Five Republicans — Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson, and Ron Paul — are debating political stuff in South Carolina at tonight's First Republican Presidential Debate. Where are the "good candidates," you ask? They're busy, doing anything else. But that's no matter; The Pizza Man and Anal Leakage don't need Mitt Romney's help to put on a show. Let's record all the slaps in this Palmetto Punchout, right here. Turn on the Fox News Channel, now!
8:58 — Have you, too, been watching the last minutes of Bill O'Reilly? He wants to know if Elisabeth Hasselbeck is a Pinhead or a Patriot for writing a brutal poem for her children about Osama bin Laden's death. She is clearly a Freedom Fry.
8:59: — Soft-haired muppet Bret Baier will be our host. Oh, and there's Chris Wallace! There's Someone named Shannon Green. And there's Juan Williams, the big liberal. It's not just the candidates fielding their B-Team tonight.
9:01: — First question for Tim Pawlenty, who is a bright ruby red against the sharp Fox News light. So what do you thinking about killing the fuck out of Osama bin Laden, T-Paw? Is Obama good at foreign policy?
9:02 — Tim Pawlenty says Obama needs to explain why he doesn't torture more often, in light of the Osama killing. Only 750,000 more debates, people! Only Herman Cain and Rick Santorum wouldn't show Osama bin Laden's brutal skull-splitting photos.
9:04 — Obama's death mission for Osama was only a "tactical" decision, not a "strategic" one, says Santorum. You know what Obama does with the "strategic" decisions? Screws them all up. We are at war!
9:07 — Ron Paul says we need to get out of Afghanistan, and now's a great opportunity. What a lunatic! Herman Cain, say something.
9:08 — Herman Cain, if president, says he'd answer more questions about The Mission before determining whether we stay in Afghanistan. Why not just answer them now, Candidate? Oh, he's not "privy" to classified information now, so who knows? A durable answer for any two-year presidential campaign.
9:09 — Gary Johnson says there is a timetable for leaving Afghanistan, and it ends tomorrow. Also, he didn't like Iraq. Why are we building bridges and schools in Iraq and Afghanistan, with borrowed money?
9:11 — Rick Santorum: "I'm not anti-Islam." He wants to work with good Muslims, after bombing them!
9:13 — Is Pawlenty wrong when he says "bullies respect strength," Ron Paul? Ron Paul: Duh, that's a pretty stupid thing to say. Why do we have secret prisons and torture that makes the Muslims want to kill us more? Ron Paul is wonderful on this stuff. His section of fans in the crowd goes nuts!
9:15 — Tim Pawlenty: Look. I have been to Iraq. Five times. I have been to Afghanistan. Three times. I have been to Jordan. I have been to other countries. 100 million times. Look. We have to stop them from killing us. Look. I support enhanced interrogation techniques. Under limited circumstances.
9:17 — Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum would support waterboarding under "certain circumstances." Ron Paul calls them all idiots. Someone from the crowd shouts that the killing of Osama bin Laden was illegal at Rick Santorum. Herman Cain: The terrorists have one objective, "TO KILL ALL OF US." So yeah, waterboarding.
9:18 — Gary Johnson: the corporate income tax is a double tax! Put it on a bumper sticker.
9:19 — The unemployment rate in South Carolina was 9.6% in March. Do you people have any other plans for stimulating the economy besides fucking tax cuts? (Fox News sidebar briefs us on Tim Pawlenty, meanwhile: EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN. MARRIED. TWO KIDS. Exciting!)
9:21 — Tim Pawlenty gets huge cheers for mentioning the huge NLRB-Boeing dispute over a factory in South Carolina. We'd explain it but we're liveblogging damnit! It involves unions being evil, etc.
9:23 — Tim Pawlenty, you've crapped all over Mitt Romney for his Romneycare socialist health care solution. Since he's not here, wanna get in a few more licks? Pawlenty: I wouldn't do that, but we need more options, not a one-size-fits-all blah blah blah top-down blah splat Obama sucks.
9:25 — Hey Rick Santorum, why did you vote for the unfunded Medicare Part D prescription drug plan under Bush, which was, again, unfunded? Santorum: Uh yeah uh well about that uh... it's been cheaper than they said it would be? I would have to revisit the program!
9:29 — Finally, a commercial break. The first one, appropriately, is for an antidepressant.
9:31 — Rick Santorum, how would you explain your plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program right away, and not 10 years from now as Rep. Paul Ryan's would? Santorum clenches his teeth and fists and just rails against Obamacare for a while.
9:33 — Ron Paul says defaulting on our debt wouldn't be anything, we've done it three times! He gives three old-timey examples about not paying creditors in gold which have absolutely nothing to do with the modern economic reality.
9:35 — Herman Cain defends the Fair Tax. Gary Johnson flails his hands around and whines about how he gets no questions. Chris Wallace says yeah yeah yeah, shut up. Why did you leave a budget deficit in Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty?
9:37 — Gary Johnson gets a question! You want to cut Medicare/Medicaid in half and make them block grants to the states. Won't the con sarn Democrats demagogue you on this in the election?
9:39 — New topic. So what do you guys think about Mexicans?
9:40 — Rick Santorum, do you feel that your immigration policies are alienating Hispanics? Rick Santorum explains that he had immigrants in his family at one point, and they learned English. Why can't we have a federal law mandating this for everyone immediately?
9:43 — Gary Johnson gets another chance to speak! (We're now going to point this out for every question he gets in every debate.) He doesn't want to build a 2,000-foot arm-linking chain of soldiers on the border; instead he wants an improved guest-worker program. No applause.
9:45 — Explain how simply killing Qaddafi would be a panacea for Libya, Tim Pawlenty. He is a terrorist, Pawlenty says. I believe he just called NATO a "pathetic organization." If Obama had only set up a no-fly zone when Tim Pawlenty recommended it in some interview, Libya would be Candyland now.
9:47 — Here's a simple water cooler bullet point for those of you who can't follow this shit: "So, Rick Santorum really lost that debate, huh?"
9:49 — Ron Paul: It's not like "every Jew in this country" thinks we should keep giving aid to Israel.
9:54 — Hey Ron Paul, should gays be allowed to get gay-married like you clearly gay-want them to? Ron Paul: Marriage should be negotiated in private sector contracts. Also, he says he's been married for "53, 54 years." Better figure out the right one before heading home to your wife, pal.
9:57 — Gary Johnson, you're pro-choice up until the point of "viability." You do know you're at a Republican debate in South Carolina, yes? Johnson comes up with a whole list of other late-termy abortions he'd never allow, and says he was running for Governor of New Mexico, y'know? They love abortion there.
9:59 — Rick Santorum, will you stop being such a social issues lightning rod and terrible homophobe if you run? Santorum: No.
10:01 — Herman Cain, is the GOP *risking* looking like the anti-union party these days? Herman Cain: We need to get the government out of the way and stop the NLRB from enforcing labor law, and building that Boeing factory in South Carolina! South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley looks pleased. Ron Paul says union wages are unconstitutional, but if you just try talking to union members, they'll understand. Tim Pawlenty mentions that grew up in an area with meatpacking jobs for the second time this evening.
10:06 — Fox News plays a Pawlenty message from several years ago where he says "we need to cap greenhouse gas emissions now." The crowd boos! Pawlenty mentions that he's apologized several hundred times, and apologizes again. "I am looking at the American people in the eye and saying I've made a mistake." He's totally the John Edwards of this field. Did you know that there were meatpacking jobs where he grew up? He grew up in a meatpacking job area.
10:09 — "Rick Santorum, why would you link working women to radical feminism?" So glad Rick's playing the game this time around.
10:11 — You can tell Ron Paul's run before while the other candidates haven't: He keeps talking after his time's up.
10:13 — Ron Paul: How many of you in this crowd would use heroin if it became legal? The crowd laughs. We'd all use heroin, dingbat!
10:14 — Gary Johnson, you've smoked marijuana, OOOOH! OOOOH! Will you tell teacher next time you do this, or will Herman Cain have to turn you in?
10:15 — Herman Cain, you have no experience in politics whatsoever and you want to run for president. How awesome does this make you? Cain: Awesome with Extra Cheese! (That was the worst joke I've ever made in a liveblog. Fourteen minutes left...)
10:17 — Now they're trashing Barack Obama. How will you beat this red menace? Santorum: "I know a little bit about beating Democratic incumbents. The first time I ran for the House... and then years later, when I ran for... and then there was that other time when... [thumbs up and fake smile.]" It's hilarious how badly Rick Santorum is losing this debate.
10:21 — Commercial, and then a Lightning Round! The answer to each question is that Tim Pawlenty grew up in a region where there were meatpacking jobs.
10:23 — Tim Pawlenty, May 5, 2011: "I love the Huck."
10:24 — Ron Paul, do you feel "eclipsed" by Michele Bachmann? Ron Paul: No.
10:25 — Rick Santorum is beyond humorless. Stand up for your beliefs, Newt Gingrich! is what he says.
10:26 — Gary Johnson is being asked about Donald Trump. Four minutes!
10:27 — Baier: "Gary Johnson, you've run thirty marathons. What are you running away from?" Johnson: "I've also stood on top of the planet." — Dialogue that just happened.
10:28 — Aaaaaaaand Ron Paul just freaked out about world government.
10:29 — Tim Pawlenty: I grew up in a working class family. (We've heard that there were jobs in which meat was packed nearby.)
10:30 — Gary Johnson: GaryJohnson2012.com!!!!!!
10:31 — Now it's over!
So... my quick snap rankings without really thinking about it:
1) Ron Paul
2) Herman Cain
3) Gary Johnson
4) Tim Pawlenty
172) Rick Santorum
The Fox News snap focus group *loves* Herman Cain. Almost unanimous in declaring him the winner. Goodbye!