9:54: Tonight, Romney, Perry, and Santorum broke Reagan’s 11th commandment: “Thou shall not speak ill of any Republican,” engaging instead in verbal slap fights. Gingrich, inexplicably, asks for more debates.
9:50: Romney and Perry spar over who has the best jobs record. Perry’s state has the highest percentage of minimum wage jobs in the country, but neither have much to brag about. Romney’s state was 47th in job growth when he was governor.
9:47: Santorum’s rationale for his campaign is that he has won Pennsylvania before and he can win it again. In Santorum’s last election, he lost by “the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent senator since 1980.”
9:42: From ThinkProgress’s Lee Fang: “At the CNN debate tonight, about one hundred Occupy Las Vegas protesters gathered outside the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas to demonstrate against corporate greed and a political system dominated by big business. At one point, a group of labor union members and Occupy Las Vegas demonstrators surrounded the CNN live set up outside the Venetian and demanded that the network cover issues important to the ’99 Percent.’” Watch it:
9:39: Paul makes the first Ronald Reagan mention of the night, to note that he negotiated with terrorist-sponsor Iran in the notorious Iran-Contra scandal. Gingrich apologizes on the Gipper’s behalf, saying, “He thought it was a terrible mistake.”
9:37: Romney says we need to cut the pay of government employees to “link it to those In the private sector.” If that’s the goal, we’ll actually have to give many federal workers a raise.
9:36: Ron Paul suggests he’s open to cutting foreign aid to Israel, a third rail in conservative politics: “I don’t think it helps them,” he says. I think it makes them dependent on us and softens them towards their own economy.”
9:33: Pandering to the fringe-right like the John Birch society, Perry says “we should have a serious conversation about defunding the United Nations,” in part because of the international body’s recognition of Palestinian statehood. Of course, 69 percent of Israelis say Israel should accept U.N. recognition of the Palestinian state.
9:31: Herman Cain majorly flip-flops on his comments made just earlier today, now saying he would “not negotiate with terrorists” after telling CNN this afternoon that he would negotiate with terrorists. Cain also said he didn’t “recall” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer referring to Al Qaeda when he asked if Cain would “free everyone at Guantanamo Bay” in exchange for one American soldier — Blitzer asked him that question about five hours ago.
9:28: Bachmann: Obama “put us in Libya, and now he’s putting us in Africa.” Libya is, in fact, in Africa.
9:24: During a discussion of Mormonism, Gingrich questions whether anyone who “doesn’t pray” can be trusted in a leadership role. The authors of our Constitution disagreed. They wrote that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
9:20: Crowd boos at Anderson Cooper’s reference to a pastor associated with Perry’s campaign calling Mormonism a cult. Nevada, where the Republicans are debating tonight, is one of the most heavily Mormon states in the U.S. with over seven percent of the population belonging to the LDS church.
9:17: Surveying the drama of the debate, Huntsman’s daughters tweet, “This is what happens when the adult is no longer in the room.” Zing.
9:12: Cain is asked if he still thinks the unemployed should blame themselves for not having a job. “Yes, I do still say that,” Cain said, to cheers from the audience. Watch the crowd cheering Cain’s blaming of the unemployed for their joblessness:
9:11: In a state that has led the nation in foreclosures for 56 straight months, Romney calls for “letting the market work” and not helping homeowners. Earlier, he put it even more bluntly: “Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process.”
9:10: Bachmann adds her own analysis on the TARP debate: “I’m a mom,” she says. “Hold on moms out there, it’s not too late.” Something — like substance — is missing from this view.
9:08: As the candidates debate the TARP program, Perry, Cain, and Romney all says that instead of the bailout we should have responded to the global financial meltdown by “cutting regulations.” Of course, weak regulations contributed to the meltdown. It’s also worth noting the bank bailouts earned a profit for taxpayers and succeeded in bolstering the economy. Almost all responsible leaders supported TARP at the time, and they were right to do so.
8:55: Asked how he would reach out to Latino voters, Cain says, “My message to Latinos, blacks, whites, we need to pass the 9-9-9 plan.” This has nothing to do with immigration, but it will raise the taxes on Latinos, blacks, and whites alike.
8:52: More boos as Perry tries land a personal hit on Romney for supposedly hiring undocumented immigrants. The crowd again sides with Romney. “Has Perry decided to just piss everyone off tonight?” former RNC Chairman Michael Steele tweets.
8:50: Perry calls for “boots on the ground and aviation assets in the air” to patrol the border. This is an improvement over the last debate, when he called to “put the aviation assets in the ground.” However, he did refer to the Predator drones being “trained.”
8:49 Amidst all the anti-immigrant hysteria, nobody seems interested in the fact that the Obama administration keeps setting record after record for most deportations in a year ever.
8:47 Reminder: the only two Republican candidates who have governed border states – Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson – oppose the building of a border fence.
8:46: After going back and forth on whether he’d electrify a border fence, Cain offers a “serious,” if vague, response on border control: “Let’s shut the back door, so people can come through the front door.” Former Mexican president Vicente Fox just offered this view of Cain’s border stance. comments “Stupid” and “confusing.” Cain has previously called for an alligator-filled moat along the border.
8:42: More boos — Perry won’t let Romney answer after he accuses him of hiring “illegals” to work for him. Romney replies, “This has been a few tough debates for Rick.” “You have a problem with letting people speak, and I suggest if you want to be president of the United States, you should allow people talk,” Romney sneers.
8:41: Perry says Texas has “one of the best health care systems in the world.” It has the highest rate of people lacking health insurance in the country.
8:38: Just a reminder, if Republicans get their way and repeal the Affordable Care Act they would: increase the deficit by $230 billion over 10 years, raise the number of uninsured by 32 million, eliminate subsidies, and force millions of American families to pay higher premiums, and increase premiums for employer-based coverage.
8:35: In a heated exchanged with Romney, Newt Gingrich admits that he — along with the Heritage Foundation — supported the individual mandate in the 1990s. Here is how he has described it as recently as 2007: “Personal responsibility extends to the purchase of health insurance. Citizens should not be able to cheat their neighbors by not buying insurance, particularly when they can afford it, and expect others to pay for their care when they need it.”
8:33: Bachmann goes after the CLASS Act, a long term care insurance program that was recently dropped from the Affordable Care Act. As former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) admitted today, the administration’s decision not to implement the CLASS Act — health care reform’s long-term insurance program — does not say anything about the viability of the law as a whole.
8:32: Drama: The first crowd boos of the night are not for a gay soldier but for Rick Santorum, who would not let Romney finish his answer on health care. “Let me answer,” Romney repeatedly attempts to say. Santorum tries to tell him he’s out of order, crowd sides with Romney.
8:30: “I didn’t get the job done in Massachusetts in getting the health care costs down,” Romney admits.
8:27: Rick Santorum notes that Europeans have better economic prospects than Americans right now. Europe is the land of universal health care.
8:26: Romney’s health care advisor — who advised both Romney and President Obama — has claimed that Romney has been “dishonest” about the similarities between the two health care laws. And despite what Mitt Romney claims, repealing ‘Obamacare’ won’t create any jobs, it will destroy 250,000 to 400,000
jobs annually over the next decade.
8:23: Bachmann says that everyone should pay something on taxes. This a 180-degree turn from the last debate, in which she insisted taxpayers should keep “every dollar” they earn. But she ends strongly: “MichelleBachmann.com,” she says.
8:21: Also going after Cain, Romney says he wants to cut taxes for the middle-class. But his proposed middle-class tax cut would provide no benefit to the overwhelmingly majority of the middle-class. It’s really a $6.6 trillion regressive giveaway to the rich and corporations.
8:20: Attacking Cain, Ron Paul promotes his budget (which would cut $1 trillion and eliminate five cabinet agencies). Center for American Progress Vice President for Economic Policy Michael Ettlinger responded to Paul’s plan by saying “your kids would be out of school, working or begging.”
8:18: Time to gang up on Cain, the race’s new leader. “I’ll bump plans with you brother,” Perry tells the former pizza maven. Ron Paul, meanwhile, warns Cain’s 999 plan is “regressive” and “dangerous.”
8:15: HermanCain.com appears to be down.
8:13: Herman Cain touts the fact that his 9-9-9 plan is approved by a firm called “Fiscal Associates, Inc.” Fiscal Associates is a tiny five person financial advisory firm in West Bloomfield, Michigan, not exactly the sort of firm that is equipped to do macroeconomic analysis of a nationwide tax plan.
8:10: Rick Perry subtly tries to differentiate himself from Mitt Romney’s flip-flopping, saying he’s a true conservative, not a “conservative of convenience.”
8:05: Reminder: Jon Huntsman is not at the debate tonight because he’s boycotting over Nevada’s decision to move up its caucus to January 3.
7:58: Occupy Las Vegas protesters drowning out Erin Burnett on CNN: “Banks got bailed out! We got sold out!” A photo from ThinkProgress’ Lee Fang, who is at the scene:
7:57: Ahead of the GOP debate, a Pew took a poll of the one word the public associates with the GOP candidates. The notable word for Herman Cain was “9-9-9″; for Romney, “Mormon”; for Rick Perry, “idiot.”
7:55: The Washington Examiner’s Byron York reports that Rick Perry plans to “pay a little less attention to the rules” during this debate. He will need to change things up, given his performance in previous debates.
7:53: Some questions to look for: LGBT activists have been lobbying debate moderator Anderson Cooper to ask the candidates about teen bullying, while other progressives have been urging him to hold Mitt Romney accountable for his legal adviser Robert Bork’s comments that women “aren’t discriminated against anymore.”
7:52: Given that Herman Cain is the front runner, we’ll let him kick off tonight’s debate the way he likes to begin events: