Liveblog: High Stakes for Perry in Tonight's Debate

We liveblogged the CNN/Western Republican Leadership Conference debate at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, where Gov. Rick Perry had one more shot to make a better impression before a several-week debate hiatus. 

Perry’s first four debates were nothing to write home about, and contributed to falling poll numbers after a commanding out-the-gate lead. At his most recent debate at Dartmouth College last week, the Texas governor appeared to be an afterthought — he got less airtime, and seemed to give less vehement answers.

The goal tonight may simply have been to avoid missteps. After the event, Perry has weeks to release TV ads and emphasize in-person appearances until the next debate, slated for Nov. 9. He also has another policy speech on job creation scheduled for next week in South Carolina. 

Liveblog

by Emily Ramshaw
We're just a few minutes from Perry's fifth GOP presidential debate. Stand by for updates!
by Jay Root
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has endorsed Gov. Rick Perry for president, will be seated next to First Lady Anita Perry during the debate, officials say. No word on whether Sandoval will hit the post-debate spin room.
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry with the bright red power tie.
by Jay Root
Perry seems to be ready for battle. Enters stage with salute. Some head-bobbing. A Texas-style show-down in Vegas?
by Jay Root
A swipe at Mitt? Perry says he's "not a conservative of convenience."
by Jay Root
Herman Cain, surging in polls, gets pounded in debate. Candidates criticizing the 9-9-9 plan after audience member asks about whether to replace federal income tax
by Jay Root
Folksy sounding Perry joins Cain pile on, says "I love you, brother," but warns that he's "fixing" to give America a tax increase with the 9-9-9 plan. "I don't think so, Herman, it's not going to fly."
by Jay Root
Somebody drank his energy drink tonight
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry, asked about Romney's jobs plan, adeptly switches to his own plan. Of all the "nines," Perry says, "It’s the 9 percent unemployment in this country that’s where we’ve got to get focused in America." Perry said his jobs plan, which aims at getting "this energy that’s under our feet" and seeking energy independence, is the solution to sending 1.2 million Americans to work. Romney, asked by Anderson Cooper to respond to Perry's comments, said, effectively, Perry's right.

by Emily Ramshaw
Perry's sitting pretty while his opponents all beat up on Romney about health care reform.
by Jay Root
Now it's a Mitt pile on, over Romney's health care plan in Massachusetts. Newt Gingrich, usually a statesman, is much more critical than in past debates. Cain and Romney have targets on their back tonight. Lots of shouting and sometimes chaotic exchanges among candidates. Will Perry jump in even when un-prompted?
by Jay Root
Mitt to Rick: "Are you going to keep talking?"
by Jay Root
Perry says Romney lost all credibility on illegal immigration issue because he allegedly hired illegal immigrants
by Jay Root
Perry to Romney: "You had illegals working on your property."
by Jay Root
Romney says to Perry: "You have a problem" because he keeps interrupting. This is getting nasty.
by Reeve Hamilton
On the question of a border sense, Perry says it's entirely possible to build a fence — but it'll take 10-15 years and cost $30 billion.

He recommends a "virtual defense zone" bolstered by strategic fencing. That includes putting boots on the ground and predator drones in the air.

Bachmann retorts she's going to build a double-walled fence.

Perry's unimpressed. "There's a lot better way than to stand here and say we're gonna build a fence somewhere and then wipe our hands of it," he says.

For someone to lecture him on how to deal with the border is "not right," he says.
by Reeve Hamilton
Perry says Romney is "number one" on the list of people hiring illegal immigrants that are attracting them like a magnet to the U.S. This line of attack is getting Perry booed — at least, I think it's Perry.

To be fair, it's possible they disapprove of Romney's choice of employees. Though, really, it really seems like it's Perry's attack.
by Emily Ramshaw
Ron Paul says mandates from federal government requiring the education of illegal immigrant kids are incentives that contribute to the problem.
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry's just not answering the questions Cooper sends his way. He just said to Cooper, “you get to ask the question, I get to answer like I want to.”
by Jay Root
The Perry-Romney duel over illegal immigration actually began over a question about the high number of uninsured in Texas. Perry said, "We’ve got one of the finest healtch care systems in the world in Texas,” but otherwise didn't give much of an answer about why. Then he launched into an obviously pre-planned attack on Romney. He said there were too many illegals who are coming to the United States. "They're coming here because there is a magnet and the magnet is called jobs." Perry said then said Romney hired illegals in his home and called that the 'height of hypocrisy."
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry says he doesn't support repealing the 14th Amendment.
by Jay Root
Romney is very testy tonight. Seems like Perry has gotten under his skin. Have gotten texts from pro- and anti-Perry forces who say the former Massachusetts governor is "off his game." Is Perry setting the stage for a comeback?
by Emily Ramshaw
Curious how Anderson Cooper and Perry make this cordial again. There's no love between these two.
by Reeve Hamilton
Santorum going after Perry, Romney, and Cain for supporting TARP. Perry says he didn't. "You complain about Gov. Romney flip-flopping," Santorum responds.
by Jay Root
Perry, acting statesman-like, says Romney is right about allowing states to decide if they want to accept or decline nuclear waste. Predictably talks up support for 10th amendment.
by Reeve Hamilton
Perry says Santorum has it wrong. Perry's ofice did send a letter to DC, but he says, he didn't mean he wanted TARP passed.

Santorum basically says there's no other possible meaning when you call for passing an economic plan on the same day as the TARP vote. Perry says he knows what his intent was, and it was not to support TARP.
by Emily Ramshaw
Santorum's critique of Perry on TARP is worth noting. Perry, in his capacity for the Republican Governor's Association, sent a letter in 2008 urging Congress to pass an "economic recovery package," coinciding with the vote for the bailout in Congress. Perry says that letter can be interpreted any way his opponents want to, but that the letter was meant to get Congress to take immediate action, not necessarily in support of the bank bailout.
by Jay Root
Mormonism issue up now
by Jay Root
Light sparring over the controversy stemming from Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress' comments about Mormonism. Perry said he disagreed with the comments and, "I can't apologize any more than that." Romney seemed satisfied.
by Emily Ramshaw
Robert Jeffress, the Dallas megachurch pastor who introduced Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., and later told reporters he thought Mormonism was a cult, is back in discussion.

Perry has publicly said he and Jeffress differ on this issue, and that he does not believe Mormonism, Mitt Romney’s faith, is a cult. But the fact that he introduced Perry may be a thorn in the side for the Texas governor; when Anderson Cooper brought it up, there were giant boos from the audience.

“I have said I didn’t agree with that individual’s statement,” Perry said. But he didn’t go so far as to repudiate Jeffress, saying people have the right to free speech.
by Reeve Hamilton
Paul just got big applause for his plan to cut $1 trillion by eliminating a handful of federal departments.
by Jay Root
Contender for best line of the night: "I'm a cheap hawk," Newt says.
by Reeve Hamilton
Perry just called for a "very serious conversation about defunding the United Nations."
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry's asked why he thinks he can beat Obama — instead slams Romney: "If you want to know how someone's going to act in the future look how they act in the past." He says Massachusetts under Romney was 47th in the nation in job creation. He says Texas created more jobs in the last two months than Massachusetts did in the last two years.
Romney fires back that Perry's got his own track record: He worked for Al Gore's campaign. Romney said he got unemployment in Massachusetts down to 4.7 percent.
by Emily Ramshaw
This audience is quite Romney friendly. Lots of boos for Perry here when he attacks Romney.

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