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I’ve been a debate-watchin’, note-takin’ fool lately (and some of my readers may want to emphasize “fool”). Last night, the Republicans rumbled in Orlando. And I’ve again watched and taken notes. Here they are, for better or worse . . .

So, we’ll have one more candidate, Gary Johnson? Great. Yet more clutter. Listen, some of my golf buddies and I have an interest in being president. Should the networks invite us?

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Speaking of networks: The Republicans are now debating under the auspices of Fox. Last time, they debated under the auspices of CNN. Before that, MSNBC. They’re an ecumenical bunch, these candidates.

In the Democratic primaries, last time around, the candidates were scheduled to have a debate hosted by Fox. Then they pulled out, the candidates did. The debate had to be canceled. Fox had cooties, you see.

Evidently, the Republicans don’t believe in cooties.

Mitt Romney likes lists — 1, 2, 3, 4. I like lists, too. Lists can be very effective. But he should leaven his answers with stories, anecdotes, examples. The bullet points can be wearying, and a tad bit inhuman.

Now that I think about it, you can always make a story one of your bullet points.

Michele Bachmann gets an interesting look on her face when she is being asked a question. She smiles, blinks, and purses her lips — and her eyes shine with anticipation.

People get a huge kick out of Newt Gingrich, as do I. A question: When they applaud him, laugh with him, and relish him, do they also know they’ll never vote for him?

About Herman Cain, same statement, same question.

I’ve never thought that Chris Wallace resembled his father in appearance — until now.

I think I heard Jon Huntsman say that the division in America was “unprecedented, unnatural, and un-American.” I’m thinking, “Unprecedented? Civil War? Over 600,000 dead?”

Never mind.

I wonder whether it’s hard for Wallace to talk, even hypothetically, about a “President Cain.” Maybe if you slipped a “Mc” in there. (Slip him a Mickey?) Even that got far-fetched, in the last weeks of the 2008 campaign.

When Cain used the phrase “That dog won’t hunt,” I thought, “I first learned that expression from Haley Barbour, when he was a political op in Washington. Or did I learn it from Bert Lance, when he was budget director? Can’t remember.”

The Carter administration introduced many Americans to southernisms.

I realized something tonight: Ron Paul has a little Frank Perdue in him, in appearance. (I know Perdue’s widow, here in New York. Lovely woman, a delight to be around.)

When Johnson talked about his business experience, starting something small and modest, making it a roaring success — I was amazed and impressed. If I had known that about him, I’d forgotten.

Johnson, quite simply, is a radical. This is fine, even helpful, as governor of New Mexico. The presidency is something else.

This will strike people as anti-democratic — that’s okay — but I don’t know why we have to have questions from e-mailers and tweeters and YouTubers and so on. How about good questions, asked by professional journalists?

That’s their job, one of them: to ask pertinent questions.

Remember Ponytail Man, from the 1992 debates?

When I was in college, I hated it when the professor said, on the first day, “Now, we’re all going to learn from each other.” I wanted to learn from a good, authoritative professor. I didn’t want to learn from my classmates, the ones fornicating and puking back in the dorms. I could hear from them any old time.

The answer that Rick Perry gives, repeatedly, on Social Security is exactly what George W. Bush said, from 2000 onward: No one currently drawing on Social Security, or about to do so, has to worry. Such a person won’t experience any change. But we have to have some options for younger people.

I’d give Romney $20 to stop saying “different than.”

If I were Mitt, I’d avoid criticizing other candidates on the basis of inconsistency or flip-flopping. Glass houses, etc.

Mitt said, “I actually wrote my book,” in a jab at Perry, I believe. If I’m right — mean and unnecessary.

I have a memory of George W. Bush. This was many years ago. He referred to “the book I wrote,” then grinned and said, “or that they say I wrote.” How could I not love him?

Perry made a charge: that Romney said something in his hardcover edition, then sneakily changed it in the paperback. Charge never answered. Will it be?

Mitt has the habit of answering a question — giving his spiel — then ending with a pat “Thank you.” Doesn’t work well, after two or three times.

He was very good on “Is Obama a socialist?” Didn’t call him one. But said, in effect, “He might as well be.” Then there was this line (and I paraphrase): “The European model isn’t working in Europe, so why should we impose it on America?” Clever, good.

Here is my opinion (not that you asked): The federal government is not what ails education, contrary to what the candidates said, over and over. The federal government is not ruining education. What’s ruining education is the unions and our culture, including broken families.

In response to a Perry line of attack, Romney said — quipped — “Nice try.” Good.

Loved this line of Bachmann’s: “the mother of all repeal bills.”

From time immemorial, presidential candidates have pledged to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the nation’s capital, Jerusalem. Never happens.

Similarly, conservatives often pledge to abolish the Department of Education. Never happens.

Could it? Before pigs fly?

Newt had a wonderful point: America makes it too hard for people to come here legally — to do such things as visit Disney World, or give a piano recital. And we make it too easy for people to come here illegally.

Broken at both ends, so to speak.



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