GOP caucus campaign and debate discussion thread

Seven Six Republican presidential candidates debate tonight in Des Moines, the first time the group has debated since Herman Cain left the race and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich became the front-runner. I plan to live-blog tonight’s debate here, but I wanted to post this thread early to give Bleeding Heartland readers a chance to talk about the race. Links and recent news from the campaign are after the jump.

UPDATE: Scroll down for the live-blog.

This Iowa caucus campaign may be a dud, but it is fun to watch the ongoing humiliation of Texas Governor Rick Perry. His latest campaign commercial is so desperate that it has spawned nearly a dozen online parodies already.

Representative Michele Bachmann is running out of time to make a move. Yesterday she criticized Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for supporting an individual mandate to purchase health insurance. I have a hunch she will reprise her case against Gingrich’s record on abortion too.

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum doesn’t have much to show for his generally strong debate performances and time spent campaigning in Iowa. Yesterday he picked up Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s endorsement. As a member of the Council Bluffs city council during the last presidential campaign, Schultz backed Romney for the Iowa caucuses. Santorum is a safe choice for Schultz, who clearly has higher political ambitions for the future. Supporting Santorum won’t offend any conservative constituency. In addition, it helps Schultz score some points with Nick Ryan, the head of the American Future Fund who is also a paid consultant for Santorum’s campaign.

Romney has bigger things to worry about than a former supporter backing Santorum. He can afford a second-place finish in Iowa but perhaps not a weak third or fourth. During most of the debates, he’s tried to rise above the squabbling, but I wonder whether he will take a few swings at Gingrich tonight. This week he bashed Gingrich for disagreeing with House Republican Paul Ryan’s proposal to revamp Medicare. Meanwhile, the pro-Romney PAC Restore Our Future launched an attack ad against Gingrich and a website claiming to provide “The Real Truth about Newt Gingrich” at

A still image of President Barack Obama, paired with a news story suggesting the Democratic president’s campaign planned to “destroy” Republican Mitt Romney.

“Why is this man smiling?” a woman’s voice in the ad asks. “Because his plan is working. Brutally attack Mitt Romney and hope Newt Gingrich is his opponent.”

A series of still images of Gingrich, the former House speaker, begins.

“Why? Newt has a ton of baggage,” the ad says. “Like the fact that Gingrich was fined $300,000 for ethics violations or that he took at least $1.6 million from Freddie Mac just before it helped cause the economic meltdown. Then there’s the $37 million Gingrich took from health care and industry groups.

“And on the issues? Newt’s been on all sides. He supports amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants. Gingrich even teamed up with Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore on global warming. And Newt was a longtime supporter of a national health insurance mandate, the centerpiece of Obamacare. Maybe that’s why George Will called Gingrich the least conservative candidate.

“The Gingrich record? Thirty years in Washington flip-flopping on issues. Check the facts at”

It takes chutzpah for a group of Romney supporters to go after someone else’s “flip-flopping.”

Several recent polls have shown Representative Ron Paul in second place among likely Iowa caucus-goers. He tends to mix it up in the debates, and I think he will try to build on his new video slamming Gingrich’s “serial hypocrisy.”

Incidentally, Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer stayed in the Gingrich camp after all; she endorsed him very early, in January, but seemed to have some doubts after his campaign imploded this summer.

Still no word on a presidential pick from Representative Steve King, who endorsed very late in 2007. Governor Terry Branstad and Senator Chuck Grassley have ruled out endorsing a presidential candidate before the caucuses. My money’s on Representative Tom Latham staying out of it as well.

Any comments about the presidential campaign are welcome in this thread.  

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman won’t be on stage tonight; he hasn’t hired staff or opened campaign offices in Iowa. That means more mic time for the others, which is probably good for Bachmann and Santorum and bad for Perry.

First question: what’s your distinguishing idea about how to create jobs in US, bring jobs back from overseas, how many jobs could you create?

Gingrich: Worked with Reagan and Clinton to create jobs; starts simply with lower taxes, less regulation, American energy, be positive about people who create jobs. Zero capital gains, drop corporate taxes, permanently abolish estate tax, etc. Those things would dramatically create jobs.

Romney: Having spent life in private sector, I understand where jobs are created–not in govt, not in Washington. To make America most attractive for investment, you have to do seven things. Employer tax rates have to be competitive with rest of the world, fewer regulations, change trade policies/crack down on China, energy, rule of law, government that spends no more than it takes in.

Paul: Different approach–talks about financial bubbles being created by Federal Reserve, deficit spending. We haven’t liquidated debt, we’ve dumped debt on people and bailed out people who created the bubble. We need to change monetary policy, lower taxes and cut spending by $1 trillion.

Perry: Distinguishing mark is a flat tax of 20% and get rid of regulatory burden that’s “killing people.” Has a record of doing that and creating jobs in Texas. Corruption of Washington DC and Wall Street, bailout is a big problem today. Need an outsider to solve this problem, balance budget, etc.

Bachmann: Alludes to Herman Cain’s 999 plan, but offers a “win win win” plan that would abolish current tax code and lower rates for individuals as well as businesses. Wants to make sure that “everyone pays something.” Cites statistic that 47% of Americans pay nothing in income tax. Also claims Obamacare will cost millions of jobs over five years.

Santorum: Talks about decline of manufacturing sector; praises Branstad/Reynolds for recognizing importance. His tax policy would lower business taxes and repeal regulations that affect manufacturers. Obama has imposed lots of new regulations that are hurting business. Less regulation would allow businesses to thrive.

Next question: about payroll tax cut that is scheduled to expire on December 31 without Congressional action. Some people say that if the cut expires the average American worker could pay $1,000 more.

Bachmann: The payroll tax cut shouldn’t have been put in place–I fought this last December, urged colleagues in Congress not to do this. This is Obama’s plan of temporary gimmicks, not permanent solution. This blew a hole in the Social Security trust fund. That’s important for seniors. I’m completely different from Barack Obama on this issue. We can’t afford to lose that money from the Soc Security trust fund, there’s nothing in the general treasury. We can’t spend money we don’t have.

Romney: I don’t want to raise taxes on people, especially not middle class people suffering in the Obama economy, but let’s recognize that this is just a band-aid. We have a jobs crisis and an economic crisis. Obama has no plan to get the economy going again. We should talk about how to make America competitive. I’ve spoken with business people–they aren’t investing in America because this president has made the country a less attractive place for investing/hiring. Alludes to Obama’s focus on his “golf grip.”

Santorum: Is there a Social Security Trust Fund or not? President talks about how Repubs threaten Soc Security, but he takes resources away from Soc Secur. I’m all for tax cuts that create growth, but to take the trust fund and use that to beat up Republicans is absurd. You either care about Soc Secur and want to fund it, or you don’t.

Paul: I want to extend the tax cut so you don’t raise taxes, but I want to pay for extending the tax cut. We have to quit the spending. We don’t need to be a policeman all around the world. Why are we putting 17,000 contractors in Iraq, pretending our troops are coming home?

Next question to Romney.

Romney passes on opportunity to bash Gingrich, bashes Obama administration, says we need to get back to a “merit society.” I should be the nominee because I can take that message to the people–I understand the economy and the principles of a merit-based society. We’ll talk about places where Gingrich and I disagree later. Asked for examples, Romney says he doesn’t agree with establishing lunar colony, changing child labor laws, different views on capital gains taxes, but real difference is our backgrounds: I’ve spent my career in private sector.

Gingrich rebuttal: The only reason you haven’t been in Washington is that you lost to Ted Kennedy in 1994. [crowd goes oooh!!] You’d have been a 17 year politician now if you’d won.

I grew up in a generation where the space program was real. Supports strong space program.

On child labor rules, says he meant kids should be allowed to work in their own schools; would help poor kids and save money (claims janitors paid more than teachers). He says middle class kids often work, let’s give a chance to poor kids. Crowd applauds.

Says Romney’s tax cut plan wouldn’t create as many jobs as his plan.

Romney rebuts, says his tax plan would create 11 million jobs. Says it’s true that he would have been a career politician if he’d beaten Ted Kennedy, but the lessons he learned in the private sector have made him more qualified for the job he’s seeking now. We need people outside Washington and K Street. Also says we don’t have to change child labor laws to allow kids to help out in their schools.

Next question is to Ron Paul about his ad accusing Gingrich of “serial hypocrisy.”

Paul says Gingrich has supported single payer, TARP bailout, he’s received a lot of money from Freddie Mac, a govt organization, while Paul was trying to explain to people about the housing bubble. People should know that Gingrich changed his stand on a lot of issues.

Gingrich rebuttal: Agrees with some things Paul said about Federal Reserve. Says he offered strategic advice to Freddie Mac, was working in the private sector, like McKinsey–it’s called free enterprise.

Paul: It’s the taxpayers’ money, we bailed these people out!

Gingrich: I’m not for bailing them out, I’m for breaking them up.

Bachmann: K St lobbyist is the consummate insider. I’ve spent 50 years in the real world, living real life and building a real business. Look at the candidates: who’s the real conservative? For 20 years, Newt Gingrich has advocated for individual mandate in health insurance–longer than Obama. Romney was the only governor in country who put in socialized medicine. I fought Obamacare, didn’t advocate for it. Newt and Romney were for Obamacare principles, for cap and trade, for illegal immigration, for $700 billion bailout. And Newt/Romney are with Obama on payroll tax cut extension.

Gingrich: Michele, a lot of what you say isn’t true. I opposed cap and trade, testified against it, helped defeat it with American Solutions. (527 group) We actively campaigned against Obamacare. It’s important to be accurate. My speech money, best-selling books were a larger source of income than any work on K St.

Bachmann: Newt first advocated for individual mandate in 1993. Our nominee has to have a stark, distinct difference from Obama. President Obama knows me, I’ve taken him on, I stand 180 degrees opposite.

Romney: I know Newt Gingrich, and he’s a friend of mine, but we are not clones. On health care, I didn’t send a team to meet with Obama. I wish he’d given me a call and consulted with me as a governor. I would have told him he was going down a bad path, raising taxes, cutting Medicare. Obama is only president who’s ever cut Medicare for seniors. The plan we put in place in Massachusetts affected only the 8 percent who didn’t have insurance, not the 92 percent who had insurance.

Perry: Stunned to hear what Romney said, because Obamacare is similar to what happened in Massachusetts, cites study that says Mass health care/individual mandate cost money and jobs in Mass. You can talk about how you’ll repeal Obamacare, but record is clear: you and Newt were for individual mandates. Who can stand on the stage and look him in the eye and say Obamacare is an abomination?

Romney: Gingrich said he was for a federal individual mandate–that’s something I’ve always opposed. We did what was good for our state. I support the 10th amendment. People in Mass like our plan 3-1. If they don’t like it, they can get rid of it. Our plan didn’t raise taxes or cut Medicare. I’m adamantly opposed to Obamacare and will return the power to the states. Tells Perry that he has a mandate in Texas for vaccinating girls at age 12.

Gingrich response: In 1993, in fighting Hillarycare, virtually every conservative saw the mandate as less dangerous than what Hillary was trying to do. Even Heritage Foundation was for it at that time. Later people started changing views. Now it’s clear that mandate is unconstitutional, but that started as a conservative effort to stop Hillary in the 1990s.

Perry: I read your book, Mitt, you said Mass should be model for the rest of the country. It came out of the second edition of the book, but that’s what you said.

Romney offers Perry a $10,000 bet about what he actually wrote in his book. He never said in the book that Massachusetts plan should be imposed on the nation. Says states should experiment.

Bachmann: We have one shot to get rid of Obamacare: that’s 2012. Do we really think that Romney or Gingrich could stand on the stage and get rid of this in 2012? It’s going to be a very heavy lift.

Santorum: This isn’t about what you say in a debate. I was running for senate in 1994, and I didn’t support an individual mandate, I called for medical savings account. The record is important. The question was about a consistent conservative–look at the record. I agree with Michele, she’s been conservative, but she’s been fighting and losing. I fought and won. I managed welfare reform bill in Senate. I fought pro-life issues, national security issues, sanctions on Iran. I haven’t flip-flopped, I led and won. I am consistently conservative, can lead and win in states that are important like Pennsylvania.

Bachmann rebuttal: Important thing is to fight and lead. Nancy Pelosi wasn’t interested in my pro-growth policy on health care, but I did everything I could including bring 40,000 people to capital to get rid of Obamacare. I will take on every special interest, K St, and I will make sure I help elect 13 more Republican U.S. senators. I won’t rest until we repeal Obamacare.

Santorum: I was in the House minority too, along with Jim Nussle from Iowa. We exposed the House banking scandal, eventually sent the Ways and Means chairman Rostenkowski to jail.

First commercial break. So far I think Gingrich is holding his own. His line about how Romney would have been a career politician, except he lost to Ted Kennedy, was the best of the debate. Romney isn’t doing badly but probably hasn’t won over any new supporters. WestWingReport tweeted, “The $10,000 bet Romney offered to make to Perry represents three months pay for most Americans. (Median wage: $39K in 2010)”

Next question comes from “our partners at the Des Moines Register”: should voters consider marital fidelity? Governor Perry, you said in SC that this is an important issue–why?

Perry: I didn’t just make a promise to my wife, I made a vow to God–a promise to God is more valuable than a Texas handshake.

Follow-up to Perry: Do you think that someone who breaks a promise to a spouse would break faith with the public?

Perry: I think that voters can figure it out–if you cheat on your wife, you’ll cheat on your business partner.

Same question goes to Santorum. He says character issues do count. Wouldn’t say it’s a disqualifier–people make mistakes, and people will listen if you made a mistake. But when you elect a leader, trust is everything. I hear this in Iowa, who can we trust? I talk about my record, it’s a consistent conservative record, married to the same woman, has 7 kids.

Paul: Character is important–don’t need to talk about it, it should show through in how we live. I’ve been married for 54 years, but we don’t have to talk about it all the time. Oath of office is really where you’re on the line as a public figure. I take my oath very seriously in Congress. Sometimes I end up voting all by myself. We’d get rid of 80 percent of the govt if we took our oath seriously in Washington. We wouldn’t be invading privacy of people with PATRIOT Act, we’d have free and prosperous society.

Question to Romney: why did you put your family and values in first Iowa tv ad?

Romney: Obama PAC ran an ad against me, saying I have no core. I wanted to show my family and my values. Our merit-based economy is what could make us great again. Who’s going to make sure there’s a job for kids when they get out of school? I love this country and the values of this country–I want my 16 grandkids to have a prosperous country.

Bachmann: Founders wrote in federalist papers that they didn’t look at wealth, education, position in society. What’s the measure of a man? Will they keep their word, be a person of integrity? That’s what people in Iowa care about–who are you really, what’s your core, what’s your faith? I’m not ashamed to be a Christian, I proclaimed my faith in Christ at age 16, I’m not ashamed to be asked those questions.

Gingrich: This is a real issue. People have the right to ask every question of the person we’re loaning the presidency too. In my case, I’ve made mistakes, I’ve had to go to God, make reconciliation. I’m a 67 year old grandfather, I’m delighted people are looking at my record and happy that so many people are supporting candidacy and record of real change. [Newt handled that question very well in my opinion.]

Next question is about immigration: Can we stipulate first that we all want to secure the borders? I want to ask what to do about the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. Asks Gingrich about plan–how many years would be threshold for being able to stay in country?

Gingrich: Defends idea of letting someone who has been here for 25 years, contributing to society, going to church, etc. stay in country. He wants to make English official language of government and he wants it to be easier to deport people from this country, he wants illegal workers without families to leave this country immediately. He’s sticking to his number of 25 years–citizen review panel would consider whether that person could stay. Not amnesty, not citizenship, they would receive right of residency.

Similar question to Romney: how many people should be tracked down and sent back home to their country?

Romney: Any time we talk about any form of amnesty or permanent residency, we will create another magnet that draws people in illegally. Right course is to secure the border. Then we can talk about the 11 million people. Those people should register and have some transition period of time to settle their affairs, then should return home.

Perry: We need to enforce laws on the books. Then we can talk about immigration reform.

Next question is about Gingrich’s comment that Palestinians are “invented people.”

Paul: I believe in a non-interventionist policy. What Gingrich said is just stirring up trouble. People in those regions should be dealing with those problems. Palestinians didn’t have a state during Ottoman Empire, but neither did Israel.

Gingrich defends his statement. What he said was factually correct and historically true. Criticizes Obama administration for pressuring Israel into “peace process.” Someone has to have courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists, they are teaching terrorism, we are paying for those textbooks with our aid money.

Romney: I agree with most of what the speaker said, but I think it was a mistake to go on and say Palestinians are invented people. We’re wise to stand with our friends and not get ahead of Israel by negotiating for them. Utlimately Israelis and Palestinians will have to agree. We shouldn’t make it more difficult for Netanyahu. If we disagree with Israel, we should do it in private, not public. We’re going to tell the truth, but not throw incendiary words into a boiling pot.

Gingrich rebuttal: He says Israelis are already getting bombed every day. Palestinian claim to right of return is based on false story. Palestinian didn’t become a common term until 1970s. This is a propaganda war, we refuse to engage and tell the truth.

Romney: Of course we tell the truth and stand with Israel, but we shouldn’t speak for them. Let Netanyahu say that.

Gingrich: I wasn’t speaking for Israel. I was speaking as a historian, I’ve known Bibi Netanyahu since 1984.

Romney: I’ve also known Bibi for a long time, we worked together at Boston consulting group. He doesn’t need someone running for president of US to create problems for him. As president I will make sure that anything I say wouldn’t harm them. I would consult with Netanyahu. I am not a bomb-thrower rhetorically or literally.

Gingrich: Sometimes it’s important to have president who tells the truth. Reagan went around advisers when he said USSR was Evil Empire; Reagan overruled State Dept when he said “Tear down this wall.”

Bachmann asked who won argument between Gingrich and Romney. Talks about her experience in Israel during the 1970s, her later trips to Israel. She criticizes Palestinian textbooks that teach hatred of Jews and Israelis.

Santorum given a chance to comment: You have to speak the truth but do so with prudence. I listened to both of them, they both made good points, but this isn’t academic exercise. We have an ally, need to stand shoulder to shoulder with ally. We didn’t have an ally in the Soviet Union. Mitt’s point was correct–we need to work with Israelis to ask whether it’s wise for us to engage with this issue. It’s their fight, we should support our allies. Israelis have the right to determine what happens in their land, including West Bank.

Perry: This is a minor issue that media is blowing way out of proportion. President of US has put the most muddled foreign policy in place, that’s causing problems of Middle East. Criticizes Obama policy on Iran in 2009, talks about how radical Islamist is now running Egypt. Complains that Obama chose worst option when we lost a drone in Iran–now Russians and Chinese will have our highly technical equipment. This president is the problem, not something that Newt Gingrich said.

Second commercial break. I agree with Romney that what Gingrich said wasn’t wise, but my hunch is that the Iowa Republican base will take Gingrich’s side of that “invented people” argument.

Next question: Many middle class Americans have to make cuts in their personal budgets. They want the candidates to describe when was the last time they had to cut something from their budget–not a luxury.

Perry: Talks about growing up in Texas in a house that didn’t have running water until he was 5 or 6. His mother sewed his clothes until he went to college. Luxury wasn’t in his lexicon. He came back from the Air Force at age 27, didn’t have anything. He says he never felt like he had to give up anything he really needed. He knows people are suffering in America today, that’s why we need to get people working. My record in Texas shows people.

Romney: I didn’t grow up poor. If you’re looking for someone with that background, I’m not that person. But my dad grew up poor and wanted me to understand the principles of hard work. My parents made sure we had jobs growing up and didn’t spend money foolishly. I spent time for my church overseas, I saw people in very unfortunate circumstances. He has worked in his church in this country and has seen people struggling–when people lose jobs, marriages suffer. I’m in the race not because I grew up poor but because I understand how to get the economy going.

Paul: I was fortunate because although I was raised in a family without much, I wasn’t aware of it. It was the depression, WWII, that’s how things were. I worked my way through college, then I did a little better–my wife worked my way through medical school. Talks about how middle class is suffering because of our overspending and overborrowing, we need to understand the business cycle.

Santorum: I grew up in a modest home and was blessed to have all my basic needs met. Greatest gift was having two parents, mother and father. I had that sense of security. Unfortunately, we see the family continue to break down. Single-parent families have poverty levels approaching 40 percent. Moms are doing heroic work trying to hold things together, but it’s hard. We can do more to promote the institution of marriage, promote the family. Most important luxury is a mom and a da.

Bachmann: I opposed the $700 billion bailout for Wall St, because Wall St rolled the dice and made foolish decisions. Wall St was happy to take money but wanted to socialize their losses. Some people on this stage supported that bailout. I took on Hank Paulsen and my own president. I was born in Iowa to a middle class family, but after my folks got divorced, my mother was a single mom with 4 kids. Poverty overnight, I had to get a job at age 13 to help support the family. We’re still coupon clippers, we still go to consignment stores, we know what that feels like.

Gingrich: When I was young, we lived in apartment above gas station, my dad was in army and we lived on pay of junior officer. I’ve had several relatives out of work in the past few years. My wife runs a small company, we have to meet a payroll, find markets, go through what businesses go through.

Stephanoupoulos says on Yahoo many people are saying they want to hear more from Gingrich and Romney about past support of mandates.

Romney says states can do whatever they want to do. Up to states to try what works for them. We have no government insurance in Massachusetts other than Medicare and Medicaid. My plan was designed for our state. If other states come up with something better, we can learn from them. Obama’s law flies in face of constitution, I think Supreme Court will strike it down.

Gingrich: For federal government to do mandate is unconstitutional, because Congress could compel you to purchase other things if they could compel you to purchase this item. I’ve been working on health issues since 1974, trying to break out of where we are. Current model has become more difficult to sustain. We need to rethink the entire health care system, more toward doctor-patient relationship, where people are more engaged in their own health rather than current insurance system.

Next question alludes to unhealthy habits that contribute to health care costs. Obesity, healthy behavior. Should government do anything to promote healthy behavior?

Paul: If you start having government protect you from yourself, you’re in big trouble. That’s what they’re doing. Why should we have a candidate who needs to explain more–70 percent of people want further explanations from the candidate? Once government uses force to mold behavior or economy, they’ve violated concept of our revolution and constitution.

Perry: States should decide whether they want to do anything to promote healthy behavior. (Branstad shouts out, “Healthiest state in the nation!”) People are sick of Washington DC, sick of money spent, fraud and corruption. Washington is out of touch with the country. I’ve gotten a good response across the country when I talk about going to a part-time Congress. Cut their pay in half, send them home for half the year, let them work at a real job under the laws that they pass.

Another commercial break. I don’t think anyone has really hurt Gingrich yet, even though as David Corn points out, he supported federal health insurance mandate as recently as 2007.

An ad for Huntsman just aired–looks like it was paid for by an individual, not any campaign committee.

Next question: instead of a closing statement, tell us something you’ve learned from someone else on this stage.

Santorum: When he was running for office, Gingrich’s GOPAC tapes were what he listened to. He laid out a vision for conservative governance that I adopted and ran with in a tough district outside of suburban Pittsburgh. When I won they didn’t even know my name at the RNC. I came out of a blue district as a conservative. I won re-election when George Bush lost my state.

Perry: Congressman Paul got me intrigued about the Federal Reserve. Got me reading the book Currency Wars. He got me interested in a subject that I found interesting–at the root of many problems we have. One thing that I’ve found is that people of this country really want to get America back on track. Praises Congressman Steve King and his IDEA Act. He agrees with Bachmann that this election is about future of the country, we have to get it right.

Romney: Principle of leadership is interesting, and each person on stage has exercised leadership in different ways. Every time I come to a debate like this the only signs I see are for Ron Paul. Standing out there in the freezing cold. He inspires people. Fundamentally we know that leadership qualities will determine whether president can get country back on track. Country going in dangerous direction, we need to return to principles of shining city on the hill.

Gingrich: Two people: one on stage, one not. Terry Branstad is my role model–get out of politics for a while, do other things, do something with health care, get back into politics when you’re clearly too old. Rick Perry got me engaged on this 10th Amendment thing a few years ago. That has helped ignite a fire that will change this country. Also praises Rick Santorum’s consistency and courage on Iran.

Paul: Never give up on your opposition. Eventually they will come your way. Thanks Perry (laughter from crowd). Freedom is based on tolerance and non-violence. We shouldn’t be fighting among ourselves. We all take the same oath of office in Washington. With persistence, we can all prevail and come up with right answers. [didn’t answer question about what he’s learned from someone else]

Bachmann: Praises Herman Cain–can’t have a debate without saying 9-9-9. He showed us the power of being plain-spoken and reducing something to a simple plan people could understand. She is the proven consistent conservative– “win win win” instead of 9-9-9.

End of debate. I don’t think anyone landed a solid punch on Gingrich. I am surprised Paul, Santorum and Bachmann didn’t say more about abortion during this debate.

Back to that ad with Fred Thompson selling reverse mortgages. How could anyone have thought he would make a credible presidential candidate?

Commentators are saying the most memorable thing about the debate will be Mitt Romney offering Perry a $10,000 bet, something few Iowa caucus-goers could ever afford to do. I wonder if this will be like Howard Dean’s “scream”–not that big a deal until the commentators obsessed about it for days on end.

SECOND UPDATE: ABC fact-checked some of the candidates’ assertions. Bachmann accurately cited a National Federation of Independent Business report predicting 1.6 million jobs would be lost because of the health insurance reform, although other analyses suggest a far smaller impact. Here’s the most interesting part of the fact-checking piece:

Perry first accused Romney of altering a  line in his book in September, when he said that a line referencing Obama’s healthcare plan in his first version of his book was different missing in a later version.

In the first version of “No Apology,” a line is included that reads:  “We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country.” The line is not, in fact, in the later paperback version, which according to the campaign was removed because there was more information when the second version of the book came out. The line was originally written, according to the Romney advisor, before Obamacare was on the books.

The first edition of Romney’s book was published in March 2, 2010. Obama’s Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The paperback version of Romney’s book was first issued in February of 2011.

After the disagreement during tonight’s debate, the Romney campaign sent out a press released titled, “Why Rick Perry Didn’t Take The Bet” that included links to articles explaining the updated version of the book.

Looks to me like Romney did edit the book to make it seem as if he wasn’t proposing the Massachusetts model for the whole country.

On a lighter note, the Iowa twitterverse got a big chuckle when Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wondered whether Gary Busey was sitting next to Marcus Bachmann (husband of the candidate). The mystery man was Iowa State Senator and former Congressional candidate Brad Zaun. The Iowa Democratic Party’s Sam Roecker put together a “separated a birth” style photo montage.

I never noticed any resemblance before.

  • Gingrich needs to ignore Ron Paul

    If he tries to engage him on foreign policy it may help him in front of the debate audience, but he doesn’t need Ron Paul’s people spreading half-truths at best about him.

    BVP needs to endorse Santorum or Bachmann or else we will be shown once again that BVP is all about winning and nothing else.  

  • King

    doesn’t sound like he’ll endorse:

    Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King acknowledged that he had hoped a “full spectrum conservative candidate” would have stepped forward by this point in the 2012 Republican presidential race and the fact that one hasn’t emerged has kept him from endorsing anyone in the current field.

    King said that while both Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum are unquestionably committed to the conservative cause, neither of them has been able to generate much excitement behind their candidacies in Iowa.

    “Had either of them been able to catch some momentum, this would have been easier,” said King of his endorsement dilemma. “A candidate has to have their own fuel…to lift themselves off the launching pad.”

    unless, literally, there’s some fire under those asses! I guess a full spectrum conservative = a bold color conservative ready for takeoff. (three, two) Check ignition and (one) may God’s love be with you.

    Not home, but I have my laptop, so I guess I’m ready for this. Hoping the live feeds don’t cut out.  

  • Daine Sawyer

    is insisting on a number. Newt fears petri dish ramifications.

  • I kind of have to agree

    on the SS hypocrisy as pointed out by Santorum.  

  • What a Circus...

    And I don’t mean the Occupy DSM “clowns” that were parading around before the big event.

    Newt’s statement on Mitt losing to the late Ted Kennedy made me change channels.  I’m done…

    • Yeah, and the "jobs for kids" thing...

      Again.  Big attack on the unions there.  Of course teachers don’t have unions, just lower class labor, those that should be the dregs of society.

  • Raise your hand

    if you haven’t worked w/ Bibi.

  • states good

    DC bad.

  • Perry

    sucking up to Steve King.

  • Newt

    sucking up to Branstad.

  • Bachmann

    sucking up to Cain supporters.

  • I have only one observation after watching this....

    Four More Years !

    • it's amazing

      to me that Republicans could throw this election away. Obama should have no chance whatsoever, given his performance and the state of the economy.

      • I don't think it's thrown away yet

        Romney has a shot, although I thought he was a bit weak this evening.

        I also think Gingrich has a shot, even if he doesn’t poll well now in GE matchups. He’s running a big-risk, big-reward type campaign that will either make it a lot easier for him than anyone could ever have imagined or leave him in a dumpster from jump.  

        • can't see him running a winning campaign

          He is a poor manager and has a short attention span. How do you spend $3 for every $2 your campaign takes in? For an “ideas” guy he doesn’t seem good at long-term planning.

          He could do well debating Obama, but I think he’d be too far behind before the debates to pull it off.

          • I am concerned

            about people associating him with the prosperity of the 90s, and whatever it was that people liked about the Reagan era. I also think the 90s nostalgia is contributing to Hillary Clinton’s high approval numbers at this time.  

      • Obama-Gingrich debates

        would be interesting.  I wonder if Obama will just use jokes about alligators when it comes to immigration and whether Newt will finally admit fully that he supported an insurance mandate without throwing Heritage under the bus.

        I have a serious policy question,  How many wealthy people do you know that skip out on their bill after going to the emergency room?  

        • don't know, but

          I do know that the Gingrich campaign owes around $451,000 to a private jet broker. Who else has spent that much money he didn’t have on chartered flights?

          • Why....

            …do vendors do business with political campaigns without getting their money up front?  Lesson learned here in IA after Paul Simon left the state littered with rental cars, parked on the sides of roads after the ’88 Caucuses.  And you can’t run a political spot here unless your campaign walks a check in the TV station door, along with your ad.

        • from watching the debates,

          it seems clear to me that the GOP plan is to go after Obama/Dems for $$ raised on Wall St, which is why at times they sounded as though they were just taking a break from “occupying.”

          That Obama raised more from Bain than Romney is a good soundbite.

          Obviously they are all hypocrites, so the GE comes down to who is the better actor, most nimble, etc. Gingrich is a creep, but that HillaryCare response was pretty good — no different than Dem-style rationalizing about lesser evils, grab part of a loaf, etc.

          • I was trying to explain this

            to a 20-something Republican (though I don’t think she believed me). The individual mandate was the conservative alternative to a government-run health insurance plan. Gingrich’s answer was accurate and honest. Where he lied was pretending to be a convert to the constitutional argument against the mandate–he was still arguing in favor of mandated health insurance in 2007. It’s a conservative, pro-business approach to the problem.

            • I don't agree

              with these types of articles — the “gotcha” in a snipped paragraph or video.

              The individual mandate does not exist in a vacuum unless you’re Ron Paul who is opposed to govt-imposed constraints on freedom as a matter of principle.

              Newt has plenty of wiggle room on this. For example, he is consistent in mandating coverage only for a national system based on purchasing across state lines. It is not difficult to argue that in the absence of what he believes is true market competition, a mandate is a form of government coercion. It is almost identical to the liberal argument that a mandate is coercive in the absence of a govt-run plan option. The only difference is that Gingrich wants purely private sector options to provide competition. Note that the existence of a public option would have rendered the constitutionality argument moot.

              And there’s no reason he can’t reprise his fear of HillaryCare argument. Year: 2007. Almost guaranteed Dem president post-Bush. Hillary was #1.

              Finally, you really only have to look at Obama’s 180 degree switch on this to understand why for most people, these urgent bulletins from outfits like ThinkProgress or MotherJones don’t matter. Does anyone here really imagine that Obama will point a finger at Newt during a debate on this? Oooh, his position has been inconsistent over twenty years when it took Obama about a year?

              ObamaCare was crafted by AHIP-Baker-Daschle-Dole. As such, the “marketplace” or the “exchanges,” if you prefer, were never designed to be truly competitive. Both Newt and Obama (and Romney, etc) know this, and neither gives a crap, but why pretend that Newt is especially slippery on this? All he needs to do is serve up enough stuff and nonsense to secure enough Republican support, just as Obama serves up enough stuff and nonsense to secure liberal support.

  • Obama

    At the caucus the best thing we can do is go uncomitted.  I would love to send the White House a mesage that we are disgusted with Obama and the constant caving in to the repub.  Now he is talking a good talk.  But when it came time to stand up he folds like a house of cards.  After all we now have the Bush/Obama tax cuts.  He signed off on them and said next time he would stand his ground. Obama has no idea how to stand up for anything.  Basically after he got in office he took a dump on the democratic wing of the democratic party.

    IN the general election I will vote for Obama.  The repubs don’t have enough sense to nominate Huntsman.  I will hold my nose and vote for Obama.  I will probably throw up after I leave the ballot box.  We have a choice between a Republican.  and a reupblican wanta be.

    • bring a few friends

      Uncommitted would probably be viable in most precincts with only a handful of people.

      Obama thinks he’s winning the payroll tax argument now, but it will become an excuse for him to permanently extend income tax cuts for “job creators” next fall.

  • desmoinesdem,

    thanks for live-blogging!

  • Thanks

    I appreciate your running this commentary as well as the enjoyable responses, so far my primary source of what transpired there last night. I pointedly avoided this morning’s interview shows.

    Boy, I’m happy to be a demo and not having the burden of trying to select a candidate from that collection of Mel Brooks’ characters.

    Hah! I love Albert’s  raise yer hand about Bibi line, good one.

  • Nostalgia

    I missed Herman Cain and the Cain train at the debate.

    Had dinner with a moderate Iowa Republican this weekend, just after Rick Perry couldn’t remember how many SupCourt justices there are, during his editorial brd meeting at The Register, but before the debate.  This moderate Republican was quite despondent and drank heavily.

    There are about five moderate Iowa Republicans left in Iowa.  They meet in secret in the basement of Pal Joeys on Grand Ave in Des Moines.  You have to know the password to get in. Last I heard, the password was Mary Louise Smith.  


    by: you @ soon

  • wrong photo

    Zaun looked quite different on screen last night. It may have been the lighting, but he looked haggard. The comparison thing would work much better with a screen shot.

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