Mitt Romney’s CPAC Address Liveblog

My first attempt at a liveblog. Take it away Mitt!

9:59

Well that’s the end of this debate. Gut reactions?

I’m thinking —

Santorum: B

Romney: B+

Gingrich: A-

Paul: Incomplete (you can’t even grade him on the same scale)

9:57

John King has been bullied all debate season. First Newt demolished him and now Romney told him that he believes that he has no obligation to answer King’s questions. Moderating is like a prison fight — you need to get crazy the first day and beat someone up or you’ll always look weak to the rest of GenPop.

9:55

This is so quickly devolving into Santorum-Gingrich vs. Romney-Paul. Gingrich and Santorum are ganging up on Romney and Paul is not “backing Romney” but he’s also not attacking anyone directly but Santorum. This forces me to ask the question: when are Santorum and Gingrich going to formalize this little alliance?

9:50

Excellent point raised on twitter is that Santorum’s whole campaign is founded on sticking to his principles and he’s very lucky that all these Senate wonkery answers aren’t being thrown back at him right now.

The problem is that’s a Romney suicide attack. He’d be saying “look, none of us are principled!” Negative campaigning can’t go so far that you undermine yourself when the party is already whispering about a new candidate for an open convention.

9:45

Romney is getting stronger as the debate goes on. The attacks have died down and he’s delivering all the standard conservative buzzwords and looking like he’s come back from Presidential central casting.

9:42

Santorum is doubling down on eliminating public schools. Is this really a popular stance in conservative circles?

9:40

Ron Paul makes this a debt issue. That’s a good argument for him.

9:36

Santorum says we should do more in Syria — but is refusing to answer the very simple question which is whether or not he would support an invasion or arming the rebels. John King do your job!

9:31

Why isn’t John King doing more to force these guys to actually answer the question? What would these people do that would stop Iran and how would it play out? Ask them if they are talking about committing ground troops to overthrow Iran. That’s what moderators are supposed to do.

9:30

Romney’s assessment of Iran is entirely factually false, but it’s effective for the crowd.

9:27

Gingrich said that we should trust military leaders rather than social engineers in the White House. Then he says that he doesn’t agree with General Dempsey’s assessment of Iran. Will anyone point this out? I’m thinking no.

9:23

Ron Paul on military policy — “And now for something completely different!”

9:20

Gingrich wins with “Cheerful.”

Romney loses with “Resolute.”

9:19

I’m a little shocked that we only had one exchange devoted to immigration during a debate in Arizona. In Florida it seemed to take up half the debate.

9:16

Define yourself in one word? Do I dare dream for “Strategery” and “Lockbox”

9:10

Now we’re going to hear a laundry list of “we hate Mexicans” answers. It’s hardly worth blogging each individually.

9:07

It may be too Washington insider, but Santorum’s answer about the Judiciary Committee was not just good, but demonstrated that he is a savvy political thinker. I hate to sound like a Santorum fan (I’m not) but whether the GOP understands it or not, he’s making a compelling, substantive case that he’s a better potential President than Romney.

9:03

Aha! Santorum was ready to come back. Michael Dukakis shout out!

9:02

Santorum went back to the well-oiled attack he leveled on Romney in the second Florida debate. It was actually the same attack verbatim. Romney is going to be better prepared this time around though. If Santorum wasn’t prepared for this, he’s in trouble.

8:58

It continues to astound me that we have a former Senator as a President. As we’re seeing with Santorum it’s soooooo easy to attack Senators for voting for omnibus bills with small line items.

8:56

Gingrich could have been much tougher on Romney for that answer — it’s a complete lie to say Massachusetts didn’t have essentially this law.

8:51

Santorum was clearly practicing for this answer. He stayed tough on social issues, but sounded like a serious person and not a shrill wingnut. I give this answer an A.

8:47

Gingrich is killing it tonight. An attack on the “elite media” and saying that Obama supported infanticide.

8:45

Santorum needed this timeout. Regroup and remember that losing one exchange with Romney is not the end of the fight.

My first post-debate prediction is that Santorum’s people will start leaking that Romney bussed in the audience. He may be right because some of Romney’s answers have been weak and he’s gotten ovations anyway.

8:39

Santorum’s answer on bailouts did a good job of admitting to opposing the bailout and delivering a covert attack on Romney for shifting positions.

Romney did a good job refusing to answer the question and blaming Unions. He’s starting to learn how this game is played.

8:33

Gingrich is so much better at shaking down this earmark discussion than Santorum is. Santorum tries to explain it technically. Gingrich explains it abstractly as a tool for fighting liberal Presidents. It sounds a lot better that way.

8:28

Santorum doing a great job of defending earmarks as strong defense spending.

Romney properly dismissed it. If this becomes defined as strong defense spending his main line of attack on Santorum will die (since he can’t bash him on social issues in the nomination process), so he needs to keep this going.

8:25

Gingrich jumps afield of the question to throw immigration red meat at the Arizona audience. This is why he’s a pro at this.

8:24

Romney is for class warfare! That’s a drink, friends.

8:23

Romney tried to co-opt Santorum’s “from a liberal state” theme. I still think that’s going to be trouble once the health care debate comes up.

8:21

Santorum is taking Ron Paul to the woodshed right now. The best thing he’s done is defend himself as a true conservative while serving in a liberal state. That’s a veiled slam on Romney and it’s now a ticking time bomb for Romney’s eventual answer on health care that he passed RomneyCare because he was serving in a liberal state.

8:18

Ron Paul fulfills my “key to the debate” for him by having a brilliant zinger when asked to defend his Santorum attack ads.

8:17

Gingrich is back to sounding like a President. This guy is so good at debates when he’s not a frontrunner.

8:15

John King sets up Mitt Romney to make his first attack on Santorum. Romney just delivers a laundry list of attacks on Santorum’s voting record in Washington. It’s the right line of attack, but I’m not sure he sold it. He criticized Santorum, but didn’t really cast him as an untrustworthy Washingtonian.

Santorum went back on Romney with tax issues. That’s a good pivot. Romney can only defend himself with a lot of nuanced technical stuff. It’s a powerful attack for Santorum, but at least Romney had the good sense to repeat the “you raised the debt ceiling” line because even if disingenuous it’s a good sound bite.

8:09

This guy came correct! American flag shirts are awesome. They perfectly balance patriotism and a technically improper demeaning of the flag.

8:07

Ron Paul introduces himself like he’s a superhero. “Champion of Liberty”

8:06

When are they going to introduce the candidates like the starting lineup of an NBA game? I’d rather open with Alan Parsons Project than this chorus.

8:00

“Religious liberty” has been a conservative buzzword for two weeks. Does anyone think CNN is going to ask a hypothetical “Ground Zero Mosque” question to see how true to religious freedom these guys are? I’m guessing no.

7:58

We just saw the rock climbing Citi commercial. Consulting the rules for the unofficial CNN debate drinking game rules, everyone take a drink whenever you hear “Somebody Left The Gate Open!” tonight.

7:53

Bead presentation? No! PLEASE don’t let us see Carville’s breasts!

7:46

GOP’s favorite choice of those not running is Chris Christie and Erin Burnett says, “he’s head, shoulders and stomach above the rest.” Ha! Oh Erin there’s the sense of humor you had over at CNBC and completely lost when you joined CNN.

7:39

We’re about half an hour away. Erin Burnett is interviewing former Bachmann and Romney debate coach Brett O’Donnell about how conservatives should cast social issues to avoid losing moderates. What he’s saying makes sense…unfortunately after watching him run Michele Bachmann’s campaign, I have a sense that he’s not following his own advice in his career as a political operative.

1:32

So that was it. My first effort at live blogging. We may have more of these in the future.

1:30

While the speech was bland in substance, it was much more “stirring” than Santorum’s earlier this morning. If I were Santorum’s people I’d begin the assault by casting Romney as a stuffed suit and explain that we need more than “a pep rally cheerleader” we need “a leader.”

1:26

Seniors should be able to chose between Medicare and private plans. That’s all Romney claims he is going to do, but 61% of Medicare patients rate it as excellent to very good. Is there any evidence that anyone would select a more expensive private plan unless Romney expects to gouge the current system.

1:22

Government wages should be tied to the private sector. I think he’s saying this will make government cheaper, but it would massively increase government salaries in my sector.

1:21

He will eliminate Obamacare is getting a standing ovation? Did they think the other candidates wouldn’t?

1:20

Romney is proud to be the only candidate that has never worked a day in Washington. Ezra Klein tweets the reminder that the reason is the voting public (see Kennedy-Romney Senate race).

1:18

Being a chief executive is about sharing credit. Brett O’Donnell winces.

1:17

After a whole day of building the conservative message that “rights” are from God and not from government, Mitt Romney just explained how important it is to ban gay marriage. What is their stance on religious denominations that allow gay marriage? Isn’t he saying that the government should define rights and not God? This seems like an issue where someone should push conservatives.

1:14

Romney refers to his Massachusetts budget surplus as a “rainy day fund.” If you’re wondering why, it’s because George W. Bush famously cast budget surpluses as “theft” from taxpayers. So he’s not going to call it a surplus.

1:12

Mitt just pulled a standing ovation for saying he’s not ashamed of his success in fixing companies. Not sure that’s accurate, but whatever…

1:11

Romney believes that college conservatives are reading Burke. Is Burke really the hallmark of modern conservatives? It seems like William Buckley is a better intellectual conservative. And Glenn Beck is probably who they are actually reading.

1:08

Romney is now pivoting to the “spell of Washington” and “creatures of Washington” as an attack on Obama. If you were wondering what the next million in attack ads on Santorum will be about, expect to hear a bit about his record in the Senate.

1:04

Romney decides to focus on the theme that the election requires the GOP to stand for something instead of just against Obama. It’s a theme that tests well with independents, but it seems to favor Santorum much more than Romney. Not sure I’d have chosen that theme.

1:02

Mitt Romney’s lead-in music is “Born Free” by Kid Rock. There’s a joke here but I haven’t figured it out yet.

12:59

“Jack Welch said Mitt Romney was the most qualified person to run for President in his lifetime.” Why do you hate Ronald Reagan, Jack Welch!

12:56

Rep. Mike Pompeo wraps up the panel (following GOP Congressional Freshmen…in other words Tea Party folk) by saying, “don’t just send Republicans, send conservatives.” Mitt may have wanted to schedule his speech at a different time. Like after Mitt supporter Ann Coulter.

12:53

The panel before Romney is still going. They are setting the tone that this election is about fighting for conservativism. Not exactly a good lead in for Mitt.

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