7:57PM - Hmmm ... apparently the emcee is explaining to the crowd that he's going to tell them when they need to applaud. Odd
7:58PM - Wolf Blitzer: "How exciting is this?" Complete deadpan. Crowd is not all together enthusiastic about him. Especially his "Here in Tampa. Tampa? Is that where we are?" schitck.
8:01PM - Did CNN really just describe Newt Gingrich as "The Big Thinker"?
8:06PM - Odd observation: you don't realize just how many 8 candidates is until they're each introduced one by one.
8:10PM - Michelle Bachmann definitely brandishing her Tea Party credentials, probably thinking this is her last big chance to not become irrelevant.
8:12PM - Newt Gingrich: In the spirit of 9/12, I want to fight against special interests. Huh? What's THAT mean?
8:16PM - *Sigh, people need to stop spending so much time on Social Security. Yes, under pessemistic scenarios, it has a small shortfall over the next 50 years, to the tune of 2% of GDP. Without any changes, any retiree over the next 100 years will get more money than anyone does now. Small tweaks and its solvent forever. Period.
8:17PM - Tea Party Debate. Otherwise known as Romney vs Perry 2.0. And Perry is dodging, weaving, and misleading. The Romney quote was misquoted and misleading. Perry's completely ducking the question on how he can believe SS is unconstitutional and still needs to preserved.
8:19PM - Oh geez, Social Security is not "on its last legs". This really needs to stop, it's flat out bullshit.
8:22PM - Gingrich throws out the red meat. Then throws out more in the process of saying it's not red meat. (Aside: Wolf is actually pretty skillful at moderating this. I'm genuinely impressed.)
8:25PM - Gingrich says we can balance the budget by stripping out "waste" and modernizing. First, the waste has been cut over the years, precisely because it's so easy to cut. Second, the modernizing costs money.
8:27PM - Santorum says we can balance budget by privatizing Medicare. First off, the prescription drug coverage is underbudget because we're in a recession. Second, we know that privatizing Medicare doesn't work, because we have Medicare Advantage, which is exactly what they want to do. And it costs more.
8:28PM - Perry won't repeal prescription drugs. The other candidates are starting to get under his skin.
8:30PM - Romney actually tells the truth about waste, but then goes into the 20% budget cap. That's a REALLY bad idea, but not enough space to discuss here.
8:31PM - Paul wants to balance the budget by stopping the wars. Eliminating Energy and Education, though, while having the benefit of being mathematically possible, are horrible.
8:32PM - Bachmann says we need to balance budget by moving to 'personal responsibility'. Vague and star-bursty. Wonder how many people on SS right now think they're personally irresponsible?
8:36PM - Huntsman's answer to growing the economny: 1st, unemployment sucks. 2nd, reform the tax code. Huh? 3rd, repeal Obamacare & Dodd-Frank, because of 'uncertainty'. Real businesses say otherwise. 4th, drill baby drill.
8:38PM - Perry says stimulus didn't work, created exactly 0 jobs (will Blitzer call him out on that?) That and regulation.
8:39PM - Bachmann throws out red meat. The "blank check" thing is flat out wrong. And repatriation doesn't work ... we tried it 8 years ago, and it didn't work.
8:41PM - When did Dodd-Frank become the most recent boogeyman?
8:42PM - Cain's 999 solution is ... unique. Never heard of this before, have NO idea if it will work.
8:42PM - You know, I really wonder if Blitzer is trying to get Romney and Perry to go at each other? A lot of his questions are subtly doing just that.
8:43PM - Romney is laying out a 7 point plan. Detail like this is sorely needed, but this is stone deaf politically. "If you're dealt 4 aces, you're not necessarily a great poker player." Oh SNAP.
8:44PM - Perry's trick of ignoring the actual question, then putting out blind platitudes, is getting old. Ok, wait, now he's touting tort reform? Huh?
8:45PM - Wow, Paul just threw Perry under the bus. "I live in Texas, and my taxes have gone up." Ouch.
8:52PM - Ok, small break. This is getting depressing. Red meat, doctrine, and fantasy-based policies.
8:54PM - Santorum apparently proposes no income tax. Interesting, particularly when you consider the budgetary impacts.
8:56PM - The crowd just cheered, CHEERED, the idea that Ben Bernanke should be tried for treason for trying to help the economy. Bachmann isn't going to answer whether she agrees that he should be tried. Perry slimes his way out of the question, somehow saying that it's ok to help the economy, but not if helping the economy helps the president's poll #'s. Which, of course, it would. Umm, k?
9:00PM - Bachmann "loves that question. Loves that question." Oh, she loves that question. Romney gives an actual answer - and props for that, at least. Everyone else gets a pass ... which I think they're all kind of relieved about.
9:02PM - Gingrich keeps coming back to domestic drilling. Someday, I really want somebody to put up those numbers on a chart, show it to Gingrich (and his supporters), and say "ok, now what?"
9:03PM - Blitzer's follow up on tax deductions being an effective tax increase was a good one. Gingrich's answer kind of rambled.
9:05PM - Romney got NO applause and quite a few boos for that answer about consumption tax. Cause it included math and references to WTO tarriffs, I expect.
9:06PM - Perry's answer about the cervical cancer vaccine is actually somewhat compelling - he made a mistake about means, but he did it to save lives. It's worth a step back here and remember that we're talking about a vaccine that STOPS CANCER. One of the ways you catch that cancer is via sexual transmission.
9:08PM - Bachmann says no mandatory vaccinations, period. Wonder what she thinks about polio & small pox?
9:10PM - Bachmann makes a very direct shot at Perry for campaign contributions, and says she's offended for the little girls he hurt. Wow, she was out for blood. Wonder if one of her staff told her over the break she was losing?
9:13PM - Cain's health care plan is dumb. Tort reform doesn't work (we know, we tried it in Texas, costs rose faster).
9:15PM - Romney's settled on "what works for Massachussetts doesn't necessarily work for everyone" to explain his healthcare accomplishment. It's weasley and he (and everyone else) knows it, but it's his only shot at winning the nomination, which is all he really cares about.
9:18PM - Sounds like Paul is saying the young-man should die. Now he's scrambling furiously to find a way out of this. Settles on the charity solution.
9:19PM - How on earth did Paul get inflation into his healthcare answer?
9:20PM - Bachmann ate her Wheaties this morning. She's practically screaming now. Ok, now she's actually screaming. At Romney. Dun dun dun.
9:29PM - Paul throws a barb at Perry about in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Then brings up English as the official language, which wouldn't actually do anything, but whatever.
9:30PM - Perry defends his tuition piece, with a somewhat progressive answer, and gets booed. Bachmann goes in for the kill, and gets cheers. She might be coming back tonight.
9:32PM - Perry's getting a little ruffled on this issue, and you can bet it's going to show up in several campaign ads.
9:32PM - Whoooaaaa ... Huntsman just said Perry's comment that we "can't secure the border" is treasonous. Wow.
9:34PM - This is definitely Get-Perry night. Now Romney's going after Perry and Huntsman for the immigration issue.
9:35PM - Perry definitely feels very passionate about the immigration issue, and oddly enough, it's a pretty progressive position. He's arguing that children, even illegal immigrant children, should be given a chance.