126137109

10.57 pm. My take: a horrible night for Perry. Therefore another great night for Romney. Now I want to go somewhere dark and slit my wrists.

10.55 pm. Another whopper from Bachmann: plenty of presidents have had lower approval ratings than Obama. Ronald Reagan for one. But reality really isn't these people's specialty, isn't it? Hunstman panders with a hug for Cain.

10.50 pm. Johnson-Paul! Surely better than Santorum-Gingrich. Great answer from Ron Paul, insisting on the relevance of his candidacy. Perry wants a genetic splicing of Cain and Gingrich, which makes me somewhat nauseated. Romney's answer is easily the best.

10.45 pm. Santorum just called president Obama King George III. The enemy of the American people. And Gary Johnson gets the best line of the night on his neighbor's dog and shovel-ready jobs. What I've noticed about the crowd is their strongest responses come not when a policy is backed or ecplained. It's when someone is attacking Obama or predicting his losing the next election. It's a team sport. 

10.40 pm. Some reader reaction:

By the way, that gay soldier looked like an animal.  Did you see the pipes on him?  He was a pretty strong case for why I don't care a lick for what your sexual orientation is (or, to be honest, much else about you personally) — and, I'd like to see some of the armchair soldiers in that room tell that guy to his face that he is somehow unfit to fight.  He is likely too honorable to do so, but he could clearly break 'em like a twig. This is really something. Jesus.

Another:

That quaalude Perry took before debate finally kicked in with that Romney flip flop "jibe".

Another:

A soldier booed at a Republican debate. Must be a first.

10.36 pm. Now we have a commercial for a treatment for gout. Ah, the Florida Republicans.

10.33 pm. Romney is defending the principles of the ACA. He's defending the private sector as the basis for universal insurance! Just like Obamacare. Perry's parry on Romney's flip-flopping was teribly framed. Surely he had time to practise that line. But he seems lost and adrift. Almost too bored or too tired or too lazy. And Romney, rather than simply let Perry wallow in his incoherence, he punces again and destroys him. This will surely be the takehome from this debate: Perry is not ready for prime-time against Obama and he is not doctrinare enough by Tea Party standards (on immigration, say) to be the purist candidate. Romney is cleaning up. And Palin is grinning somewhere.

10.30 pm. Perry effectively defends his support for the HPV vaccine. But it's so weird to hear a man who has signed the death warrants of over 200 people say he will always side with "life." The Catholic church, for one, would differ. Then he crumbles on the appalling lack of health insurance in his own state. An awful answer. A dreadful performance. He surely will sink further after this.

10.27 pm. Finally, an actual real human being with a health problem who benefits from the ACA. Huntsman's policy offer is catastrophic health insurance – but it's not clear that would help the kid at all. The growing number of young people able to get health insurance through their parents' policy could be a real factor in this election. As someone with a pre-existing condition, it matters to me that if I were to lose my job, there is no way I could ever get a health insurance policy without the ACA. That matters.

10.25 pm. And now we have a total invention about the health insurance reform frm Herman Cain. Does he not realize the public option was defeated? Does he not understand that the entire system remains private? Does he not know that someone as rich as he could under any Obamacare procedure be able to buy whatever medical care he wants?

10.18 pm. Santorum claims bizarrely that repealing DADT means permission for sexual activity for gays in the military. This is a lie. The same rules of sexual misconduct apply to gays and straights alike. And a gay servicemember is booed by this foul crowd. Santorum keeps saying "sex is not an issue." But that's the current policy! This has nothing to do with sex, as Santorum surely knows. And again, the crowd reveals itself as hateful – even when it comes to those serving their country in uniform. This is one core reason why I cannot be a Republican. So many are bigots – and no one – no one – stands up against them. They're a bunch of bullies congratulating themselves on rooting out the queers..

10. 16 pm. A fascinating exchange between Santorum and Huntsman on foreign policy. About the best exchange of the evening. And Santorum's unreconstructed neoconservatism is not working with this crowd. Ten years of war is enough. And Santorum's Dolchstoss moment about Obama and the generals was a low point.

10.13 pm. Gary Johnson wants a 43 percent cut in military spending! Wow. And an immediate balanced budget. Can you imagine what would happen if the US government sucked that amount of money out of the economy in twelve months? Jesus.

10.11 pm. A classic base position from Butch: no foreign aid (except, of course, for Israel).

10.09 pm. Perry seems to think that Obama has not engaged Pakistan or India. Really? He went to India and Indonesia to check Chinese influence.

10.05 pm. And all foreign policy is dominated by a country of 8 million people. Watch the panderthon begin! Romney is now disgustingly lying about Obama's alleged "apology" tour. There must be no daylight between what Netanyahu wants and what the US does. None. We are the same country, apparently. And notice too that Romney is all but saying that he would allow Israel to launch a pre-emptive war against Iran. That may well become a defining issue.

The Judeo-Christian war against Islam is what the GOP base wants. For Biblical reasons. They know only war. And the one thing that is totally absent from this discussion – it doesn't even come up – is the settlements on the West Bank.

10 pm. A reader shares his view of Perry, who is struggling badly tonight:

Who does he remind me of? Let's see. A 'yell leader' for Texas A&M and a male cheerleader from Mississippi. Perry is a slightly dumber, but more ruggedly handsome version of Trent Lott.

Another notes:

Clearly, Romney is continuing his Obama made it worse mantra, but interestingly, he is co-opting Obama's middle class message.  I want to see how that works for him in the primaries.

And suddenly my DVR switches to South Park. I know, TV, I know. But they pay me to do this.

9.50 pm. Ouch. Romney describes Perry's program for in-state tuition as a $100,000 discount for 16,000 illegal aliens attending Texas state colleges. Perry stands by his decision to back in-state tuition for the children of illegal aliens and gets booed. Santorum puts a bigger boot in – describing "preferential treatment" for illegal immigrant children. It's a brutal pile-on, and Perry is reeling. He doesn't support a fence for every inch of the border – for perfectly sane reasons, but it sure isn't playing well with this crowd.

9. 45 pm. Now it's getting silly. Bachmann wants a fence on "every inch" of the border with Mexico and jabs at Perry for allowing the children of illegal immigrants to get a college education. At least Gingrich favors making legal immigration less onerous and cumbersome. But the reason tourism is off is the police state at US borders.

9.43 pm. Perry attacks the program, "Race To The Top", widely viewed as reformist even by leading conservatives. Wasn't it Murdoch's favorite Obama policy? But anything that can have the name "Obama" attached to it is ipso facto not conservative. Even tax cuts. And tax reform. And Medicare cuts.

9.41 pm. Gingrich has now upped the ante to "very profound" changes in education policy. And we just lost the Department of Education as well as the EPA.

9.39 pm. Oh man. Gingrich is going to announce something profound next week, if he says so himself. And 21st Century!

9.37 pm. Now we're abolishing the EPA. And supporting total Chilean privatization of social security – based on the stock market (which today sank 4 percent).

9.35 pm. I love Huntsman's support for serious tax reform. But Obama supports that too, doesn't he?

9.30 pm. Obama is a European, big-spending liberal, according to Romney. But not a socialist. He's poised and aggressive – and currently outclassing his competition.

9.26 pm. The first Perry-Romney spat … and it seems to me that Perry's answer was confusing and addled. And Romney is actually accusing someone else of switching positions. Perry looks like a grinning bobblehed up there: inarticulate and easily bested by the Massachusetts governor.

9.25 pm. A shout-out to the Tea Party beards above. And to Bachmann's slightly less rigid hair helmet. The crowd looks immense – like a football stadium and kinda rowdy as well.

9.23 pm. 44 percent of Republicans who voted think you're not "rich" if you earn less than a million bucks a year. And now we're getting a commercial opposed to legal immigration. Sigh.

9.22 pm. Gary Johnson loves the veto power, wants to abolish the income tax, and shows why it has been absurd to exclude him from these debates when a loon like Bachmann is allowed in.

9.18 pm. The most popular question is about the tenth amendment. Ron Paul's answer is pitch-perfect: he'd just veto every bill that he believes violates the Tenth Amendment, just as he votes against every single bill that violates that principle. Then a rousing defense of a de facto abolition of the federal government.

9.16 pm. There is a logic to Cain's equal rates for all tax rates; and he rouses the crowd. Romney, I notice, is now blaming the entire recession on Obama.

9.14 pm. Huntsman wants a short-term subsidy for natural gas production. Okay. Then he blames the polarization in this country on the Great Recession. Does he not remember the 2000 election?

9.12 pm. Santorum wants to abolish all public sector unions. There's a whole lot of abolishing going on tonight. And now Gingrich wants to abolish unemployment compensation as well. "People should not get money for doing nothing."

9.09 pm Rick Santorum appears to be gazing into heaven for inspiration.

9.08 pm. Bachmann favors the abolition of all income taxes. Or not. More Manichean blather that could be clipped from a Mark Levin book.

9.06 pm. Romney's proposals sounds extremely familiar as well. Along with a bunch of blather. But confident blather.

9.04 pm. Perry proposes tax cuts and tort reform as a cure for unemployment. Really? That all you got? Haven't we just had a decade of tax cuts?

9.03 pm. "Incent" is a transitive verb?

9.02 pm. Once more unto the breach, dear readers … Megyn Kelly might add some camp value, I suppose. But I may be hoping for too much.