8.34 pm. Well, there did turn out to be a moment in the forum worth noting. This hyper-partisan crowd booed Gingrich when he cited Mitt Romney. Which confirms my decision to bail out. A debate in which criticism of other candidates is not allowed and in which boos break out when it happens is not one worth watching if you are, you know, a journalist.
One possibility that would make sense of the latest Reuters poll and the booing tonight is that Gingrich's ads have created a backlash for him – and maybe even a boost for Romney. But one outlier poll is a rather slim reed to base this argument on.
8.25 pm. Well, I tried. I can't see this pageant producing anything interesting at this point, and really cannot watch it any more. It's Saturday night. Watching these individuals lie and posture and pander is too much for me to handle. Back to my life … and apologies for the abrupt end. If something meaningful happens at all, I'll cover it later.
8.21 pm. A questioner: "there seem to be more and more discrimination against religion." Romney panders shamelessly, backing the Christianist view that the government should reflect Christian emblems. This debate so far is no debate, and awful, but Romney is literally making me nauseated.
The canned responses to the hysterical premises of the questioners reveals an almos reptilian quality in the man. Maybe it's just me, but Romney made my skin crawl tonight for the first time in one of these events.
8.17 pm. Romney addresses a Ron Paul supporter who asks what he would do to win Paul voters. His first response was to tout his intention to increase military spending, regardless of its fiscal impact. Romney then says that the Obama administration has imposed price controls on healthcare and "it hasn't worked" – hence the increase in healthcare costs. Seriously, he's out of his mind.
8.12 pm. Romney is actually saying that newly-elected president Obama chose not to seek compromise with Republicans but to ram his agenda through "against the will of the American people." The sheer distortion of reality that Romney is prepared to unleash is staggering. He truly is prepared to say anything about Obama, and has only one criterion beforehand: will it help or hurt me? The idea of a reference to something called truth is beyond him.
I have to say that the setting of Romney sitting down in an armchair and answering questions makes him look even smugger than normal.
8.10 pm. Romney's up – moving a question about housing to blaming Dodd-Frank for burdening the private sector. Then he panders on a home mortgage deduction.
8.08 pm. Ron Paul declined an invite, leaving Huckabee to predict he would not win the presidency.
8.07 pm. No criticism of other candidates allowed. That's what Super Pacs are for, I guess.
8.03 pm. The big news of today is a poll that diverges from the other recent polls. The Reuters-Ipsos poll gives Romney a massive lead. The others show a lead of something like 5 percent. This one shows a lead of 20 percent. Outlier or harbinger? Dunno.
(Photo: Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry holds a cup as he drives away after attending a Huckabee forum on January 14, 2012 in Charleston, South Carolina. Republican presidential candidates continue to campaign for votes in South Carolina ahead of their primary on January 21st. By Joe Raedle/Getty Images.)