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They debate. You decide.

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 5, 2007 08:44 PM

And now: Waiting for dilly-dallying Fred to finally take the stage.

On Leno now at midnight: “I decided it was time for me to step up. So I did.”

Well, yeah. It’s about time.

CampaignSpot has the advance transcript.

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Allah has vid of the Huckabee/Paul exchange and much more analysis. FNC’s Luntz-led focus group says McCain won the debate. The FNC text message poll is dominated by Ron Paul dialers. Dan Riehl watched the debate online with the “People Meter” thing running:

I watched the Republican debate via Fox News.com and took advantage of the ability to watch it with the so-called People Meter which gave a running response from two focus group’s reactions to the candidates as they spoke by graphically presenting a mean number. There were two lines, one for moderates, one for conservatives.

Putting the candidates aside for a moment, what I saw was that when the message was win in Iraq, it didn’t matter which candidate was saying it – the numbers for both conservatives and moderates went through the roof. And the stronger the talk, the higher the mean number. The only other issues that came close were immigration and taxes – the more talk there was of lower taxes, the higher the meter went. And moderates, as well as conservatives, wanted straight, tough talk on illegal immigration, as well.

10:27pm Eastern. Scenario time. Brit Hume lays out a scenario involving nuke-producing Iran, kicking out nuclear inspectors, meddling in Iraq, and threatening Israel while the U.N. twiddles its thumbs.

Ron Paul would…consult with Congress to see if it’s a national security threat.

Tom Tancredo: “Political correctness is what’s going to get us killed.”

Instapundit has a good round-up of others liveblogging the debate.

10:21pm Eastern. UNH poli sci major asks Giuliani about family values. Says it’s important to lead by example. Giuliani says he’s not a perfect person, talks about his record as NYC mayor instead. “Obviously, issues in my private life do not affect my public performance.” Mild applause.

10:15pm Eastern. Discussion of taxes and spending. Wallace recounts Romney’s record of raising fees in Mass. Notes he was nicknamed “Fee-Fee.” Romney says he’s never heard that before. David Freddoso pans Romney’s answer.

10:05pm Eastern. Discussion of Gitmo. Retread of the discussion we’ve had in past debates, but Duncan Hunter distinguishes himself by noting that numerous freed enemy combatants have gone back to the battlefield and that Gitmo detainees are treated better than prison inmates in any state/district represented by Dems who want to close the facility.

9:58pm Eastern. A citizen questioner expresses his contempt for Romney’s comment comparing his sons’ jobs on his campaign to military service. Romney says there is no comparison and then segues into a canned speech about war and Islamic jihad.

You know what he should have said to the questioner right off the bat?

“I’m sorry.”

Missed opportunity.

9:45pm. I take a bathroom break and come back to Ron Paul and Chris Wallace in a shouting match over al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia (Paul: “no need for American troops on the Arabian peninsula”), and the war. Brawl! Huckabee once again makes an eloquent statement, countering Paul, to leave with honor. We broke it (Iraq), we have to fix it. Paul says only a few people went to war.

Huckabee: We have to be one country. We made a decision as a country.

Paul: Hisses about neocons. When we make a mistake, politicians have to fix it.

Huckabee: Honor is more important than the Republican Party.

This is about as close to a real debate as there has been the entire campaign season. Kudos to Hume and his panel for allowing it to happen.

9:34pm Eastern. Carl Cameron asks an NH citizen about gay marriage. She opposes banning it. Interestingly, her comment prompts big applause. Brownback supports a gay marriage ban. Equal amount of applause.

9:28pm Eastern. Mike Huckabee’s statement on life was so eloquent I’m not even going to attempt to paraphrase. But I would recommend that every other top-tier candidate ask him for a copy and memorize it.

9:24pm Eastern. Wendell Goler asks Brownback (who?) about Larry Craig (yuck). “He’s taking responsibility in the sense of resigning from office.” Ummm, guess he missed the news. Cluebat in aisle one, please.

Duncan Hunter: “Yeah, he should resign and he should stick with the commitment that he made.” Hunter underscores the difference between Republicans and Dems. Paraphrasing: “When GOP gets in trouble, they resign. When Dem leaders get in hot water, the party makes them committee chairmen.” Big applause.

9:20pm Eastern. Carl Cameron asks a NH citizen–a local cop–about immigration enforcement. “You call INS. They won’t even come down and talk to you. What are you going to do about that?” Giuliani gives a laundry list of things that need to be done: real fence, technological fence, secure ID. McCain asked by Hume: “How do you not call amnesty amnesty?” McCain answers: “Because amnesty means forgiveness.” Blah, blah. Romney points out that the shamnesty bill gave Z visas that would allow illegal aliens to stay here indefinitely. “That’s amnesty.” Yup.

9:09pm Eastern. Chris Wallace asks Romney about illegal immigration, sanctuary cities. Wallace laughs at his own question, pointing out that Romney didn’t police illegal alien lawn-mowers. Romney says people don’t check with contractors (weak, weak answer) and then attacks Giuliani on sanctuary policies and amnesty.

Wallace follows up with Giuliani on his defense of illegal alien sanctuary in NYC. He denies it was sanctuary. Here’s the background.

Wallace goes to McCain for his attack on Romney and asks if McCain himself is playing politics by now backing border security after the shamnesty failure. “We need a temporary worker program,” but now he’ll finally enforce the borders.

Wallace questions Huckabee about his quote last year that immigration enforcement proponents were driven by “sheer racism.” Huckabee deflects. Disappointing. This is Huckabee’s biggest weakness.

Wallace gives Tancredo the floor: “How many months did my colleagues stay silent or were on the other side?..I’d like to see more than rhetoric…It has nothing to do with disliking people who come to this country illegally…It has to do with the rule of law. Does anyone understand that?” Big applause. Excellent, eloquent, succinct. I like that Tancredo took the race card head on. Bravo.

Duncan Hunter, the other stalwart on immigration enforcement, gets to talk about border fencing.

9pm Eastern. Here we go. “The first in the fall” debate opens. Don’t you love Brit Hume?

Interesting. The NHGOP chairman gets a brief opening statement. The candidates are introduced. Romney and McCain get the biggest applause, then Rudy, then the others.

Brit Hume kicks off with a question about Fred Thompson. Who’s made the smart moves here? You or Sen. Thompson?

Huckabee takes the soft-ball pitch. Notes that he gave up a spot on Leno because he’d rather be in New Hampshire.

Ron Paul welcomes him to the race. He’ll help dilute the vote for my benefit because he’ll be pro-war, and I’m anti-war. Paul-ites applaud.

McCain plays the age card: “Maybe we’re up past his bedtime.”

Romney’s jibe falls flat: “Why the hurry? Why not take some more time off?..I agree with all those who have spoken…I’ve done 462 events, town hall meetings. That’s how you get to know people.”

Giuliani jokes: “He’s done a pretty good job of playing my role in Law and Order…this is a nomination you have to earn…not a time to elect someone who needs on-the-job training.” Lots of applause. “America’s at war, not the time for on-the-job training.”

***

“The stage is set. The GOP hopefuls are ready.”

Are you going to watch the Fox News GOP debate? The show begins at 9pm. Will anyone breathe a word about the Fredster and his launch day troubles? Here’s the Leno coverage at WSJ.

IBD reports: “Thompson Buzz Seems To Fade Before His Campaign Even Starts.”

USA Today notes from the debate scene in New Hampshire that there’s a duck walking around:

Getting a fair amount of attention: A man (or perhaps a woman) dressed in a bright yellow duck suit. He (or she) would not answer which candidate he or she supports, but the target was clear: The missing Fred Thompson.

“Fred, Why Are You Ducking the Debate?” said one side of the placard being carried by the mysterious mallard. The other side: “Quacks Should Stay In Hollywood.”

Ouch.

***

Here’s the NYTimes coverage of Thompson’s announcement.

Here’s an FNC piece
covering the debate so far.

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