Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mitt Romney goes urban.

(According to the Times, he also "admired a child's gold necklace" by saying, "Oh, you've got some bling-bling here.")

Monday, January 21, 2008

Liveblogging the South Carolina debate!
(Because I haven't done one of these in years.)

8:00: Myrtle Beach: "Where Pittsburgh Goes on Vacation."

8:01: Wolf explains that the arrival of the candidates will be "a big photo opportunity," and then says that "we thought we'd bring you that, as well, tonight," and brings each candidate out onto the stage, one by one. ... I'm not sure I'm going to make it through more than thirty minutes of this.

8:02: Now the three candidates are standing in an awkward little group while the various CBCI-types are introduced to the crowd. The camera stays with the stage, but Wolf and the rest of CNN's crack political team couldn't care less; they're jabbering away somewhere off-camera.

8:04: Wolf has said "photo opportunity" at least thirty-eight times. Does he realize that these people are photographed pretty regularly?

8:07: Wolf promises "no rules" during the second half of the debate. I hope one of the candidates takes advantage of this opportunity to punch Wolf in the stomach.

8:08: Joe Johns takes himself very seriously.

8:10: "These adjustable-rate mortgages, if they keep going up, the problem will just get compounded." Hillary's a punster!

8:14: Both Clinton ("green-collar jobs") and Edwards ("green infrastructure) have responded to a question about the economy by mentioning the environment. Somewhere, an Al Gore just got its wings.

8:16: First mill reference. And it's from Obama! ("You travel around South Carolina, and you see the textile mills, that John's father worked in, closed, all over the region.") Edwards clearly couldn't tell if he was being made fun of or not.

8:19: Wolf's been trying to interrupt Hillary for about 70 seconds now. Every three or four seconds, he'll say, "Alright," but she just plows on ahead. Take the driver's seat, Wolf-man!

8:21: Edwards: "The problem with Peru, Barack, is you are leaving the enforcement of environmental and labor regulations in the hands of George Bush. I wouldn't trust George Bush to enforce anything. Certainly no trade obligations."
Obama: "Well the only point I would make is that in a year's time it'll be me who's enforcing them." Boom, bitch!

8:26: Hillary/Obama has gotten pretty rough in the last couple of minutes (I wish we were in the no-rules portion of the program, so that they could use start swinging the podia), including this from Obama: "While I was working on those streets, watching those folks see their jobs shifting overseas, you were a corporate lawyer, sitting on the board at Wal-Mart." Damn, yo!

8:27: They are shouting at each other.

8:28: Clinton: "I did not mention [Reagan's] name."
Obama: "Your husband did."
Clinton: "Okay, well, I am here, he is not."
Obama: "I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes."

8:28: CNN's odd choice of camera angle would seem to indicate that Barack Obama is four and a half feet taller than Hillary Clinton.

8:29: Seriously, I'm starting to fear for the safety of innocent bystanders once the no-rules rule takes hold. Clinton: "I was fighting against those [Reagan] ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributor Rezko in his slum landlord business in inner-city Chicago." Lowest blow of the primary season?

8:30: Edwards whines, "There are three people in this debate, not two," but turns it into a big hit with, "how many children is this [kind of squabbling] going to get health care?"

8:32: Edwards: "...which is why... no, let me finish this, Lord knows you let them go on forever." Laughter.

8:41: Hillary makes hay out of Obama's opposition to an amendment that would have capped credit card interest at 30%. Obama says he opposed it because 30% was too high. Edwards calls bullshit, and Hillary smirks. You know things are crazy when Edwards is willing to team up with Hillary.

8:43: First boos. Hillary: "Senator Obama, it is very difficult having a straight-up debate with you, because you never take responsibility for any vote." (She's so fed up, she won't even call him by his first name anymore.)

8:44: Here's a sentence that seems creepier when it's typed out than it did when Obama said it out loud: "Nobody has worked harder than me in the Illinois legislature to make sure that victims of sexual abuse were dealt with, partly because I've had family, uh, members, who were victims of sexual abuse, and I've got two daughters who, uh, I want to protect."

8:53: On health care, Edwards says, "I think honestly none of our three plans cover [illegal immigrants]." And the audience... applauds? What the hell?

9:10: Commercial time! Wolf warns that when we come back, we'll have a different set (no more podia to swing), and no rules. (10:1 says Edwards is the one to get hit with the boulder.)

9:18: Despite the fact that Wolf made a point of emphasizing that they were taking a "short" commercial break... it took eight minutes.

9:19: And the podia have been replaced with what appear to be chairs from a science fiction movie from the early 1970s.

9:31: Is it just me, or has John Edwards' sense of humor been a bit off lately? Self-deprecation, John. Look into it.

9:41: There's a chyron on the screen right now that directs us to CNNPolitics.com so that we can "Watch voters react in real-time." Thank you, CNNPolitics. I am frankly sick and goddamn tired of always having to watch these same candidates during the candidate debates. I'd much rather watch people watching the candidates for me.

9:47: Commercials again. For a no-rules round, this one sure is a whole heck of a lot more tame than the last one.

9:51: Wolf: "I just want to alert our viewers out there, there's a raging discussion going on, CNNPolitics.com, people from around the country. They're writing in, they're sending their thoughts... you might want to be interested in following that at CNNPolitics.com." Thanks for the tip, Wolf.

9:54: Edwards has been pounding away at the "I'm best positioned to beat McCain because he's devoted his career to the cause of campaign finance reform, and I haven't taken money from lobbyists" attack for the last week or so, and I get why he's doing it, but I also think Jonathan Singer's point is a good one: maybe we oughtn't to be in such a hurry to endorse the McCain line on that.

10:05: Over, finally. The candidates all converge on Wolf to shake his hand (or maybe punch him in the stomach), but he just keeps on talkin' (about future CNN debates, incredibly), and so they give up and mill about with one another (a couple that I assume to be the Edwardses come up on stage; so that's what a life-long mill-worker looks like!), while Wolf wanders around the background, looking at nothing in particular, still talking (in voiceover). Cut his mic!

Tonight's winner: Obama, big-time.

Giuliani hit This Week yesterday in an impressive show of "look at me, I'm nonchalant"-itude, but reading between the lines, the campaign's in full-on tailspin. For example, they appear to have fired all of their professional makeup artists, and replaced them with the guy who runs the face painting booth at the Dade County Fair:

They also chose to perch the candidate in front of a crowd of slack-jawed, dull-eyed supporters (many of whom were all-too-obviously being reminded every four or five seconds that they're supposed to smile broadly), a strategy that wavered between "distracting" and "embarrassing" (mostly embarrassing).

Official Purple State prediction: fourth place in Florida, campaign officially dissolved by Feb. 1.