Live-blogging tonight’s GOP debate from Jacksonville, Florida

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Just days before Florida Republicans go to the polls to choose their nominee, the GOP presidential hopefuls will meet for a final debate hosted by CNN, the Republican Party of Florida and the Hispanic Leadership Network. CNN lead political anchor Wolf Blitzer will moderate the two-hour presidential debate which will take place at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville on Thursday, January 26 at 8 p.m.                

Previewing and live-blogging:

9:22 p.m. – A lot of these debates have been pretty bad. But this strikes me as the most disjointed debate I think I’ve ever seen. The moderation is poor. The candidates seem to be the campaign equivalent of punch drunk.

9:01 p.m. – Gingrich chance of being GOP nominee down to 5.9% on Intrade. Started at 10.0% tonight.

8:58 p.m. – John Cassidy takes out the popcorn: Making a grave tactical error, Gingrich tried to remain above the fray in Tampa, dismissing Mitt’s attacks as beneath him. The format of the debate didn’t help him either. For reasons that still aren’t clear—a request from the Romney campaign?—the NBC organizers told the audience to keep quiet. As far as Newt was concerned, this was like asking a Roman gladiator to do battle in a silent Coliseum. In Myrtle Beach and Charleston, it was obvious, even on television, that he was feeding off the energy of the Republican audience. In tonight’s debate, which starts at 8 P.M., expect to see the full Newt.

8:30 p.m. – Did Mitt Romney just call Newt Gingrick a “horn-tooter”?

8:29 p.m. – Here’s the fact-check on Newt’s use of “language of the ghetto”. Context is a bit ambiguous.

7:33 p.m. – CNN pollster Peter Hart on Newt: “Gingrich is Goldwater…..Not only does he take down his ship, he takes down the whole flotilla.”

7:29 p.m. – Ron Fournier: “Tonight’s is the last debate until Feb. 22, nearly a month from now, which leaves Gingrich with one less tool in his toolbox to counter Romney’s financial and organizational advantages. That is, unless he wins Florida … which brings us back to the extraordinary importance of tonight’s debate.”

11:40 a.m. – Tonight, keep an eye on five factors: Marco Rubio, Ronald Reagan, the audience, immigration, and Freddie Mac.

11:16 a.m. – Ed Morrisseyanalyzes what kind of impact the last debate has had on the current polls:

Th(ere’s) a ten-point drop for Gingrich since Sunday’s survey, and a seven-point gain for Romney.  The momentum of the debate performance, and perhaps the renewed aggression on the campaign trail for Romney, seems to be firmly established in new polling.  That makes tonight a must-win evening for Gingrich, and that probably means a lot of bloody knuckles for both men.

11:10 a.m. – If I was moderating tonight’s debate, I would lead off with a question to Newt about his claim that he offered character witnesses to ABC News while they were developing their interview with his ex-wife.

10:18 a.m. – The Florida Chamber Foundation has a resource available for those who are following tonight’s Presidential debate and the upcoming Primary Election in Florida and interested in key economic indicators. Visit

9:57 a.m. – First Read: “Five days until the voters go to the polls in the Sunshine State, the GOP presidential contest is very volatile. It’s a pure coin flip… The bottom line is no one knows what’s going to happen, raising the stakes for tonight’s debate, the 19th of this cycle and the last one before this primary.”

9:42 a.m. – The New Yorker asks if Marco Rubio can control the candidates tonight, especially on the issue of immigration.

8:24 a.m. – “DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz will headline a press conference in Jacksonville hours before the debate where she will tie the issue of Romney’s private sector experience as a corporate raider to his failure to release anything more than one year of sanitized tax returns,” a party official tells Morning Score. “And after her event in Jacksonville, in Miami Cindy Hewitt will tell her story about Mitt Romney’s style of free enterprise. Cindy Hewitt is a Miami resident who served as a human resources manager at Dade Behring before Romney’s Bain drove the company into the ground. While at Bain, Romney invested in Dade Behring, a profitable medical-equipment company – then he ran it into the ground, and caused 850 workers in Miami to lose their jobs. Twice as many lost their jobs across the country…Cindy will be joined by Randy Johnson who also lost his job as a result of Bain’s takeover and eventual dismemberment of AMPAD in Indiana. Randy Johnson has previously told his story in IA and NH.” Via Politico.

8:22 a.m. – The audience can cheer at tonight’s debate: The New York Times‘ Jeremy Peters writes. “For its part, CNN is proceeding with Thursday’s debate as it would for any other. Their stage director will be in Jacksonville, Fla., to loosen up the crowd of 1,200, most invited by the state Republican Party. Reaction will be encouraged, as long as it is respectful. ‘We like to have an audience participate,’ said Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief, ‘so the viewers at home know that it’s a real debate with real people and real voters – that it’s not just taking place in a TV studio.'”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.