Love, Fred: The first attack e-mail of the debate arrived at 8:24 p.m. The missive from Fred Thompson's campaign was headlined "REALITY CHECK: AS GOVERNOR, MITT ROMNEY ALLOWED SANCTUARY CITIES IN MASSACHUSETTS."
One minute later: Thompson's next e-mail whacked Huckabee's record on immigration.
The Paul Ball: Ron Paul supporters rented out the majestic Palladium Theater for their rally. The crowd of Paulies filled the Palladium's big room, with 40 or so more consigned to a downstairs overflow room. The debate was projected onto a big screen over the stage. Watching the debate in this environment was akin to participating in the most political episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 ever:
• No. 1 thing shouted at the screen (at all candidates but Paul): "Liar!"
• Funniest thing yelled at the screen: "Go back to TV you loser!" during Fred Thompson's first answer.
• At 8:15 p.m. people began shushing the most vocal supporters, as the debate was becoming impossible to hear.
• The crowd was mostly white, roughly 70 percent male, very young (although the full spectrum of ages was represented). We saw only one guy in a tie until the official campaign types started showing up just after 11 p.m.
• Number of guys in the crowd who had megaphones: Two. (Isn't it always a good time when someone in a crowd starts blaring a police siren from a megaphone?)
• Favorite T-shirts: "Ron Paul is the shit," and "The Government is trying to kill me."
• Best Dressed: Harry McKay of Tampa, who was wearing full colonial period costume and delivered Patrick Henry's famous "Give me liberty or give me death!" speech from the stage in the break between the end of the debate and Paul's arrival.
• Those assembled didn't much care for the Federal Reserve.
• Paul didn't get a question until 8:31 p.m. on the "conspiracy" to form a North American Union. Not surprisingly, the crowd loved his answer.
General hysteria: What seemed to be the biggest news about the debate had nothing to do with the candidates or the issues. It was the Republican blogosphere once again backing the mainstream media into a corner and obscuring its candidates' weaknesses on some issues. This time it was over CNN's sloppy vetting of the YouTube questioners, allowing a gay retired Army general to ask the candidates why they don't believe that gays can serve openly in the military.
By the end of the evening, it was revealed that Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, although a member of the gay Log Cabin Republicans, was listed as a member of a Hillary Clinton campaign advisory committee. CNN issued an apology and said if they had known they wouldn't have used the video question.
That's too bad, because it was a great question and one that shouldn't have resulted in any consternation among Republican candidates playing to a mostly anti-gay rights primary electorate. They all emerged unscathed except for Mitt Romney, who supported gay marriage when he was governor of Massachusetts. Lost in the Clinton flap was this exchange between CNN moderator Anderson Cooper and Romney:
COOPER: Governor Romney, you said in 1994 that you looked forward to the day when gays and lesbians could serve, and I quote, "openly and honestly in our nation's military." Do you stand by that?
ROMNEY: This isn't that time. This is not that time. We're in the middle of a war. The people who have ...
COOPER: Do you look forward to that time, though, one day?
ROMNEY: I'm going to listen to the people who run the military to see what the circumstances are like. And my view is that, at this stage, this is not the time for us to make that kind of ...
COOPER: Is that a change in your position?
ROMNEY: Yes, I didn't think it would work. I didn't think "don't ask/don't tell" would work. That was my — I didn't think that would work. I thought that was a policy, when I heard about it, I laughed. I said that doesn't make any sense to me. And you know what? It's been there now for, what, 15 years? It seems to have worked.
COOPER: So, just so I'm clear, at this point, do you still look forward to a day when gays can serve openly in the military or no longer?
ROMNEY: I look forward to hearing from the military exactly what they believe is the right way to have the right kind of cohesion and support in our troops and I listen to what they have to say. (AUDIENCE BOOING)