Moderator Bret Baier

Tonight in Greenville, South Carolina, five rivals for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination meet in the first debate of the campaign. I use the term “rivals” fairly loosely – I think the Matt Taibbi description of “Loony-ass Insurgents vs. Waffling Bores” applies a bit better. Most of the candidates with a legitimate shot at the nomination have decided to sit this one out. The debate consists of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty; well-known frothy mixture Rick Santorum; guy who once ran a middling pizza chain Herman Cain; libertarian Rep. Ron Paul; and other libertarian, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Of the five, realistically only Pawlenty has a legitimate claim on the nomination, although Ron Paul’s ability to fundraise – he took in $750,000 so far in a still-going-strong moneybomb today – will keep him around for a while. So essentially you have a debate between four wooden statues and Tim Pawlenty, who has the charisma of one. However, it’s worth savoring the fact that 40% tonight’s debate competitors oppose the war in Afghanistan and support the legalization of marijuana. Meet your new Republican Party!

Without Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels or even Donald Trump in the debate, the response has been tepid at best. AP and Reuters, angered by restrictions placed on media access from debate co-sponsor Fox News, decided to sit out the debate. So you’re getting significantly more coverage here at FDL than from the Associated Press. Never let it be said we’re not bipartisan.

I can’t say it much better than the aforementioned Taibbi:

The potential Republican field is made up of two distinct types of candidates: loony-ass, polarizing insurgents drunk on Christian mysticism and/or ego sickness (Michelle Bachmann, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin) and waffling, opportunistic bores destined to spend most of the primary campaign arguing that they are less terrifying to imagine holding the nuclear briefcase than anyone from the first group (Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney). All five of the group A candidates very likely sincerely believe that they were chosen by God to run for president, humorously including Trump, who probably doesn’t even believe in God per se, outside of His role as the executor of Trump’s providential destiny. Bachmann on the other hand is already openly asking God to help “anoint” her staff. Huckabee, famously, credited God for helping him win in Iowa in 2008. Rick Santorum’s wife Karen told CBN that it was “God’s will” for her lunatic husband to run for president, while Palin, if she runs, already has a long record of seeing God’s hand in political choices, from the building of an oil pipeline to her election as governor of Alaska.

All of these Chosen Ones will be leading the charge against movement apostates Pawlenty and Romney, neither of whom is terribly skilled in the God-humping/hellfire-tossing arena … Romney is one of the first politicians I’ve ever covered who is a fair bet to change his mind on an issue in the middle of a speech. His whole political career is one of the funniest things I’ve ever experienced … That to me leaves Pawlenty, and I’ll admit, I know very little about Pawlenty – other than the fact that I’ve seen him give speeches in person at least three times and still couldn’t tell you what he stands for, what his speaking style is like, even what he looked like. If police asked me to help make a composite sketch of Tim Pawlenty, God knows what it would end up looking like; in my mind’s eye he’s a cross between Ed Begley and the late character actor Vince Schiavelli.

Taibbi leaves out the Paul/Johnson libertarian faction, which will get a heavy spotlight tonight. But he’s written about that faction in recent days.

And considering that tonight’s pre-debate rally is sponsored by the John Birch Society and the actual militia group the Oathkeepers, the possibility that Romney and Pawlenty don’t stray into their best God-humping/hellfire-tossing impression within a matter of days is slim to none.

So if you can stomach it, take a peek at the worldview of roughly half of your neighbors and fellow citizens. And go native: watch it on Fox News, or livestreamed at FoxNews.com.

Tonight in Greenville, South Carolina, five rivals for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination meet in the first debate of the campaign. I use the term “rivals” fairly loosely – I think the Matt Taibbi description of “Loony-ass Insurgents vs. Waffling Bores” applies a bit better. Most of the candidates with a legitimate shot at the nomination have decided to sit this one out. The debate consists of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty; well-known frothy mixture Rick Santorum; guy who once ran a middling pizza chain Herman Cain; libertarian Rep. Ron Paul; and other libertarian, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Of the five, realistically only Pawlenty has a legitimate claim on the nomination, although Ron Paul’s ability to fundraise – he took in $750,000 so far in a still-going-strong moneybomb today – will keep him around for a while. So essentially you have a debate between four wooden statues and Tim Pawlenty, who has the charisma of one. However, it’s worth savoring the fact that 40% tonight’s debate competitors oppose the war in Afghanistan and support the legalization of marijuana. Meet your new Republican Party!

Without Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels or even Donald Trump in the debate, the response has been tepid at best. AP and Reuters, angered by restrictions placed on media access from debate co-sponsor Fox News, decided to sit out the debate. So you’re getting significantly more coverage here at FDL than from the Associated Press. Never let it be said we’re not bipartisan.

I can’t say it much better than the aforementioned Taibbi:

The potential Republican field is made up of two distinct types of candidates: loony-ass, polarizing insurgents drunk on Christian mysticism and/or ego sickness (Michelle Bachmann, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin) and waffling, opportunistic bores destined to spend most of the primary campaign arguing that they are less terrifying to imagine holding the nuclear briefcase than anyone from the first group (Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney). All five of the group A candidates very likely sincerely believe that they were chosen by God to run for president, humorously including Trump, who probably doesn’t even believe in God per se, outside of His role as the executor of Trump’s providential destiny. Bachmann on the other hand is already openly asking God to help “anoint” her staff. Huckabee, famously, credited God for helping him win in Iowa in 2008. Rick Santorum’s wife Karen told CBN that it was “God’s will” for her lunatic husband to run for president, while Palin, if she runs, already has a long record of seeing God’s hand in political choices, from the building of an oil pipeline to her election as governor of Alaska.

All of these Chosen Ones will be leading the charge against movement apostates Pawlenty and Romney, neither of whom is terribly skilled in the God-humping/hellfire-tossing arena … Romney is one of the first politicians I’ve ever covered who is a fair bet to change his mind on an issue in the middle of a speech. His whole political career is one of the funniest things I’ve ever experienced … That to me leaves Pawlenty, and I’ll admit, I know very little about Pawlenty – other than the fact that I’ve seen him give speeches in person at least three times and still couldn’t tell you what he stands for, what his speaking style is like, even what he looked like. If police asked me to help make a composite sketch of Tim Pawlenty, God knows what it would end up looking like; in my mind’s eye he’s a cross between Ed Begley and the late character actor Vince Schiavelli.

Taibbi leaves out the Paul/Johnson libertarian faction, which will get a heavy spotlight tonight. But he’s written about that faction in recent days.

And considering that tonight’s pre-debate rally is sponsored by the John Birch Society and the actual militia group the Oathkeepers, the possibility that Romney and Pawlenty don’t stray into their best God-humping/hellfire-tossing impression within a matter of days is slim to none.

So if you can stomach it, take a peek at the worldview of roughly half of your neighbors and fellow citizens. And go native: watch it on Fox News, or livestreamed at FoxNews.com.

David Dayen

David Dayen