Rick Perry and the rest of the GOP field are at the Ronald Reagan Library for the latest of the early campaign presidential debates. Sponsored by NBC News and Politico and moderated by anchor Brian Williams and editor John Harris, they'll be plenty of candidates to watch standing at the podiums reciting their talking points tonight. But, at least at first, all the attention will be lavished on a certain blustery Texas governor making his debate debut. In short, it's Rick Perry night, and we'll be live-blogging it all the way through here.
11:30 pm ET: Post-Debate In Brief: If Michele Bachmann's Ames Straw Poll momentum was starting to wane before tonight, it seems halted after the nearly two hour debate. Every major, quick typing pundit that we've noted below seems to think that the debate elevated the race--for right now--into a two man game between Romney and Perry. Politico's Alexander Burns put it well: "For all his sharp jabs, it's not clear that Perry came away from the debate stronger than he went in." Perry dinged Romney on healthcare and job creation, and as National Journal's Ron Fournier wrote, "the Texas governor can't seem to pass up a fight" also attacking Ron Paul. Speaking of Paul, we thought he got some needed attention tonight, possibly because he was the subject of those attacks. And then there was Bachmann. The Tea Party darling was summarized well by the The Post's Jennifer Rubin: She "seemed to be less than central to the debate. Perry will need to truly stumble for her to get back into the chase."
Photo by Associated Press
10:47 pm ET: While we thought that Newt Gingrich did well also in the applause department, one of the most talked about applause lines (Talking Points Memo figures it may have gotten the largest amount of applause) was when moderator Brian Williams mentioned that Rick Perry had executed more people than any governor "in modern times." The audience then cut in with clapping. Video of the moment is below:
10:40 pm ET: Post-debate, this is what the spin room looks like at this moment, below. National Journal/CBS News reporter Sarah Huisenga tweets this picture of Rick Santorum alone: "Only one candidate hits the spin room," she writes.
10:30 pm ET: Perry Did Only OK, Romney Survived, Bachmann Sinks, Paul Gets Attention, Gingrich Gets Mad. Surveying the reactions of notable, quick typing pundits, Rick Perry doesn't seem like he "won" the debate, but at least he proved a good sparring partner with Mitt.
- The Dish's Andrew Sullivan: "Perry has proved himself an extreme, inarticulate, incurious W clone. He doubled down on the vicious attacks on social security; and his rhetoric was off-key. Huntsman emerged as an actual candidate; Romney kicked ass. Bachmann is wearing thinner and thinner. Paul is Paul. Santorum is a Vatican crank. Gingrich is an angry old man. Cain has no business being up there."
- National Journal's Ron Fournier: "[I]t was the Texas cowboy and Massachusetts businessman who stole the show and stuck to their talking points." But: "In doing so, both men exposed each others’ political vulnerabilities and risked alienating independent voters who are looking for more civility in the nation’s political discourse."
- Political Wire's Taegan Goddard: Romney "won the debate, but only because Rick Perry stumbled badly on several questions. In fact, Perry's doubling-down on his criticisms of social security may ultimately prove to be a fatal flaw as GOP primary voters gauge electability. Michele Bachmann lost the debate because she did nothing to stop her downward drift in the polls."
- (10:58 pm ET) Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall: "on balance I'd say this was a strategic victory for Mitt Romney, even if it doesn't show up immediately in the polls. Mitt didn't do anything that amazing himself. But Perry doubled down, maybe tripled down on his frontal attack on Social Security and science in general. Romney moved in, in essence, to egg him on in that process."
- (11:20 pm ET) The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin: "Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann turned in solid performances. Nevertheless, it was largely a Romney vs. Perry affair....The debate was a bit of an equalizer, and may in fact help to remind voters of some of the other candidates."
9:59 pm ET: Another AP scene, Ron Paul and Rick Perry meeting each other on stage before what would turn out to be a contentious night between the two.
9:56 pm ET: On MSNBC, Steve Schmidt, the campaign manager of McCain-Palin 2008, thinks Bachmann's time in the spotlight is coming to an end and that Rick Perry snagged her momentum.
9:52 pm ET: The actual debate portion of the night is now over. Time for the press releases and spin. ThinkProgress immediately tweets: "WINNER: Romney, strong attack on Perry re: Social Security. Has most compelling narrative against Obama."
9:49 pm ET: Abruptly, Brian Williams is now saying that the campaigns have told him the debate has ran over its time limit.
9:48 pm ET: Ron Paul is asked whether or not providing hot meals at school is infringing on the Constitution. Paul won't flinch, and says (paraphrased) "don't always turn around and say that we who believe in liberty lack compassion."
9:41 pm ET: Mitt Romney makes an income inequality question all about the middle class, repeating what seems like a well-rehearsed refrain that they are the most hurt economically by the Obama administration. And "I'd be looking for someone new," was his response to the question of whether Bernanke would be in a Romney administration.
9:39 pm ET: Asked what he'd do about the Fed, Newt Gingrich would fire Ben Bernanke "tomorrow."
9:38 pm ET: On climate change, Bachmann pivots to the Environmental Protection Agency saying that "a political agenda is being advanced."
9:32 pm ET: Jon Huntsman tries to delicately say that climate change science matters. Talking Points Memo nabs the exact quote: "In order for the Republican party to win, we can't run from science"
9:30 pm ET: The debate's not even over, but we have our first candidate for "loser" of this round, courtesy of The Guardian's Ewen Macaskill:
The debate confirms that it is two-horse race. The other six are basically spectactors in the Perry-Romney clashes. The biggest loser of the night is Michele Bachmann. She emerged as the winner in the New Hampshire debate, someone fresh. But she has been overshadowed since Perry joined the race last month, eating into her support among the Tea Party and other right-wingers. She sounds tired tonight, rehashing old lines about Obamacare that don't seem relevant to the debate.
So, maybe she didn't end up getting a better line than the "one term" president one.
9:24 pm ET: One-liner time again: Keynesian policy is now done, proclaims Rick Perry.
9:23 pm ET: Last commercial break ended, faster rounds now. Romney asked if he's a Tea Partier, deflects the question quickly, mentions that he's not a card carrying member. Huntsman pledges to make no pledges, other than to his wife. Matt Yglesias humorously tweets the tone of the Tea Party question: "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Tea Party?"
9:14 pm ET: Lots of reaction rolling in on Twitter about Rick Perry's line that if Obama thinks the border is safe right now, he's an "abject liar." One observation that Romney didn't take a swing at the Texan: "Romney had a chance to call Perry out by name when he came out against states that give tuition breaks to illegal immigrants -- but he didnt," tweets The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman.
9:11 pm ET: As far as loudest applause goes, Newt Gingrich seems to be getting many big lines.
9:10 pm ET: Now the debate turns to border patrol, Perry mentions Predator drones in his talking points, reiterates the danger on the border. Mitt Romney quickly suggests a fence "or a technologically approved" system to know who's entering the country. Chris Cillizza at The Fix: "Perry is MUCH more sure of himself on immigration than Social Security. He knows the issue."
9:05 pm ET: As the Journal's live blog captured: "Ron Paul must be getting some aggressive treatment from airport security, saying TSA agents are 'mauling' people."
8:53 pm ET: "I kinda feel like the piñata here at the party" --a Rick Perry one-liner that we might see a lot of in headlines tomorrow.
8:52 pm ET: Ron Paul seems to be the beneficiary (as far as debate time allotted) with Rick Perry entering the debate fray. Because of the candidates back and forth arguments Paul is getting more time to speak.
8:51 pm ET: As Politico tweets, Mitt Romney says "Our nominee has to be somebody who isn't committed to abolishing Social Security."
8:48 pm ET: Good point made by Ashley Parker at the New York Times live blog on the relative absence of Reagan mentions: "[T]onight, the debate got off to such a lively start - with the candidates turning on each other (much to Mr. Gingrich's chagrin) and on the president - that Mr. Reagan largely fell by the wayside. So far, his name has hardly been mentioned."
8:42 pm ET: We're back to the Library for a tribute to Ronald Reagan, huge applause as the audience recognizes Nancy Reagan.
8:37 pm ET: Ron Paul, continuing his line-of-attack on fellow Texan Rick Perry, hits him for once supporting Hillarycare. And now Perry hits back at Paul for not supporting Ronald Reagan. Ron Paul seems very offended by this. And...commercial break.
8:35 pm ET: An Associated Press picture says more than a few lines of "gloves off" live blog text, Perry and Romney Round 1:
8:31 pm ET: The Hotline's Reid Wilson sums up Rick Santorum's moment succinctly: "Ricksantorumtalksreallyfastbecausehe'sworriedthemoderatorisgoingtocuthimoffbeforehegetsitalloutnowaitdon'tcutmeoffjustonemore--"
8:29 pm ET: Newt Gingrich is very fiery this second. He criticizes the moderator attempts to get Republicans "to fight each other."
8:26 pm ET: Positive-seeming instant feedback on Jon Huntsman's health care message. Hot Air's Ed Morrissey: "Huntsman is doing a good job making himself the nice guy with a sharp retort tonight." The Hill's Mike O'Brien: "Huntsman very much positioning himself as the gadfly, contra Perry and Romney."
8:25 pm ET: It's Perry-Romney at it again, here on Obamacare. Perry: the public doesn't want "a healthcare plan like the one Governor Romney put in place in Massachusetts." He adds: Obamacare "will be wiped out as much as it can be."
8:20 pm ET: Newt Gingrich's first question is about... the foreword he wrote to Rick Perry's book. And it looks like Mitt Romney's mike went out for a second, the moderating team mentioned a glitch.
8:16 pm ET: National Journal tweets "13 minutes before Bachmann!" It did seem like a long time before we heard from her.
8:11 pm ET: Jon Huntsman makes a reference to the Air Force One plane overhead, hits Romney on his stance on China and then, of course, says that his state (Utah) was the #1 jobs creator.
8:05 pm ET: The gloves already have come off. Perry hits Mitt on job creation. David Corn tweets: "Romney is quite prepped for Perry's attack on his Mass record. And Perry scores with Dukakis reference. Brian Williams: "Everybody came prepared."
8:04 pm ET: The next one goes to Mitt Romney, who says that he's created more jobs in Massachusetts than the president has created in the entire country.
8:02 pm ET: Brian Moderator Williams starts the debate with a question for Rick Perry, it's on jobs and Perry begins by touting his jobs record in Texas.
8:00 pm ET: And now for the very dramatic introduction.
7:54 pm ET: Commercial break before debate begins. On MSNBC, it's currently playing the Ron Paul ad that compares the libertarian firebrand to Reagan.
7:48 pm ET: And here come the candidates, standing awkwardly next to each other for pictures before the debate begins.
7:43 pm ET: A little sense of place as we're about 20 minutes before the beginning of the debate, below left is the outside of the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA today (note: the elephant). And inside above the stage, the wing of Air Force One will loom over the candidates (AP Images):
7:33 pm ET: Not exactly the red carpet, but courtesy of the Associated Press, here's Rick Perry and Michele and Marcus Bachmann's arrival pictures. Perry looks ready to go: