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Full Coverage: New Hampshire GOP debate

Full Coverage: New Hampshire GOP debate

Note: This live-blog event has concluded.

Tonight's winners: Romney who thoroughly stuck to economic message and Michele Bachmann who announced her intentions to run and really impressed as a strong candidate.

Honorable mention: Pawlenty had a real opportunity to differentiate himself from Romney, but failed to step up to the plate. Gingrich didn't appear to be at all fazed by the fact that his staff left him this week and still hammered home some impressive points on immigration.

Losers: CNN and John King. This debate format stunk.


What have you learned tonight?

Pawlenty: Herman Cain is a pretty cool dude.

Bachmann: America is awesome.

Gingrich: I love New Hampshire!

Romney: New Hampshire = future of America.

Paul: We can agree to disagree.

Pawlenty: The Bruins rule!

Cain: It's still about the grandchildren.

How much should we pay attention to polls?

Cain: The polls are a "barometer," although a lot of people don't know us yet. This is a good field of candidates.

Who made a better pick for VP in 2008?

Pawlenty: Biden has been wrong about every major issue he's confronted. Palin is a "remarkable leader" and I think she's qualified to be President of the United States. +5 Giving props to a potential opponent takes guts. I like it.

Romney: Anyone on this stage would be better than Obama. -10 for not answering the question.

Bachmann: Let's let the audience decide who my VP would be.

Paul: They haven't told me how they feel about the Federal Reserve so I'd need more information before picking a VP. +5 ha!

How do you reconcile being the world's superpower and paying down our debt? (I'm going to go out on a limb and assume this questioner is a Paul fan...)

Santorum: The Obama administration is failing to put together a strategy to confront our enemies. We need to have ability to confront threats around the world. We need to stop turning our backs on our allies and embracing our enemies. +5 for using the term "FECKLESSNESS"

What do you think about our involvement in Libya?

Bachmann: Obama is trying to lead from behind and our policy is fundamentally flawed. We weren't attacked, we have no direct interests in Libya to protect. We don't even know who the forces are we're helping. "The president was absolutely wrong." +5

Gingrich: The pricetag should always be a factor when you're president of the United States. "Ten years after 9/11, our intelligence is so inadequate, we have no idea what percentage of Libyan rebels are al-Qaeda." We need to reassess our strategy in the region and get out ASAP. We need new and very different strategies. Bachmann's right. +2

Cain: We need to understand the problem and look after our own interests. +5 for paraphrasing his grandmother

9:41 p.m. -- turning to foreign policy questions with about 20 mins remaining

Is it time to leave Afghanistan?

Romney: It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can -- as soon as our generals think it's ok. One lesson we've learned in Afghanistan is that American cannot fight another nation's war of independence. Hmmm... I would've prodded with a follow-up question on that answer. When does Romney think we should've left Afghanistan?

Paul: If I'm president, I'm making the decisions as commander-in-chief. I'd bring them home when I feel like it. I wouldn't go into Libya, either. +2 You gotta give him credit for his bold approach, but ignoring advice of generals is not recommended.

Pawlenty: I'm not afraid to protect America, regardless of where our enemies might try to hide. +2

Coke or Pepsi?

Pawlenty: Coke.

Can you imagine Lincoln and Douglas debating about Coke vs. Pepsi?

Government land-grabs: How do you feel about eminent domain for energy?

Paul: Gov't shouldn't be able to take private land and give to a corporation. +10 Amen.

Romney: Eminent domain should only be used for a public purpose. We need to drill for oil, gas. +0

Should we have path to citizenship for immigrants here illegally?

Gingrich: Political elites draw up catastrophic alternatives -- you don't have to round everyone up and you don't have to grant amnesty. Break it down like Cain said. "There are humane, practical steps to solve this problem if we deal with it honestly." +5

Immigration: How do you prevent illegal immigrants from using public services?

Santorum: We can't continue to provide gov't services to illegal immigrants. We should not be offering government benefits to those who broke the law to get here. +2

Paul: We shouldn't have mandates. There was a time when we didn't depend on government. We shouldn't punish those who try to help. "Freedom has solved these kinds of problems before." People won't die in the streets without Medicare. +1

Cain: No birthright citizenship. But the real problem is 4-fold: secure the border, enforce the laws, promote path to citizenship and empower the states to do what the federal gov't hasn't done. +5

Pawlenty: Birthright citizenship brings up importance of appointing conservative justices. +5 Good point.

Romney's flip-flop: Is abortion an issue in this primary?

Santorum: You should look to see who has the record to back up their words. The right to life isn't just about abortion. +5

Romney: I'm firmly pro-life and will support SCOTUS justices who believe in the sanctity of life. +0

Bachmann: I'm "100% pro-life... from conception to natural death." +10

Pawlenty: The National Review thinks I'm the most pro-life candidate.

Should we bring back Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

Cain: Our men and women in uniform have too many distractions to get tangled in that mess again. +10

Pawlenty: I might consider it. +0

Paul: No. +2

Romney: This isn't what we should be debating. +15 Take that, John King!

Bachmann: I'd try to reverse it. Confer with Joint Chiefs to see how repeal is going. +0

Santorum: The military is no place for social experimentation. +5

Would you try to overturn state laws allowing same-sex marriage?

Bachmann: Marriage is between a man and a woman. The best possible way to raise children is to have a mother and father in their life. That said, I was raised by a single mother. It's not the role of president to interfere with state law. +10 for relatability and states rights!

Should marriage be left to the states or a constitutional amendment?

Cain: It's a state's decision.

Paul: I wouldn't support a national amendment. Get the government out of the situation all together.

Romney: Favors constitutional amendment to define marriage.

Gingrich: Constitutional amendment.

Santorum: States have to ratify an amendment.

Bachmann: Constitutional amendment.

What is the relationship between faith & politics?

Pawlenty: Americans are guaranteed a freedom of religion, not from religion. "The blessings we have as a nation come from our creator."

Santorum: I approach issues using faith + reason. The key to American success is to allow everyone of faith and no faith to be heard. +2

Paul: Faith plays a role in individuals' lives, but you can't teach people how to be moral. +0

Cain: Stands by his opinion that he wouldn't be comfortable with a Muslim in his administration. "I do not believe in Shariah law in American courts. I believe in American laws in American courts. Period." (applause) Cain says being a Muslim would not automatically disqualify any applicant to his administration. +0

Romney: Shariah will never be applied in U.S. courts. -20 It's already happened in some U.S. courts.

Gingrich: The failed Times Square bomber swore an oath to the United States. "I am in favor of saying to people that if you're not willing to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration. Period." There are some bad people who would like to infiltrate our country and we need to stand and say no. +10 Newt was uncharacteristically passionate speaking on this issue

This or that: Deep dish or thin crust?


Spicy or mild?

Romney: Spicy. And the Bruins are apparently winning.

Will Congress need to raise the debt ceiling?

Romney: Where is Obama on this? Republicans need to force Obama to balance the budget & Obama needs to be honest about the problems we face. -5 Pipedream.

Bachmann: Unless there are serious cuts, I cannot vote to raise the debt ceiling. Obama said Bush failed in leadership and clearly he has as well. Pay the interest on the debt first and implement "serious" spending cuts. +2 for using Obama's own words against him -- Zing!

If you're just joining us, here's a note on my obscure points system:

I've decided to reward points to candidates for their answers -- these are not a scientific measure of any kind and really don't mean much at all. I just thought I'd spice things up. Think of this as the Political Olympics and I'm the tough Russian judge.

How do you keep Medicare solvent for the next 50 years?

Paul: We don't. The system needs to change. We need more competition in medicine. If we don't want to cut benefits, you have to cut money in other areas, including foreign aid & the military. People should be able to opt-out of the whole system. +5 Pulling money from foreign aid & defense won't come close to paying for entitlements like Medicare. I do like the idea of opting out, however.

Pawlenty: Medicare isn't financially solvent now, let alone in 50 years. Hospitals and providers should get performance pay based on the options they offer customers. Obama is missing on this issue. +0 Underwhelming.

Gingrich: Defends the Ryan budget plan as a "general proposal"; insists that any changes need the American public's' approval. -2 I'm amazed Gingrich willingly allowed to be backed into a corner on this one.

Santorum: We need to include seniors in including costs. +0 To be fair, Santorum probably could give a much better answer, but this debate format is seriously limiting the candidates from delving into much of anything.

Cain: We're in the situation we are today because the problem hasn't been solved. We can no longer ignore the problem -- I totally support the "courageous" Paul Ryan plan. +2

8:53 p.m. -- closing in on 1st hour

This or that: Dancing with the Stars or American Idol?

Gingrich: American Idol. +0 I don't watch either of those shows so I'm unable to judge accordingly, although I would've had Newt pegged for a "Dancing" man.

Blackberry or iPhone?

Paul: Blackberry -10 Sorry, but the iPhone is da bomb.

I'm really not a fan of this debate format -- there's not enough sustained focus on anything.

How would end the housing crisis?

Pawlenty: The gov't created the mess and Obama's programs have been failures. The best thing to help housing is to get the economy moving again, money in people's pockets. +1

Paul: It's been predictable that it would come and if we keep doing what we're doing, it'll last at least 10 more years. We're propping up a failing market -- clear it out and start over. +2 for libertarian determination

Cain: We need to work on economy, energy. It's not about one problem -- we need to work on many simultaneously. -1 I expect better answers than this from Cain.

Romney: Instead of asking what we should cut, we should ask what we should keep. +0

Should gov't play a role in future space exploration?

Gingrich: If the money the gov't had spent on going to the moon in the private sector, we'd be on Mars by now. Bureaucracy has kept America from reaching her potential. We're on the cusp of a new cycle of new scientific discoveries and the gov't is getting in the way. +10 -- I'm a sap for Gingrich's presence as the "wise old professor" on stage

What should government assist with in private enterprise?

Paul: (unapologetically) Nada. +5

Cain: The government should not pick winners and losers and there's no such thing as "too big to fail." +5

Romney: Bailout program for auto industry was not successful. The government doesn't know better than the private sector -- the "right way for American to create jobs is to allow the private sector to create a brighter future." +2

Santorum: Romney's right; the gov't "tipped to the cronies" -- the unions. +2

Bachmann: I fought behind closed doors against my own party leadership to oppose the TARP funds. +10

Random "this-or-that" question to Santorum: He prefers Leno over Conan, but admits he doesn't really watch either. Letterman must be heartbroken.

Johnny Cash vs. Elvis: Bachmann says "both" -10 points to CNN for trying to make her choose

On a federal right-to-work law:

Pawlenty: The government shouldn't tell us what organizations we should belong to. +5

Gingrich: Congress should defund the NLRB which is trying to eliminate right-to-work in North Carolina. It's a "fundamentally wrong" direction, but I'd keep it at the state level so businesses can choose which state they'd like to business in. +10 for citing the 10th Amendment and states' rights!

Cain: Right-to-work kills the free-market system. +0

How will you return manufacturing jobs to the United States?

Paul takes the question first, stressing that we first need to invite capital -- unburden foreign money with taxes and stop Fed from printing more money. I love Paul's wonkiness, but he needs to simplify his message or else it will be lost on most voters. +1

Pawlenty: I was in a union. -10

Bachmann: Liberals like big spending projects -- we need to pass a "mother of all repeal bills." Let's start with the EPA she says -- it should be "Renamed the Job-Killing Organization of America." +1 -- heavy on rhetoric, let's get specific

Santorum: We need to cut capital gains tax in half. Manufacturers need 5-year window where cap gains tax is set to ZERO. We need to bring businesses back to America and "let that wealth really trickle down." +2

On tea party influence on the party:

Bachmann highlights founding the tea party caucus in the House of Representatives -- "People want to take the country back; they want the government to work again... President Obama is a one-term president!" Bachmann knows how to rile a crowd, but there's something awkward about seeing her standing next to the subdued enthusiasm of Newt Gingrich. +0

Cain: I will be a president to do what's right, not what's politically right. Cain continues to capitalize on his "outsider" status, first noting that of all the candidates on stage, he's not a politician.

How are you going to defund and stop "ObamaCare"?

Bachmann: I was the first member of congress to intro the full scale appeal of Obamacare. As president, I will not rest until it's repealed. +0

Pawlenty: Tries to avoid answering about his characterization of "ObamneyCare." CNN host John King is trying to make it something personal and suggest that Pawlenty is weak by not dressing down Romney in person. Pawlenty likely recognizes that it's a bit too early in the campaign to go negative. +1

Romney: Obama should've called me to see what did and did not work in Massachusetts. This seems to be the most positive answer Romney can provide for his unsavory ties to state-run health care. It's a weak answer, but if none of his opponents challenge him on it, he'll get away with it. +0

How would you create jobs?

Cain: This economy is stalled like a train on a tracks with no engine. And Obama's putting all the money in the caboose. +1

Santorum: We need this economy to be "unshackled"; cites regulations choking businesses today +1

Pawlenty: Restore American exceptionalism -- "This president is a defeatist." My plan calls for 5% annual growth. +1

Romney: Begins his answer by saying Pawlenty has "the right instincts." Romney off to a rough start using too much of his answer time to ramble off all the things Obama has done wrong, leaving him no time to talk about what he'd do as president. -1 for Romney.

Gingrich: 14 million Americans are feeling a depression NOW. Must repeal Sarbanes-Oxley. Eh. +0

Bachmann: I filed my paperwork to run for president +10

Paul: "We're trying to unwind a Keynesian bubble..." -- you have to recognize how we got into this mess in order to get us out of it. +1

I've decided to reward points to candidates for their answers -- these are not a scientific measure of any kind and really don't mean much at all. I just thought I'd spice things up. Think of this as the Political Olympics and I'm the tough Russian judge.

8:00 p.m. -- The candidates have taken the stage, the Pledge of Allegiance has been recited. Who's ready to debate?

Just a reminder, participating in tonight's Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire are Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

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