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US Politics: The Alternative (i.e., Funniest) Summary of the 1st Republican Debate (Adams)

I'm sure there are lots of places you can read about the initial debate among seven candidates --- but, sadly, not Sarah Palin --- for the Republican nomination for President in 2012. But I am going no farther than the LiveBlog that Richard Adams wrote for The Guardian of London:

Here's a quick run-down of the cast of characters:

• Mitt Romney: the former governor of neighbouring Massachusetts is currently leading the polls, having been running for president since 2007 (seriously). With a campaigning style so wooden you could make furniture from it, Romney's hard work and much-touted business background have helped him in the opinion polls. Many Republicans think he's too liberal on matters such as healthcare, and don't trust him.

• Tim Pawlenty: a former governor of Minnesota, he appears to be running for the role of "earnest older brother" in a Disney movie. Despite being moderate and sensible, his name recognition is submarine-like, while his campaigning style makes Romney's seem like a Las Vegas casino in comparison. Probably needs to attack Romney with a broken bottle to make an impact tonight.

• Michele Bachmann: also from Minnesota, Bachmann is a member of the House of Representatives and a fully paid up member of the Tea Party. She is currently being touted as "Sarah Palin with brains," which is setting the bar pretty low. Very conservative.

• Newt Gingrich: this may be Newt's first and last debate since last week his entire campaign quit. The former Speaker of the House is a divisive figure, with some thinking he's full of hot air, while others think he's full of something else. He'll have to explain why even people he paid to support him won't do so any more.

• Ron Paul: the stalwart of the Libertarian wing of the Republican party is running for the third time, and while he has a small and dedicated of followers his dovish policies on national security won't find favour with the Republican voters.

• Herman Cain: the chief executive of Godfathers Pizza has never run for or held elected office in any capacity. Naturally he's doing very well, given the rest of the field. Thinks running a pizza chain is excellent preparation for being president of the United States.

• Rick Santorum: Google his name [NSFW!] and you'll see what he's all about. To the right of Attila the Bachmann. Running to get a talkshow or something.

8.00pm ET: CNN's John King says "This will be unlike any presidential primary you've ever seen." Somehow I doubt that.

The candidates are introducing themselves. Rick Santorum mentions he has seven children. Then Michele Bachmann beats him with five children – and 23 foster children! Really.

Mitt Romney has five sons and 16 grand-kids. Does that beat Bachmann? Good question!

8.03pm ET: OMG, Ron Paul beats them all by mentioning that he has delivered 4,000 babies! Which is a true fact because he used to be an obstetrician and gynecologist. (Although given his philosophy, wouldn't it be better if babies have to birth themselves?)

Poor Tim Pawlenty, he only has two children.

Herman Cain: "I am not a politician. I am a problem solver." But only two children and three grandchildren. Solve that problem Herman Cain!

8.05pm ET: A question from the audience but I calculate that the assembled candidates have 80,000 children in one way or another between them. Are they running to be head of a Parent-Teacher Association?

8.07pm ET: First question is on the economy, and Herman Cain has a pretty coherent-ish answer about changes to taxes, no idea what it means. Santorum just bangs on about how awful Obama has been.

Tim Pawlenty is asked about his plan and he says "America is not Portugal," and follows up his nutty claim that the US can have a long-run 5% rate of growth, which is nonsense. But he says that if Brazil can do it, then the US can. He's wrong.

Romney is asked. "Tim has the right instincts," he replies, in a neat piece of patronising, and then pivots onto attacking Obama. But he's running over time, and John King, the moderator, has to sort of go "Uh, uh, uh" to interupt him and shut him up.

8.10pm ET: Newt Gingrich is asked about the economy and he immediately harks back to the Reagan tax cuts "which I helped passed". That was like a million years ago. Seriously, like 28 years ago. Half the voters have no idea what he's talking about.

Michele Bachmann when asked about the economy instead hijacks the discussion by announcing that she has officially filed to run for the presidency. Smart.

Ron Paul gets a big laugh when asked if President Obama had done anything right on the economy. "That's a tough question," he grins. Anyway the answer is free markets, says Ron. Isn't it always?

8.14pm ET: Michele Bachmann is asked about abolishing "Obamacare". Her eyes gleam. Open goal!

Now Romney is asked about Pawlenty's snide remark about "Obamneycare" – a play on Obama + Romney + healthcare = Obamneycare, given how Romney backed a similar healthcare bill in Massachusetts.

Mitt says it's all different, and so forth. Hmm.

Pawlenty is asked about his use of "Obamneycare," and Pawlenty mentions that Obama specifically mentioned Romney's healthcare plan as a role model.

Pawlenty's being very arch here and doing quite well. Do you want to respond, Romney is asked. But he won't. Instead he says: "Why didn't the president give me a call and ask me what worked?" Oh Mitt, really? You want voters to think you'd have co-operated with Obama on this? When in a hole, stop digging.

In conclusion: everyone hates Obamacare and possibly Obamneycare.

8.21pm ET: Rick Santorum is asked a question. It's always good to have a break.

8.22pm ET: Bachmann is asked about the influence of the Tea Party. "The Tea Party is made up of disaffected Democrats," she claims, among other things. Not strictly true.

Bachmann is wowing the crowd. "President Obama is a one term president!" she shouts, to some cheers.

8.24pm ET: Herman Cain starts every answer: "As a businessman...". Kind of fluffy answer on the Tea Party though. Cain's major policy is that he'll get experts together, find the right answer, and do it. It's so simple. Maybe those politicians should try it?

Ron Paul is asked about encouraging manufacturing and it appears to be going back on the gold standard, basically. Not entirely convincing.

8.28pm ET: Tim Pawlenty is asked, and he says the country is carrying big packs of rocks on their back, "and one of those rocks is Obamacare," claiming he knows someone who has moved their entire company out of America because of healthcare reforms. Uh huh.

8.29pm ET: Rick Santorum break.

8.30pm ET: "Right to work legislation" is the next topic, in this situation that means "no unions". "We live in the United States of America," replies Tim Pawlenty, which is self-evident, "and no one should be forced to join anything".

Oh god. Now CNN's John King is asking "this or that" questions. What's that all about? The first question is to Rick Santorum and it's: Leno or Conan? "Neither," is Santorum's first response.

A new low for American political debate? What's next, a quick round of "shag, marry, kill"?

8.34pm ET: Ad break!

8.36pm ET: Elvis or Johnny Cash, Bachmann is asked. "Oh that's really tough," she says. "Both."

Oh come on. Johnny Cash is not fit to shine Elvis's shoes, or his spandex jumpsuit.

8.38pm ET: The reaction on Twitter to the format of the debate isn't great.

Now Romney is confronted with his previous words saying that if the government bailed out the auto industry, then "you can kiss the US auto industry goodbye". Now that sounds pretty stupid, since the US auto industry is doing OK right now. Romney says no that's not what he meant, and blah blah blah. Especially blah.

The entire corps of candidates say they would have opposed all the 2008-2009 financial bail outs. Wow, from a laboratory point of view, it's almost worth wanting to see what would happen if that actually occured.

8.45pm ET: Some classic Newt Gingrich brand of bullshit here. Asked about Nasa and the space programme, Gingrich chunters on about how the failure of the space programme was caused by Nasa.

Now there we were thinking the whole "man on the moon" thing was a success, but no. According to Newt, if the zillions of dollars given the Nasa had been given to the private sector, then "We would today probably have a permanent station on the moon." Oh yes.

The moderator asks the rest of the group if they too blame Nasa. Lots of foot-shuffling until Tim Pawlenty – good for him – actually speaks up for Nasa and says the space programme is worth keeping. Newt then claims he was misquoted – by himself? – and that he didn't say Nasa was at fault.

A lot of Republicans say that Newt Gingrich has a "brilliant mind". Tonight he seems to have several minds, all on the same issue.

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