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Last night was the 1,987,254th GOP debate during this primary season (or was it the 1,987,245th?).  It featured the final three candidates, Ron Paul, and representing the Obama administration, CNN’s John King.

OK— the truth is there have been only 20 debates and Ron Paul is a candidate (although I don’t understand why) and John King…..well, sadly that part is true. He asked questions (especially one about contraception) that seemed to have come straight from re-elect Obama headquarters.

This debate featured a lot more audience participation, (aka booing). Each of the candidates was booed some say it was crowd reaction, others have told me it was the Paul-ocks.  The biggest boo was saved for John King when he asked about contraception.

Newt had the best lines, Mitt probably won the debate, Santorum was up and down– in the end I probably would have been better off watching Criminal Minds. Instead it felt like I was watching a bunch of old men bickering. Instead of giving real answers much of what I heard was…”You Supported XYZ!” “No I didn’t YOU supported ABC” et cetera, et cetera (uh-oh that headache I got while watching the debate is coming back).

Romney: Overall he did well no big disasters…nothing new learned either.   He went after  Santorum for earmarks but the former Senator had a decent comeback explaining that Romney asked for and received earmarks when he was running the Salt Lake City Olympics (yes Romney supported earmarks but didn’t inhale). Both Santorum and Paul added that earmarks were a way for Congress to retain some of its spending authority and not give it all to the President.

Romney gave the best answer to the question about the Iranian Nuclear program and how an Israeli  nuclear strike might hike the price of oil.

Look, the — the price of gasoline pales in comparison to the idea of Ahmadinejad with nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad having fissile material that he can give to Hezbollah and Hamas and that they can bring into Latin America and potentially bring across the border into the United States to let off dirty bombs here. I mean — or — or more sophisticated bombs here, this — we simply cannot allow Iran to have nuclear weaponry. And — and — and this president has a lot of failures. It’s hard — it’s hard to think of — economically his failures, his — his policies in a whole host of areas have been troubling.

But nothing in my view is as serious a failure as his failure to deal with Iran appropriately. This president — this president should have put in place crippling sanctions against Iran, he did not. He decided to give Russia — he decided to give Russia their number one foreign policy objective, removal of our missile defense sites from Eastern Europe and got nothing in return. He could have gotten crippling sanctions against Iran. He did not. When dissident voices took to the street in Iran to protest a stolen election there, instead of standing with them, he bowed to the election. This is a president who has made it clear through his administration in almost every communication we’ve had so far, that he does not want Israel to take action. That he opposes military action. This is a president who should have instead communicated to Iran that we are prepared, that we are considering military options. They’re not just on the table. They are in our hand. We must now allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. If they do, the world changes. America will be at risk. And some day, nuclear weaponry will be used. If I am president, that will not happen. If we reelect Barack Obama, it will happen.

But he blew the last question when John King asked what the biggest misconception of him (a powder-puff question) Romney  decided to answer a different question. He snapped at King when he tried to pull him back on task.

ROMNEY: We’ve got to restore America’s promise in this country where people know that with hard work and education, that they’re going to be secure and prosperous and that their kids will have a brighter future than they’ve had. For that to happen, we’re going to have to have dramatic fundamental change in Washington, D.C., we’re going to have to create more jobs, have less debt, and shrink the size of the government.

I’m the only person in this race —

KING: Is there a misconception about you? The question is a misconception.

ROMNEY: You know, you get to ask the questions want, I get to give the answers I want. Fair enough?

 Overall Mitt was OK not great not bad, but the reason he is the winner is because of the performance of Newt Gingrich who is bound to take some votes from Rick Santorum.

Newt Gingrich  The former Speaker of the house made a play for the Santorum social conservative vote with this exchange.

Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why? As you can see — it’s a — it’s a very popular question in the audience, as we can see. Look, we’re not going to spend a ton of time on this but it is (crowd boos king like crazy)- please.

GINGRICH: Can I just make a point?

KING: Sure.

GINGRICH: These guys are giving you some feedback here, John.

KING: I see that. I see that.  

GINGRICH: No, I think — look, I think there’s — I want to make two — I want to make two quick point, John.

The first is there is a legitimate question about the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes. That’s legitimate.

KING: Sure is.

GINGRICH: But I just want to point out, you did not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide. OK? So let’s be clear here.   If we’re going to have a debate about who the extremist is on these issues, it is President Obama who, as a state senator, voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion. It is not the Republicans.

That was the “money shot” of the day, the one answer that people are going to remember.  It was also a gauntlet thrown down at the feet of President Obama, if almost to say “When I with this thing I am going after you and it ain’t gonna be pretty.”

Santorum As the new frontrunner in this race, the former Senator had a giant target on his back, and his opponents did not disappoint. Paul went after Santourm because he is a fake, when asked why he said that, the wacko from Texas said “because he is a fake.” At one point Paul tried to frame Santorum as being pro choice because he once supported a massive funding bill which included some dollars for planned parenthood (that didn’t stick).

Every vote that Santorum ever took was under rapid fire and at times he didn’t look up to the challenge. One of his answers was partucularly damaging. It was about “No Child Left Behind”

SANTORUM: Well, you know what? I supported No Child Left Behind. I supported it. It was the principal priority of President Bush to try to take on a failing education system and try to impose some sort of testing regime that would be able to quantify how well we’re doing with respect to education. I have to admit, I voted for that. It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake.


You know, politics is a team sport, folks. And sometimes you’ve got to rally together and do something. And in this case, you know, I thought testing was — and finding out how bad the problem was wasn’t a bad idea. 

Basically Santorum’s answer said that at times he was a proponent of the same old beltway politics that helped to get the US into this mess.

Perhaps his best answer of the night was response to Mitt Romney’s answer on “Romneycare”

SANTORUM: So, okay Governor, let’s — let’s get this straight. First off number one, you funded Romney Care through federal tax dollars through Medicaid. I know it well, it’s called disproportionate share provider tax. About $400 million that you got from the federal taxpayers to underwrite Romney Care to make sure you didn’t have to raise taxes right away. But of course you had to. Ask your governor, of the $8 billion of tax increases he had to put in place.

Yes governor, you balanced the budget for four years. You have a constitutional requirement to balance the budget for four years. No great shakes. I’m all for — I’d like to see it federally. But don’t go around bragging about something you have to do. Michael Dukakis balanced the budget for 10 years, does that make him qualified to be president of the United States? I don’t think so.

I wonder if Romney can drive a tank?

Santorum was the big loser of the night. But in the end, I am not sure many minds were changed.

As for Ron Paul, he caused the best laugh of the evening. Not because of what he said but a facial expression from the audience.

During one of his long-winded confusing answers the cameras panned into the audience and focused on one guy who had the perfect, “Oh Crap what the hell is this gibberish” look on his face. It was classic.

There you are debate number 20. The good news is that “Sargent GOP’s Lonely Traveling Debate Club Band” might finally be over. Debates on March 1st and 5th have been cancelled, and the Portland one (the last debate scheduled) is doubtful.

Twenty debates is more than enough–I have grown tired of the circular firing squad and I am ready to go after the real target in the 2012 election, President Barack Obama.

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