Friday Night Liveblog
5:51pm: Moderator Charlie Gibson says his fingers are crossed. It's the high-stakes debate before Tuesday's New Hampshire primaries, and ABC changed up the format a bit by limiting the number of candidates who can participate (top four finishers in Iowa) and/or at least five percent support in any poll. It's also making them sit in a semi circle before a table, hoping to get the candidates to address each other more directly.

5:59pm: Let's get ready to ruuuuuummmmbbbbblllle!

6:10pm: Just an aside, I really like how tonight's moderator, Charlie Gibson, ends his newscasts with "I hope you had a good day". I feel like he's Uncle Charlie when he says that. I wonder whether he will end the debate that way.

6:03pm: George Stephanopolous is bringing up how most of the candidates have been going for days with only three, four hours of sleep a night. I am curious to see how the lack of sleep factor might make things interesting tonight.

6:05pm: ABC is partnering with social networking site, Facebook, where if you download the "US Politics" application, you can take part in the debate in real time on your computer with other Facebook users.

6:07pm: McCain and Obama will be the real targets tonight, as McCain goes into this debate as the favorite in NH. Obama is obviously coming off his big win in Iowa, and the latest poll has he and Hillary Clinton tied.

6:09pm: Republicans go first. L to R we've got McCain, Thompson, Paul, Romney, Huckabee and Giuliani.

6:10pm: OK, the Bush record on foreign policy - "bold, but not exactly humble" - is the first topic of discussion. "Would you run ON Bush's foreign policy or away from it?"

6:11pm: Huckabee sounds hoarse. He says American foreign policy has been arrogant, calling out former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for sending in too few troops to Iraq.

6:13pm: Over on the facebook page, there's a "sound board" as people logged on can just weigh in on what they are thinking and it posts immediately. These comments have nothing to do with what's going on in the debate right now, for example: "Jenn Rock is thinking about when you will stop cutting student loans especially with many careers requiring advanced degrees and bringing my friends home from war."

6:15pm: Rudy Giuliani's calling for an expansion of the army. I don't know how, since the Democratic congress ain't gonna do that, and the US military's recruiting troubles have been well publicized.

6:17pm: Fun Fact Checker, who helps research "fun facts" during our liveblogs, is joining us tonight. Welcome.

6:18pm: Ron Paul is here tonight, and he usually yells a lot during debates. But I think the fact that everyone is sitting down has calmed everyone down. He's going after the Bush foreign policy and American foreign policy "of invading and occupying countries".

6:21pm: Nothing new here. Everyone's talking about how everything changed after 9/11, no one's saying anything they haven't said before. Still waiting on some sparks.

6:22pm: Rudy's now going after Ron, saying that our foreign policy is irrelevant to why Islamic extremists target Americans. He says Islamic extremists hate us because it's part of their radical belief system. Paul says to Giuliani -- if that happened to us -- if other countries came and invaded and occupied us, then how would we feel?

6:24pm: It's the Ron Paul pile-on, now.

6:25pm: Brrrrrrr... Huck and Romney are sitting next to each other. It's cold in here. There must be some chilliness in the atmosphere.

6:26pm: Meanwhile, on Facebook, we have this latest comment: "Eric Williams is thinking that he misses the John McCain that wasn't a Bush clone"

6:28pm: I feel like Mitt Romney is gonna pull out a knife at any moment and just stab smirking Huckabee, still sitting to his left.

6:30pm: Wow, we've spent the last twenty minutes on one topic. Now people are cutting each other off and stuff, and Fred Thompson says, "Charlie, you started it."

6:31pm: Ooh, a video question from President Bush. This is like the Video Daily Double of Jeopardy! "What are the principles which will be the underpinnings of your presidency?"

6:33pm: Okay, so when the Democrats come out, are they gonna get new chairs, or are they gonna have to sit in these warm, possibly sweaty chairs that the Republicans are sitting in?

6:35pm: Each candidate is now going around talking about what they stand for, Giuliani just plugged his book, "Leadership".

6:38pm: FUN FACT: During the Kennedy-Nixon debate of the 1960 presidential race, Kennedy wore a dark blue suit to look striking in black and white, compared with Nixon who sported a washed out hideous gray. Tonight almost all the candidates are wearing blue ties, not sure what that means.

6:41pm: Facebook update, someone says Romney looks as smug as Kerry did in 2004.

FUN FACT: The Giuliani book "Leadership" is not currently ranked in the Amazon.com Top 100 bestsellers, while Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" is ranked #36.

6:43pm: We are now moving to healthcare. All GOP candidates have proposed free-market individual insurance. Why can't we afford medical insurance for everybody?

6:45pm: Giuliani seems to be talking a lot, dropping the "socialized medicine" line for the first time tonight.

6:48pm: Romney touts his state's (Massachusetts) healthcare plan. He said it was less expensive for the state to help people buy their own private insurance, which lowered the cost of deductibles and prescription drugs. Ding-ding! Romney just drops the "socialized medicine" line. He also throws in "Hillarycare".

6:51pm: Thompson says letting the government take over healthcare will sacrifice care, which is in tandem with what everyone else is saying.

6:52pm: Romney: Let me tell you what kind of mandates I like, Fred.
Thompson: Yeah, the ones you come up with.

6:54pm: I like the format because it allows for some meaty discussion of these topics. But it would work better with fewer candidates.

6:57pm: McCain isn't really saying much. Which might actually help, he can come off as "above the fray" and more presidential, and let the rest of the pack snipe at each other.

6:59pm: McCain says the attorney general of South Carolina has sued the Medicaid companies for overcharging patients.

FUN FACT: The South Carolina AG is Henry McMaster. Like the Texas AG, protecting children against online sex predators is one of his major focuses.

7:04pm: Wow, this is gonna be a beat down. There are another forty five minutes for the Republicans, then we have the Democrats. Next topic, immigration.

7:05pm: Lots of talk about the border, border stats, border fence, electronic border fence, securing the border. As the candidates continue talking about whether McCain's plan is "amnesty", I start touring Facebook to look at my friends' photos.

7:12pm: "You could spend a fortune on these attack ads and they still won't be true," says McCain, about his immigration plan.

FUN FACT: This is not the first debate in which candidates are seated. There were at least two seated debates in 2004.

7:15pm: Rudy Giuliani scores a laugh when he says Reagan, "the hero of our party" who "we all invoke" gave amnesty. "He would be the target of one of Mitt's negative ads".

7:17pm: Thompson says amnesty means "Are you rewarded in any way for your illegal status in the country?" Now we're parsing what "rewarded" means. Getting to stay in the U.S.? Is getting to stay in the U.S. but being penalized for doing so NOT amnesty?

FUN FACT: Dictionary defines "amnesty" as general pardon for offenses, esp. political offenses, against a government, often granted before any trial or conviction.

7:21pm: Ron Paul is concerned about a national ID. He further traces illegal immigration back to economic inflation and the welfare state. "Have to deal with this as a whole, can't divorce it from the economics of it," Paul said.

7:23pm: Next question: "This group has targeted a lot of partisan firepower against Hillary Clinton. If the nominee is Barack Obama, why not him?"

7:25pm: Romney says that he and Barack Obama bring about this campaign's buzz word of "change". McCain comes in and says, "We disagree on a lot of issues, but I agree, you are the candidate of change," implying Romney "changes" his positions a lot. The crowd laughs.

FUN FACT: The meaning of the name Mitt is Diminutive Form Of Milton. The origin of the name Mitt is American. (Willard) Mitt Romney, U.S. Politician. Named after a relative, Milton Romney, whose nickname was Mitt.

7:30pm: All the Republican candidates are still talking about Obama. Huckabee is applauding him for getting people excited, bringing people together and back into the process. Calls on his party to "find something to be for, rather than against". If not, he says, the party will lose the election and a lot of ideals with it.

7:32pm: Ron Paul aligns himself with Obama, saying he's a lot like Obama in his opposition to the war and bringing in young people.

7:33pm: The last twelve minutes of the GOP debate were about Barack Obama. All that free press probably helps him, even though the candidates were distinguishing their policies from his.

7:34pm: This is exhausting.... is there an end in sight?

FUN FACT: McCain won a 48%-30% victory over Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire primary. Then, as the race headed to South Carolina, a mysterious rumor began in SC about McCain fathering an illegitimate black child. This ultimately brought him down and led to a Bush victory, and is said to have Karl Rove's fingerprints all over it. No one has been able to prove it, however.

7:43pm: The debate finally ends, with an invitation to all the Democratic candidates to join the six Republicans on stage and all do this awkward kumbaya handshake moment. McCain starts giving the Dems hugs.
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