10:17 p.m. Final thoughts: Michele Bachmann was impressive in her first presidential primary debate, giving an assured performance and making sure to layer her answers with personal and professional introductory details. Mitt Romney didn't hurt himself, which about as good a job as a front-runner can do in a debate of this sort. Tim Pawlenty did hurt himself by failing to defend what had seemed strong criticisms of Romney. Herman Cain's inexperience and idiosyncratic positions started to show tonight; while he was the break-out star at the South Carolina debate, his performance tonight suggests he may not wear well over the months head. Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich appeared more talking heads than candidates, and unlikely to stretch easily into new roles. That gives the wins of the evening to Romney and Bachmann.
10 p.m. The last five minutes are a love fest. The field thinks very well of itself, and the candidates of each other. Kind of a nice touch, and one that's sure to vanish if and when the contest really heats up.
9:56 p.m. Palin or Biden? Pawlenty goes with Palin, criticizes Biden for having wanted to partition Iraq.
9:53 p.m. Not trending, but fun: #thisorthat.
9:46 p.m. Michele Bachmann is gaining stature just by being on the stage tonight. Very tough on Obama for decision to go into Libya.
9:44 p.m. #cnndebate is the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter worldwide right now.
9:42 p.m. Is it time for us to leave Afghanistan? Romney, "It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we can," based on the conditions on the ground as determined by the generals. Ron Paul: As commander in chief, I'd tell the generals what to do, not wait for them to tell me what to do.
9:38 p.m. Coke or Pepsi? Pawlenty, "Coke."
9:34 p.m. Newt Gingrich defends nuance in the immigration debate, a middle ground between kicking 20 million people out and not protecting America's borders.
9:26 p.m. "Not only have I taken the pledge, I've taken the bullets..." Rick Santorum lays out his anti-abortion position. Kathryn Jean Lopez points out this is not the first time he's used that formulation in recent weeks.
9:25 p.m. Bachmann says she's opposed to same sex marriage, but doesn't see it as the role of the president to go into states and tell them how to legislate. She also gave a heartfelt answer about the problem of difficult homes, her own imperfect home, and why she was a foster parent. I think this is what's going to make her so interesting in the months ahead: She's a 1970s-generation conservative, a conservative by choice in response to the excesses of that historical moment, even though she's only emerged nationally during the tea party era.
9:17 p.m. Spicy or mild? Romney, surprisingly, says spicy.
9:14 p.m. Romney and Pawlenty are really playing a different game than everyone else on stage, and I'm not sure it's good for them to be so surrounded by the more vehement partisans. Yes, it makes them look reasonable. But it also makes them look, well, pained.
9:09 p.m. Cain defends his lack of comfort with the idea of appointing Muslims to a hypothetical Cain administration, then quickly pivots to attack sharia law. Nice split screen on CNN as Romney gives Cain a very skeptical look as the pizza magnate defends asking Muslims extra questions before hiring them. "Of course we are not going to have sharia law," says Romney taking the question as well, and emphasizing that anyone hired in his administration would be someone he knew. Gingrich says he'd back a loyalty oath for government service, as was done in the Nazi and, controversially, communist eras.
9:02 p.m. A question from the audience: Do you support raising the debt ceiling? Romney: We won't raise the debt ceiling unless Obama lays out plans for reining in government excesses, and spending. And if we don't raise it? Romney doesn't answer. Or rather, he answers with another question -- what if we keep spending?
9 p.m. Cain supports the Ryan plan wholeheartedly. Gingrich says his statements on the Ryan plan were taken out of context.
8:56 p.m. Pawlenty addresses the questioner with a promise to keep faith with promises made to him on Medicare, a serious and personal response that really serves as a reminder how few candidates on the stage are actually acting like politicians campaigning for an office, as opposed to politicians arguing with each other on TV.
8:54 p.m. And here we go with Medicare. "It's not solvent...it can't be made solvent, it has to change," says Ron Paul in response to a question about how he'll keep the program strong. "You talk about opting out of Obamacare? Why can't we opt out of the whole system?" he asks.
8:53 p.m. BackBerry or iPhone? Ron Paul goes with the BB.
8:51 p.m. Gingrich has the first strong preference on a this or that question/ Dancing with the Stars or American Idol? "American Idol," he says, without missing a beat.
8:49 p.m. This debate is feeling a little ADHD, zipping along so quickly from topic to topic and candidate to candidate it's hard to get a sense of them all on key questions. But good for CNN for at least trying to shake up the format.
8:48 p.m. Should the federal government be doing food safety regulation? "Yes," says former pizza company CEO Cain.
8:45 p.m. "We're not a developed country," says Gingrich in an answer to a question about the space industry, saying the U.S. has yet new frontiers to explore. "I didn't say end the space program," Gingrich emphasizes, after ripping into NASA. "You can get into space better...if you decentralized it" and cut out the middleman and the bureaucracy.
8:42 p.m. "I fought behind closed doors against my own party on TARP," Bachmann says. She's doing a really good job of introducing herself and presenting herself as a leader within the Republican Party.
8:41 p.m. Romney says he wasn't wrong about the auto industry in opposing bailouts, saying that what helped them most was bankruptcy reorganization, not the federal government dollars.
8:39 p.m. Some goofball questions, to mix it up, asked of just one person each. Leno or Conan? Santorum says he doesn't watch either. Elvis or Johnny Cash? Bachmann again goes for both, noting she's got Christmas with Elvis on her iPod.
8:36 p.m. Meanwhile, an Iowa political blogger reports:
8:30 p.m. Pawlenty backs right to work, strongly, to applause. We don't have the government tell us what organizations we can be part of, we tell the government what to do. Gingrich, asked a similar but not identical question -- as he was quick to point out -- brings up the National Labor Relations Board, which he said should be defunded. Herman Cain also believes in right to work, "and I hope New Hampshire is able to get it passed." (N.H. Gov. John Lynch this spring vetoed a right to work law passed by the state legislature, but efforts are ongoing to change the laws governing unionization in the state.)
8:30 p.m. Pawlenty on trade, new challenges to manufacturing: "I'm for fair and open trade but I'm not for being stupid and I'm not for being a chump." Wounded look.
Bachmann just talked about an "omnibus bill" -- that's House insider talk! -- and called the EPA the "job killing organization of America."
8:20 p.m. Romney rebuts charges of Obamaneycare from Pawlenty, but given the opportunity to reiterate the criticism he made over the weekend, Pawlenty takes his time getting there. "We took a different approach in Minnesota," he said. Using the term Obamaneycare is a reflection of the president's assertion that he looked to Romney's Massachusetts health-care overhaul to design the federal program, says Pawlenty, again declining to sharply go after Romney.
Romney's response is a direct question for the president, "Why didn't you give me a call and ask what worked" if you were going to base a plan on the Mass. experience? (Apparently he first tried that line out in April in Las Vegas. Points for consistency.)
8:12 p.m. Michele Bachmann: "I filed today my paperwork to seek the office of the presidency." ... Later, asked about "Obamacare," she says she will not rest until it is repealed: "It's a promise, take it to the bank."
8:10 p.m. The first question is on jobs. What are the jobs plans? Rick Santorum won't criticize Tim Pawlenty's projection of 5 percent growth in a followup from debate moderator John King. Santorum says natural gas drilling in Pa. is lowering gas costs there. Pawlenty, "This idea we can't have 5 percent growth in America is defeatist." "It's hogwash," he says, pointing out that other countries have high growth, like China. Romney chimes in to turn the question around to go after Obama, instead of Pawlenty, hammering in on his message of jobs, jobs, jobs, despite King's efforts to interrupt him. Gingrich calls the Obama administration "a destructive force" -- and calls for the repeal of Dodd-Frank. Bachmann takes pride in her role in introducing the bill to repeal Dodd-Frank.
8:03 p.m. Strong applause for all in the audience on the intros. Everybody has lots of kids! Except for Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain. And Ron Paul has chosen to emphasize those he's delivered, not sired.
8 p.m. This thing is going to be 2 hours long. I'll be compiling thoughts and highlights here on the CNN GOP presidential primary debate in New Hampshire tonight.
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