Tonight, you’ll get the SportsCenter version of live-blogging the Republican debate, just scores and highlights instead of the play-by-play. Tom Joyner began his introduction with a joke that Republicans ought to like, saying that he felt “as out of place as Dan Rather at CBS Premiere Week.” Moderator Smiley began by saying that because he’s on PBS, he can’t say what he really thinks of the candidates who thought they wouldn’t get an appropriate reception.
Also, Cornell West is in the audience, so… not your usual Republican debate audience.
Judging by the applause, Ron Paul has a lot of supporters in the house. And yes, Alan Keyes is there tonight!
I thought I had heard Tancredo was not going to participate, but he is there tonight.
There are large, awkward gaps between the candidates on stage, as there are four empty podiums representing the candidates who didn’t appear.
After saying “that’s enough about those who didn’t show,” in his introduction, Smiley’s first question is why the candidates are here, and what they would say who didn’t show.
Forty-eight percent of African-Americans in Arkansas voted for Mike Huckabee?
Before this audience, Ron Paul’s antiwar talk is like shooting fish in a barrel with buckshot.
Sam Brownback recommends African-Americans in South Carolina or Michigan register Republican and vote for one of the candidates on the state tonight, to send a message to the candidates who aren’t.
You know, the constant lambasting for not being here could really hurt those four candidates… if any Republicans are watching tonight. I mean, I’m pretty sure the folks in the Corner are watching the season premiere of Grey’s Anatomy.
Alan Keyes, after noting that the Big Four skipped the Values Voters debate, which he also appeared in, concludes, “they may not be afraid of all black people, but it appears there’s one black person they’re afraid of.” Ah, of the entire no-hopers caucus, Keyes is my new favorite.
Asked about Republicans’ historical record of dealing with African-Americans, Huckabee notes that a Republican President sent troops to Little Rock to let the girls go to school, when a Democrat governor refused to let them in. It gets applause; Huckabee hits home runs at debates like Alex Rodriguez this season.
Sam Brownback wants a national apology for slavery and segregation.
Alan Keyes can speak over the moderator’s “your time is up” declarations like nobody else in the business.
Huckabee, addressing employment disparity: ”Some people find the heel of somebody’s boot on top of their head whenever they try to raise their head.” Methinks he may have pandered a bridge too far.
Tancredo calls the premise of a question “race-baiting.”
Duncan Hunter defends welfare reform. The applause is… not overwhelming.
Early Wrapup: This debate amounts to much of what you’ve seen before, from the same crew, with Alan Keyes at his before-we-bring-back-family-practioners-let-us-bring-back-the-family podium pounding best. But overall it’s not particularly new, exciting, interesting, or newsworthy, and this debate’s impact on the Republican primary is most likely nil. (One of the better moments was shining a spotlight on Vernice Armour, the first African-American female combat pilot in U.S. history, who has served two tours in Iraq.)
I’ve laid out the reasons why the Big Four bailed on this debate; it would have been worthwhile with them. As it is, it’s the second tier (and Huckabee, depending on how you count him) dealing with some good questions, some lousy ones. Of interest if you’re a Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, or Tom Tancredo completist, but for the rest of us, mostly forgettable.