Didn’t wake up in time for Sunday’s early morning Republican debate? Here are some highlights you might not hear on the evening news:
CONCORD, N.H., Jan. 8, 2012 — New Hampshire residents are fewer than 48 hours away from voting in the first-in-the-nation Republican primary and candidates took to the stage this morning to debate for the last time before voting begins. This debate, sponsored by NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Facebook, was the second meeting of the candidates in just 10 hours and gave a chance to clear up any missteps from Saturday night’s ABC debate.
Gingrich introduces a new food group
Early into the debate, front-runner Mitt Romney took a jab at Newt Gingrich and the other candidates, saying he (Romney) wasn’t a career politician.
“I long for a day where instead of having people to go to Washington for 20 and 30 years who get elected and then when they lose office they stay there and make money as lobbyists or connecting to businesses,” Romney said.
Gingrich, given the chance to respond, jumped right in.
“Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney?” he asked Romney.
The audience seemed to enjoy the jab and on Twitter, reporters and viewers alike repeated the one-liner. Even Romney wasn’t sure how to react to the notion of holy ham, looking surprised but maintaining that almost ever-present smile.
Rick Perry gets a re-do
Remember the infamous Rick Perry “oops moment” from a debate in early November when he was unable to come up with the names of the three agencies he would eliminate if elected.
Today, when asked if it was un-American for people to feel relieved when receiving government help, instead of answering that question, Perry wasted no time stating what agencies he’d remove — and this time, he got it right.
“Well, let me answer the question that you asked earlier,” Perry said referring to the November debate. “It would be those bureaucrats at Department of Commerce and Energy and Education that we’re gonna do away with.”
It seemed as if the audience and Perry let out a collective sigh of relief and laughter afterward.
For the record, he eventually did answer the question that was asked, saying that if there was more job creation, some people wouldn’t be as dependent on the government for help.
“You know, the fact of the matter is that Americans wanna have a job,” Perry said. ” And the idea that there are people clamoring for government to come and to give them assistance is just wrong headed.”
Huntsman on the hunt
Jon Huntsman, who in other debates has sometimes seemed passive or non-combative, finally found his voice.
Responding to Romney’s criticisms about Huntsman working for President Barack Obama as ambassador to China, the candidate said he was putting his country first while Romney was busy campaigning.
“He criticized me while he was out raising money for serving my country in China. Yes, under a Democrat. Like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They’re not asking who, what political affiliation the president is,” Huntsman said.
Romney countered, saying Huntsman should not represent the GOP after he served in the Obama administration, calling the president a “remarkable leader.”
Huntsman didn’t back down, though.
“This nation is divided …. because of attitudes like that,” he told moderator David Gregory. “The American people are tired of the partisan division. They have had enough.”
The audience applauded.
This was a Facebook debate? Really?
Sitting in the audience, it was hard to tell Facebook had anything to do with today’s debate.
During the 1.5 hour-long program, moderator Gregory asked only two questions that came from Facebook. One was proposed by Facebook user Heath Treat, which one blogger tweeted sounded like a porn star.
There was a Facebook page for the debate, which allowed users to pose questions real-time and discuss the debate, but what’s the point of posing questions if they aren’t going to be used?
It’s hard to know what impact this weekend’s debates will have on voters Tuesday. The latest Suffolk University Political Research Center poll shows 35 percent of voters leaning towards Romney. Paul is in second place at 20 percent and Huntsman is next, with 11 percent.