He regards them as torture. Applause for his position on this.

10:22: Gilmore: How would you assure economy keeps rolling after 9-11 attack? Answer: I’ve been in that position as part of Homeland Security. Doesn’t really answer questions, goes on to information sharing and how we must do it to prevent another terror attack.

Huckabee: What economic policies would you change after a terror attack? Bush wanted to keep it business as usual after 9-11. Understands that but says that the problem is that it will never be business as usual after a terror attack, nation would have to sacrifice (I assume he meant by cutting programs).

Paul: I would lower the taxes, cut spending.

Tancredo: I’m looking for Jack Bauer if we get attacked by terrorists. LOL! When we go under, western civilization goes under. You must do every single thing you can to make terrorists fearful of you.

Chris Wallace questions:

Gilmore: It’s been said that the ten of you could be members of the same country club. What does that say that there is no minority candidate in the field of candidates? Answer: I worked hard to reach out to minorities. There will be minority people from our party who will be candidates one day, but that shoudln’t be an issue right now – we should focus on who is running and who has stepped up to the plate, and they should be judged on the merits of their positions.

Romney: Can you point to an area where you have changed your mind that hasn’t pleased the base? Answer: Yes. I support No Child Left Behind, Dept. of Education.

Wendell Goler questions:

Hunter: Re: China. Is value of dollar dropping a security threat? Answer: Yes. China is arming with American trade dollars.

10:30: Debate is over.

10:35: Here’s video of Huckabee’s remark about Congress spending like John Edwards spends money on hair cuts.

10:37: Malkin liveblogged as well. Check out her comments here. Don Surber calls Ron Paul the Republican Kucinich.

10:39: Who do I think won? I need to read the transcript because sometimes it’s hard to get a good feel for what was said when you’re liveblogging, but here are my initial impressions: Huckabee sounded great, committed to life, but I have to give the edge to Romney. He came off as the most prepared, and sounded very presidential and looked it, too. I have to say as someone who has struggled wondering who to support, Romney is starting to sound very good to me. McCain sounded very defensive, and lost me early on with the old used drunken sailor spending joke (yawn).

10:44: Brian at Iowa Voice liveblogged the debate and promises some video clip highlights.

10:49: I’m on the hunt for a transcript from the debate – if anyone finds one will you please post it in the comments?

10:51: Here’s Romney on the key to preventing future terror attacks, and defending Gitmo:

10:55: Just thought of something. This is the type of debate the pandering-to-the-Nutroots Dem candidates won’t participate in? Looosers.

11:11: Jim Geraghty on Rudy’s response to Ron Paul:

I want to see Rudy’s shoe. Yup, I want him to show all of us his shoe. Why, you ask? Because I’ve never seen a candidate put his foot up another candidate’s tushie the way he did to Ron Paul tonight.

(Hat tip: Ed Driscoll)

Captain Ed on Rudy:

Team Rudy should send a hundred roses to Ron Paul — yellow roses, of course — after the Congressman essentially tossed the debate to Giuliani. Rudy had a pretty good night going anyway, but when Paul as much as said that the terrorists had a point in killing 3,000 Americans, Rudy let fly with the righteous indigation that an entire nation was busily hurling at their television screens.

Ron Paul — the Black Sox of Republican debaters.

11:52: Here’s video of Ron Paul blaming America for 9-11, and Rudy smacking him down:


The smartass reply would have been to ask Paul whether, if in fact conditions in Iraq precipitated 9/11, it wasn’t perfectly appropriate then to take extreme measures to try to remedy those conditions afterwards. A more thoughtful response would have been to ask him what his studiously noninterventionist “constitutional” option would have been when Saddam invaded Kuwait. But that’s all gravy; Rudy’s answer suffices as an expression of the palpable disgust most Americans (or at least most conservatives) felt at that moment for that Bircheresque crank, which is why he got the reaction he did. You can hear Mitt at the end over the din demanding that Rudy not be given the extra 30 seconds he requested, and with good reason — he might have walked away with the nomination right there.

12:04 a.m.: Here’s McCain on the SC Confederate flag issue.

Wed AM Update: Here’s the transcript for last night’s debate.

More: The MSNBC debate vs. the Fox debate: How do the questions compare?

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