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Liveblog: The CBS News/National Journal GOP Debate

Just a few days after his disastrous “brain freeze” during a nationally televised debate in Michigan, Gov. Rick Perry is back under the bright lights tonight. This time, he’ll be in challenging issue territory: foreign policy. We’ll be liveblogging tonight’s CBS News/National Journal Debate here.

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Just a few days after his disastrous “brain freeze” during a nationally televised debate in Michigan, Gov. Rick Perry is back under the bright lights tonight.

And he’ll be in challenging issue territory: foreign policy.

We’ll be liveblogging tonight’s CBS News/National Journal Debate starting at 7 p.m. The forum could shed light on the candidates’ views on topics that have received scant attention during the debates thus far. Instead of getting grilled over in-state tuition for illegal immigrants or their tax plans, they will be asked about issues such as Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the debt crisis in Europe and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The forum will give former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who served as ambassador to China, a chance to show his foreign policy credentials. Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul is sure to distinguish himself with controversial views on American involvement abroad and defense spending.

The debate also comes at a key moment for former pizza company CEO Herman Cain, who has battled sexual harassment allegations and is fighting to keep his position among the leaders in the polls.

For Perry, the stakes of his 7th presidential debate could hardly be higher. Shaky performances were already causing doubt among supporters and donors before he "stepped in it" on Wednesday.

Another big flub would likely end any remaining hope Perry has to recapture some momentum and get his floundering campaign back on track. If he knocks it out of the park, he could at least make the argument that he’s improving.

A final dynamic worth mentioning: Newt Gingrich is on the move. The former U.S. House speaker, a steady and experienced debater, has shined in the nationally televised forums, and his poll numbers (and money) have shot up. Another good performance could help push Gingrich’s drive to become what Perry once was: the mostly likely alternative to Mitt Romney.

Liveblog

by Morgan Smith
We're counting down the minutes now until the start of the debate. Stay tuned.
by Jay Root
Moderators and debate organizers speaking in studio now, noted that this is the first broadcast network debate so far. Previous ones have been on cable.
by Jay Root
Candidates walking onto stage now
by Jay Root
Shouts of "Go Herman" heard, then "Go Perry." Perry gave the thumbs-up sign.
by Jay Root
Santorum chafes about not getting called on enough, clashes with moderator about how much time he's allowed to speak.
by Jay Root
Bachmann says Obama made a "very fatal decision" by announcing troop withdrawal in Afghanistan.
by Morgan Smith
For his first question, Perry is asked to weigh in on the war in Afganistan. He says that it is "inappropriate" and "irresponsible leadership" for the Obama administration to give a timeline for removing U.S. military presence there but that the "commanders on the field" are doing their best despite a lack of support from the president. He also answers the previous question on Iran's nuclear weapons — saying that Washington should sanction the Iranian central bank and "shut down the economy."
by Jay Root
Huntsman says America's future not in Iraq or Afghanistan, says US must focus on priorities at home: "I don't want to be national building in Afghanistan when this nation so desperately needs to be built."
by Morgan Smith
Bachmann says she doesn't agree with Perry's proposal to pull all foreign aid dollars out.
by Morgan Smith
But Gingrich backs Perry up, saying that "I think it's a good idea to start at zero and sometimes stay there." Applause from crowd.
by Jay Root
Perry at first brushes aside question about why Pakistan is playing a "double game," and pivots to issue about foreign aid. Perry says "the foreign aid budget in my administration for every country is going to to start at zero dollars ... and then we'll have a conversation." Pressed, Perry says in Pakistan "it's the military it's the secret service that's who's running that country, and I don't trust them."
by Morgan Smith
In the first third of the debate, Gingrich is dominating airtime with Romney — a reflection of his new status in the polls.
by Morgan Smith
Looks like Gingrich isn't going to tone down his past surliness with the moderators.
by Jay Root
First Lady Anita Perry and daughter Sydney, in studio audience, laugh as Perry jokes about forgetting that he would have shut down Department of Energy
by Jay Root
Ron Paul says, "waterboarding is torture .... it's also immoral."
by Jay Root
Paul says waterboarding is "uncivilized" and "un-American."
by Morgan Smith
We've had the first reference to Perry's stumble during the last debate. When asked what he would do with nuclear weapons if he closed the Department of Energy, the governor joked, "You remembered it." He gets laughter and cheers from the crowd. To answer the question, Perry doesn't offer too many specifics, but says there are many other agencies that can deal with them. Then he goes on to reinforce his credentials, saying that "if there is someone on this stage that has had that hands on commander-in-chief experience that is me as commander-in-chief of Texas."
by Jay Root
Huntsman complains that he's stuck in "Siberia," not getting enough attention. Somebody said "tell me about it." Pretty sure it was Santorum, who is on the other far end.
by Jay Root
Moderator Scott Pelley warns crowd against any booing.
by Jay Root
Perry delivers nice soundbite on China, but it wasn't exactly an answer to the question. Perry was asked if the US was engaged in "financial warfare" with China. Perry, re-framing the question he wanted to answer, said that he disagreed with people who believe this is the "century of China" and that the United States had already had its "time in the sunshine." He said the United States had to win the "cyber war" with China and predicted the "Communist Chinese government will end up on the ash heap of history if they do not change their virtues."
by Jay Root
Perry gets question from Twitter, relayed by moderator, about whether he would include Israel in his zero-based budgeting proposal on foreign aid: "Absolutely. Every country would start at zero," Perry said. But the governor said Israel is a "special ally" and would likely get substantial funding. Perry then joked again about his infamous memory lapse in the last debate: "As a matter of fact we ought to try doing that with some of those agencies that I was trying to think of the name of," he said. Perry had a good pivot back to his economic message, saying that Americans are losing jobs and have to face tough budgeting decisions, and the US government should, too.
by Morgan Smith
Live stream of debate terribly choppy here in Austin. From Twitter, it seems I'm not alone.
by Jay Root
Perry gives passionate response to question about using enhanced interrogation techniques. He said foreign enemies are targeting young American men and women and would "kill them in a heartbeat under any circumstances using any techniques that they can." Perry said that "for us not to have the ability to try to extract information from them to save our young peoples' lives is a travesty. This is war!" Perry was almost shouting at this point. "That's what happens in war, and I'm for using the techniques, not torture, but using those techniques that we know will extract the information to save young Americans' lives and I will be for it until I die."
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