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Saturday night jive: The New Hampshire debates; Round One – GOP candidates

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By Michelle Malkin  •  January 5, 2008 06:43 PM

Update 9:16pm Eastern. Here’s the vid of McCain’s knock on Romney: “You’re the candidate of change.” And more vid highlights/lowlights here. Wire dispatch here.

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Caption contest!

Mark Hemingway at The Corner: “You hate the rich? No way! I HATE THE RICH! ”

Update 8:45pm Eastern. GOP debate over. Romney bore the brunt of attacks. We’ll see if there’s a backlash among New Hampshire voters to the negativity soon enough. McCain was positively awful on immigration. He has not, not, not learned his lesson. Huckabee was nervous. In past debates, he performed the best–injecting humor, memorable one-liners, etc. Tonight, he was rehearsed and careful and brittle. Meanwhile, here are a few screen caps of the photo op moment ABC’s been touting….the GOP and Dem candidates together on stage. Kumbaya…

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Scroll down for GOP debate liveblogging 7-8:30pm Eastern. I’ll start a new thread for the Dem debate.

Highlights/lowlights:

7:20pm Eastern. Ron Paul blames America: “They don’t attack us because we’re free and prosperous. It’s because we invade their countries.”
7:51pm Eastern. Health-care crisis is because of “war-mongering;” Romney on health care: “I like mandates;”
8:16pm Eastern. Giuliani: “None of us has a perfect record on immigration;” Thompson takes on Giuliani’s sanctuary policies
8:28pm Eastern. McCain disses Romney: “You are the candidate of change.” McCain cackles.

***
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8:40pm Eastern. On oil dependence Huckabee. Every time we swipe our credit card at the gas station, we might as well send that money to Pakistani madrassas.
Romney gets the last word — a polite consensus, stump-y ending.

Update 8:37pm Eastern. Thompson succinctly shoots down oil company demagoguery from WMUR anchor. What about their profits? Fred: I take note of their profits. I take note of their losses. It’s supply and demand.

***Update 8:28pm Eastern. Candidates address Obama/change platform. Romney talks about living change. Pulling a segue on the Obama question, McCain snidely attacks Romney: “You are the candidate of change.” McCain cackles.

Very unbecoming. (Allah disagrees with me. He says he LOL’ed.)

Giuliani answers the Obama question. He doesn’t have the experience.

Update 8:22pm Eastern. Open-borders Huckabee tries to sound tough on borders. Tries and fails.

Update 8:07pm Eastern. First question after the break goes to McCain on immigration and his changed tune. McCain proceeds to sing his changed tune: border security, employer verification, national security. But “these are God’s children.” Reiterates support for guest worker program. Spat over definition of “amnesty.”

Romney says no amnesty, pathway for 12 million illegals for permanent residency or citizenship.

Romney and McCain get into it. Romney – I did not endorse your plan. Endorsed none of them.

McCain: You can spend your whole fortune on these ads and it won’t make it true.

Romney: Your view is that everyone who doesn’t have a criminal record who came here illegally can stay here forever. Are they sent home?

McCain: Some are, some are not. Appeals to emotion by saying he won’t deport grandmother of illegal alien solder in Iraq.

Thompson gangs up on…Romney.

Romney: Are the 12 million illegals allowed to stay here or not?

McCain: The answer is we were still negotiating.

Gibson waves the total deportation red herring: Is it practical to deport them all.

Romney: Look up your Z visa. Every illegal would stay here indefinitely.

Giuliani: Reagan did amnesty. He would be subject to Mitt’s negative ads. None of us has a perfect record on immigration.

Me: That’s for damned sure.

Thompson: If you are rewarded for illegal behavior, it’s amnesty.

Thompson: You can have enforcement by attrition. Stop sanctuary cities, like sanctuary that Giuliani had.

Giuliani: Denies that NYC was a sanctuary.

Update 8:00pm Eastern. Commercial break. So far, I’d say Fred Thompson is doing well for himself. He’s shown humor and is engaged and seems relaxed. Huckabee and Romney scuffled briefly; Huckabee slipped and let himself appear thin-skinned and defensive. Ron Paul is clearly relishing the opportunity to wield his Blame America sword.

Huckabee accused Romney of not supporting the surge before he did. Romney campaign sends this in rapid response…

Tonight, Huckabee Accused Gov. Romney Of Not Supporting The Troop:

Huckabee Said He Supported The Surge Before Romney. “I supported the president in the war before you did. I supported the surge when you didn’t.” (ABC/WMUR, [Unverified Transcript], Republican Presidential Candidate Debate, Manchester, NH, 1/5/08)

One Year Ago, Gov. Huckabee Did Not Offer His Support For The Surge:

Gov. Huckabee, January 2007: “Well, I’m Not Sure That I Support The Troop Surge.” MSNBC’s NORAH O’DONNELL: “We have a Rudy Giuliani, who supports the president’s plan on Iraq. We have Governor Mitt Romney, who also supports a troop surge. How are you different from any of those candidates.” HUCKABEE: “Well, I’m not sure that I support the troop surge, if that surge has to come from our Guard and Reserve troops, which have really been overly stretched.” (MSNBC’s “Live,” 1/24/07)

***
Scroll down for first hour liveblogging.

Update 7:10pm Eastern. Charles Gibson. GOP candidates introduced. “Think of this as a semi-circle dining room table.” First question on foreign policy. “Will you run on the Bush foreign policy record or away from it?”

Huckabee points to “arrogance” of “former Secretary of Defense.”

Thompson razzes Huckabee for his change of message–now claiming we were arrogant for not going into with Iraq with not enough troops.

Giuliani: I think the president got the big decision of his presidency right. Going on offense in Afghanistan, Iraq, Patriot Act, electronic surveillance. Mistakes were made after capture of Saddam Hussein…We should increase the size of our military.

Gibson: Do you believe in the Bush doctrine?

McCain: I agree with the doctrine and I’d also like to give President Bush a little credit. After 9/11, every expert in the world said there would be another attack. We haven’t. America’s not safe. It is safer. I disagreed with strategy of Rumsfeld. I’m the only one who said so at the time. Had no confidence in then-Sec Def. Give credit to Bush for changing the strategy. We have one of the finest military leaders in American history in Gen. David Petraeus. McCain gives credit to Rudy Giuliani for leadership in NYC.

Ron Paul. I agreed with no nation-building, criticism of Clinton admin. But we fell short. Bush doctrine of preemptive war is not a minor change. This is huge. I don’t understand this. All options on the table to go after Iran? These are Third World nations. They’re not capable…They don’t attack us because we’re free and prosperous. It’s because we invade their countries.

Romney: Unfortunately, Ron, you need an understanding of radical Islam. The president is not arrogant. He’s acted to keep America safe. He did the right thing responding to the attack.

Thompson: This is a different world. Preemption has got to be an option under the right circumstances. We should only go in where we should and where we’re able to.

Giuliani: Ron’s analysis is really seriously flawed. The idea that we got attacked because of our foreign policy? It’s because of what they’ve done. Refers to returning money from Saudi prince. If you bother to listen to what they say, it comes out of their own perverted thinking.

Paul. Try to visualize how they would react if they did this to us.

Romney: I read their writings. Cites Sayyid Qutb.

Paul: We were occupying…

Huckabee: Takes heat off of Paul. Attacks Romney for criticizing his use of “arrogant.” I’m not taking cheap shots at the president. I’m going to be president of the United States on my own terms. Says the policies were arrogant, not the president.

When there is a serious threat to our country…in the heart of the radical Islamic faith, this is a jihadist problem…if you read the writings…Qutb…they are prompted by drive to establish a worldwide caliphate.

Romney: I disagree with Huckabee’s Foreign Affairs article. I did support the surge.

McCain: Did you read mine? [Laughter.]

Giuliani: *Very strong.* Answers Paul’s American occupiers line with attacks on Bali, Leon Klinghoffer, Munich Olympics…

Gibson: Move on to domestic policy. I had promised we wouldn’t have video questions. But we have a question from Bush’s last press conference…

Bush video: You can’t be president unless you have a firm set of principles…What are the principles that you were stand on in good times and bad times, what will be the underpinning of your decisions?

Question goes to McCain and Romney on constancy of principles. Gibson refers to sniping.

McCain: Refers to military oath he took at 17. Says his principles have been constant since then. He claims credit for pushing the surge first. Stuck to it and didn’t change. Glad everyone’s on board now. My principles and philosophy are those embodied in inalienable rights…

Romney: Stump speech. Strengthen families, better schools, health care, strong military. My overriding principle is keeping America the strongest nation on Earth.

Gibson notes, with disappointment, that McCain and Romney don’t sound like they disagree. “You sound…different.” Turns to Giuliani.

Giuliani: Starts stump speech…

Gibson interrupts to focus on flip-flopping, moderation for expediency…

Looks like no one wants to fight on fight night…

Huckabee says policies can change, but not principles. Recites Declaration of Independence. Endowed by our Creator.

Thompson: Our first principles are based on the Constitution. Civics 101 course. First principles – fiscal responsibility.

Paul: Why have we gone to war without a declaration of war. Unconstiutional monetary system. We don’t treat others so fairly. We’re the bully, we’re the policeman of the year. It’s bankrupting our country. We don’t live up to our principles. [Scattered applause.]

Gibson moves to health care. If we can afford a trillion dollar war in Iraq, why not medical insurance for all?

Giuliani: We basically have a private system. More government would lead to deterioration. If we go to socialized health care, where will Canadians go? [Laughter.]

McCain: Reward wellness and fitness…he’s worred about obesity and diabetes…

Romney: Touts Massachusetts health care.

Paul: Blames the war, “war-mongering,” inflation.

Paul is sitting in the wrong debate.

Thompson. Hmmph. [Laughter.] So if we would stop printing so much money, we could get out of the war and give health care to everybody…let’s face it…we’re probably not going to achieve total coverage…

7:54pm Eastern.

***Romney***: I like mandates.

Thompson: I didn’t think you’d admit it…[crosstalk]…

Romney says he wouldn’t mandate insurance coverage at federal level, but encourage other states to adopt Mass. model.

Like Fred said: Hmmph.

McCain on keeping costs down, Medicaid overcharging, disease management, etc. Does a little pharma-bashing, Hillary-style.

Romney defends pharma. They are doing the work of the free market. Innovation. They’re an important industry to this country.

***
The Facebook (yes, Facebook)/ABC News debates begin at 7pm Eastern tonight–GOP up first, then the Dems. ABC News is billing it as “fight night.” We’ll see. The anticipated photo-op of the night: All 10 of the GOP and Dem candidates on stage together. Will Denny K crash the party?

Stay tuned for liveblogging. You can watch a livestream of the debate at WMUR here.

Yes, I’ve got my Red Bull in hand…

Ten presidential candidates (six Republicans, four Democrats) will pull up swiveling chairs and take to the very same debate stage Saturday night in Manchester for two of those encounters on the presidential calendar that merit circling in bright red (and blue) magic marker.

ABC’s Charles Gibson has a bit of a different format in mind for the evening than we’ve seen in previous encounters — more genial than gotcha, like a very chatty (and very well-lit) kitchen table. But the candidates will surely provide the fireworks: In this excruciatingly brief window between Iowa and New Hampshire, subtly just doesn’t work.

The dynamics would be different even if the format was the same: We have the time crunch, of course, but we also have new frontrunners: “Barack Obama enters Saturday’s Democratic debate as the undisputed front-runner with a bull’s-eye on his back — and a humbled and hobbled Hillary Clinton itching to open fire,” writes the New York Daily News troika of Michael McAuliff, Ken Bazinet, and Michael Saul.

The Republicans get their 90 minutes first, starting at 7 pm ET from Saint Anselm College and broadcast live on ABC nation-wide — good entertainment while you’re staying up late waiting for returns from the Wyoming caucuses (and you know who you are).

The Democrats kick off shortly after that — following the photo-op of all photo-ops: All 10 on stage at once, sharing handshakes and awkward conversation.

Here’s a poll up at the Facebook politics page:

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Latest CNN/WMUR poll shows Hill and Barry in a dead heat.

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