Tampa USF Presidential Debate Live Blog

Greetings from University of South Florida, where the eyes of the nation have officially turned to Florida. Political correspondent Shawna Vercher is live at the debate and will be bringing you a play-by-play.

10:41 – And without warning it all ends with a cheap “Go Bulls” line. For those of you that I promised an interesting, relevant, helpful debate…I apologize. We are currently launching a petition where I get to ask the questions next time đŸ˜‰ Watch Channel 10 tonight and listen to 820 tomorrow morning for my thoughts. Good night America!

10:38 – Third shout out to Pam Bondi. She’s got her next campaign ads on the ready.

10:36 – Paul also makes a passionate finish for no more wars we can’t afford. Where was this type of conversation NINETY MINUTES AGO?!?

10:35 – Santorum finally gets the opportunity to mention the Tea Party. It’s a strong statement that deserved more discussion.

10:32 – Final case time. Romney mentions family values. Gingrich about his conservative history in the party. The other candidates only get to respond to another question about tax returns and Bain.

10:26 – The spin room machines are firing up. Who lost…besides those of us that watched this thing?

10:18 – Terry Schiavo becomes the topic. In the relevancy department we are moving backwards.

10:10 – The conversation just deteriorated to beet sugar…seriously.

10:08 – Romney suggests an eVerify system where you have to have a card to get a job. How will the agricultural community respond?

10:06 – Gingrich says it’s okay for immigrants to go to war for citizenship, but not go to college for it.

10:04 – Romney and Gingrich both tell a very diverse Florida that everyone needs to learn English. Paul says he would allow states to have Spanish ballots.

10:01 – Santorum does not directly answer if he would let BP drill, but says a good economy is what drives tourism.

10:00 – Santorum makes his case for going to war against Iran.

9:52 – Romney launches into his well-rehearsed speech about Obama and the Iraq withdrawal timeline as a “failure”. Ron Paul corrects a few of his points, respectfully.

9:48 – Santorum talks about needing to focus on the threats in our “own hemisphere”. Not a great speech and a misuse of the word “hemisphere”.

9:46 – Paul talks about a policy of communication with Cuban people and that we “propped up” Castro. Gets rare applause from crowd.

9:43 – Romney says he would “thank heavens” if Castro passed away.

9:42 – Gingrich says the financial industry is under-regulated. Romney disagrees; says you need regulation but not poorly regulated systems.

9:37 – For those of you on Twitter, I hear you. It’s boring and the crowd is silent. If this continues and people tune out, will Romney make up any ground??

9:32 – Was there a moderator of this debate? I’ve forgotten him. Oh, commercial time. There he is.

9:30 – Gingrich gets Romney to literally stutter when asked about Bain revenues. His answer was “substantial”.

9:28 – Iran, Foreclosure plans, plan to create jobs, oil drilling… I’m begging you NBC to pick ANY real issue and talk about it.

9:26 – Santorum shows why he is well-liked by many in the Tea Party – asks why Romney supported the Wall Street bailout. Romney given no chance to answer as Williams takes topic BACK TO TAX RETURNS! Sigh…no depth on issues so far.

9:24 – Romney lists companies that he is proud of with Bain Capital. Does not mention Clear Channel Communications.

9:22 – Gingrich brings it up – says he would call a 15% tax rate The Romney Rate.

9:20 – Romney asked what will surprise America from his tax return. Will he ask about the Cayman bank accounts or the 15% tax rate?

9:18 – Paul does not rule out a third party run, but has no plans to do so.

9:16 – Ron Paul reminds the stage that he is still in it and will pick up delegates from each of the three contests we have had so far.

9:14 – If you’re playing the Reagan drinking game, we’re at two.

9:12 – Santorum is addressed and insists that it is actually a three-man race. Says his path to victory is his clear contrast w the President as a strong conservative.

9:10 – Gingrich says he asked Republicans to vote against him in the House in 1997 to move the party forward. Calls Romney “a terrible historian”.

9:08 – Romney provides a laundry list of his best ammunition – ethics scandal, Freddie Mac, etc. If it hits then he might dent Gingrich’s lead. If not, he’s out of fire and we’ve got eighty minutes left.

9:06 – Gingrich says that this is “the worst kind of politics” and he won’t waste his time pointing out everything Romney says that is false.

9:05 – And it’s officially on! Romney says Gingrich had the opportunity to lead and “had to leave the party in disgrace.”

9:03 – Gingrich “Americans aren’t sending someone to Washington to manage the decay…they are sending someone there to change it.”

8:54 – Candidates come out to wild cheers…I’m guessing Brian’s request will be ignored đŸ™‚

8:53 – Brian Williams is warming up the crowd, asking for minimal reactions from the crowd.

8:45 – The sets are lit and the hosts are prepping…tons of energy inside and tons of Ron Paul signs outside. The big questions: How will Romney stand up to the attacks? Will Gingrich have another big fiery moment? Will Santorum or Paul be able to gain any attention?

Shawna Vercher is the host of “The Shawna Vercher Show” on AM 820 News, Saturdays at 10am EST. She is also featured as a political correspondent for WTSP Channel 10 and is President of the national civic advocacy group My America.

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