I'm going to live-blog tonight's Republican debate, the only one in between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. Keep reloading this post for more updates.
For more live-blogging, check out National Review, TPM, the New Republic, and the New American Perspective (a new website co-founded by Alex Knepper).
As always, I'll be writing down quotes on the fly without a transcript, so they might not be word-for-word, but I'll try to keep them reasonably accurate.
8:17 — As the candidates are announced and most of them walk to their podiums, Donald Trump and Ben Carson stay near the back! When Carson finally walks up to the stage but Trump stays back, the moderator announces Trump again, saying: "Lastly, we welcome . . . Donald Trump" — but there are two empty podiums! Chris Christie points out who's missing: "What about Kasich? Can I introduce Kasich?" [Added later: Carson explains it — he just couldn't hear his name being called.]
8:20 — Trump says he has "the best temperament" to be president. "I talked about Muslims. We have a problem. Nobody wanted to talk about the problem." He also reminds us that he was against the Iraq war — "others would be much faster" on the "trigger."
8:23 — Ted Cruz keeps tapping his lectern, making a loud, annoying noise in the mic.
8:24 — Trump is referring to himself in the third person more often than in the past: "We're going to win, with Trump. We're not going to back down, with Trump." Does he think he lost Iowa because he didn't have enough name recognition?
8:26 — Ben Carson eloquently addresses the false rumors spread by the Cruz campaign on the night of the Iowa caucus that Carson was dropping out. Carson points out how absurd it would be for him to drop out at the last minute after so many people had put so much effort into supporting him. "One of them even died." Cruz apologizes. Alex Knepper says:
“Easier to ask forgiveness than permission,” isn’t it, Sen. Cruz?8:29 — Marco Rubio is asked about the fact that he's a first-term Senator, as Obama was when he was elected. After listing his legislative accomplishments, he argues that Obama's inexperience wasn't the problem — "he knew exactly what he was doing!" Christie responds sharply: "You have not been involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable." Christie also points out that one of the things Rubio listed about his experience was a bill he didn't even vote on. "That's not leadership — that's truancy!" When Rubio tries to respond, Christie keeps ridiculing Rubio for his "25-second memorized speeches."
Most of the commentary seems to be that Christie is getting the better of his tussles with Rubio. Rubio does seem more weak and on the defensive than usual. But remember, Cruz had a weak debate shortly before the Iowa caucus, and that didn't stop him from winning.
Alex Knepper seems to think Rubio had a good response to the inexperience question:
The 'Republican Obama' attack might fall flat with Republican voters because a lot of them would love a Republican Obama: they think Obama has fundamentally transformed the country in the image of progressivism, and they would love someone who can fundamentally transform the country in the image of conservatism.8:38 — Cruz blames "the first Clinton administration" (an odd phrase at this point) for North Korea's launch of a long-range missile earlier today.
8:42 — When John Kasich is asked about the North Korean missile, he starts out weak and tone-deaf, changing the subject to saying his "town hall meetings" are more "fun" than this debate has been.
8:48 — Christie says Obama is "for paying ransom for hostages."
8:52 — On immigration, Cruz says: "We're going to build a wall . . ." Trump makes a face at this, which gets a laugh. Cruz says: "Since Donald enjoyed that, I've got somebody in mind to build it!"
8:56 — Rubio and Christie are tangling again, this time on immigration, with the same dynamics we've seen in this and other debates: Rubio justifies his Senate record, while Christie mocks the whole idea of Congress and says only someone who's held an executive office, like Christie, can lead.
9:01 — When Carson is asked about health care, he says: "I was hoping to get a chance to talk about North Korea. I was the only one who didn't get a chance to do that." He hasn't been saying much in this debate.
9:03 — Trump is asked about eminent domain. "Eminent domain is an absolute necessity . . . for our country. Without it, you wouldn't have roads, you wouldn't have schools, you wouldn't have bridges." He also points out that compensation is constitutionally required: "When eminent domain is used on someone's property, that person gets a fortune!" Jeb Bush says those kinds of things are fine because they're for a "public purpose," but Trump tried to take an "elderly woman's" property and use it for "a limousine parking lot for his casinos." Trump says he didn't do that, but Bush says: "You tried!"
9:16 — Trump is asked about the charges that he's not a real conservative. He says "conservative" is "a very important word," and it's rooted in the word "conserve." "We want to conserve our money. We want to conserve our wealth."
9:18 — The moderator tells Trump that Christie has encouraged people who go to Trump rallies to ask Trump a simple question: "How?" So the moderator asks Trump "how" he'll create jobs. That question is framed to sound tough, but it's actually a softball — all Trump has to do is pitch his tax plan and claim it'll create jobs.
9:20 — Kasich says: "We have grown government at the rate of inflation." I understand that this is supposed to mean he's kept a tight rein on government, but he could have phrased that more effectively for the Republican primaries. Republican voters are going to be turned off by hearing: "We have grown government . . ."
I missed some stuff here because the ABC News feed keeps cutting out and going to an ad.
9:26 — Cruz is asked about his plan to "carpet-bomb" ISIL. He says it would be "targeted," not "indiscriminate." Cruz says ISIL has something called "Jihadist University." "Why is that building still standing? It should be rubble. However, I would be willing to wait until freshman orientation before launching those bombings."
9:31 — While Rubio is giving a long answer about how to fight ISIL, I'm thinking Carson must feel like he's getting the O'Malley treatment. [Added later: Indeed, Carson spoke the least.]
9:33 — Trump talks about the need to cut off ISIL's "banking channels." "Nobody knows banking like I do. . . . It's going to dry up very quickly."
9:35 — Bush says America has to get more aggressive against terrorism — but he sounds lackluster when he says this. That's Bush's problem: his style doesn't match his substance. For instance, he's called himself a "disrupter" — but he seems as conventional as anyone.
9:36 — A few minutes after I commented about how Carson hasn't had much to say (9:33), Carson quips: "I'm not here just to add beauty to the stage!"
9:38 — Cruz says he's "joined with Senator McCain" by opposing waterboarding as a general matter, but he doesn't consider it torture and wouldn't rule it out in dire circumstances.
9:39 — Trump: "I'd bring back waterboarding — and I'd bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding!"
9:48 — Kasich makes a contrived attempt at generating excitement: "If I'm president, go out and get a seatbelt, because there's going to be so much happening in the first hundred days, it'll make your head spin!"
9:51 — Cruz tells the wrenching story of his half-sister's heroin addiction, which ended with her death a few years ago.
9:53 — Christie on drug addiction: "This is a disease. It's not a moral failing. . . . I'm pro-life, not just for the nine months in the womb. It gets a lot harder after that."
9:54 — Trump is asked how he'll run against Hillary Clinton considering her potential to make history by being the first female president. Trump doesn't specifically address the gender angle; he simply declares that he's going to beat her by a lot.
9:57 — Carson is asked the same question. He doesn't talk about gender — or race. He says he'd turn the election into "a referendum about honesty vs. deceitfulness."
10:11 — Christie is asked whether he'd quarantine Americans to prevent the spread of the Zika virus. "You bet I would!"
10:13 — Rubio is asked whether women should be required to register with the military in the event there's a draft. Rubio says yes — including for combat. Bush agrees.
10:17 — Christie says: "There's no reason young women should be discriminated against in registering for the Selective Service." He talks as if it's just discrimination against women — but it's mainly discrimination against men, who are the only ones required to stand ready to be enslaved to fight in a war.
10:25 — Trump says if he's president, "waste, fraud, and abuse" in government will "disappear quickly." That's preposterous — every politician claims to be against government waste. If it were so easy to get rid of, that would have happened a long time ago.
10:31 — There's a "lightning round" of questions about the Super Bowl. Why does the media think it's a good idea to bring up sports on a political show?
10:44 — After Cruz gives his closing statement, Trump says: "He got Ben Carson's votes, but we won't say that . . ."
Alex Knepper's verdict:
Winners: Christie, Kasich, Bush; Wash: Trump, Cruz, Carson; Loser: Rubio. There’s just no question that Rubio among all the candidates suffered the greatest number of blows. Rubio simply was not prepared for the onslaught from the governors, who demonstrated a real hunger.I agree that Rubio was weak and had the worst night. But I also thought Kasich was pretty awkward — I don't understand why people are saying he did well.