GOP '08 Candidates Take Their Creepshow to the Iowa Stage

This post was written by John Neffinger, Rachel Sklar and Drew Westen, and originally appeared on The Huffington Post

HuffPost's exclusive liveblog of ABC's GOP debate in Iowa is in progress. Join us now as nonverbal communication specialist John Neffinger and Eat the Press' Rachel Sklar offer their real-time reactions to the candidates' performances.

RACHEL: Hi and welcome to HuffPost's liveblog of the debate -- depending on where you are in the country, you are either watching this or the "The Ernest Angley Hour." Political Brain author and language expert Drew Westen will pipe up with his comments after viewing the debate on his local affiliate (Atlanta - 11 am) so keep checking back. In the meantime, we're off!

JOHN:So we are starting with some fireworks here, with George inviting Brownback to go after Romney. Romney weathered the attack well, keeping a pretty good smile on his face the whole time, not looking defensive.

RACHEL: It's Romney's to lose, apparently -- at least in Iowa. But it makes for a fun debate to go for the jugular at the outset. Though Brownback would have done well to show a bit more passion here - it seemed a little too modulated. Mitt wins this on the response, without even dealing with the specifics (note that he deflected Stephanopoulos' attempts to corner him with a point that he'd been honored for pro-life views). Romney won this.

DREW: Romney is refusing to answer any of the charges about his prior pro-choice stands. He switched to cloning when asked about his position on abortion. But he did it effectively with, "I'm tired of people who are holier than thou..." I suspect he may have been tapping into some latent sentiment on even the Republican side that they've gotten too extreme in their imposition of particular interpretations of Scripture on the rest of us. And immediately after, Giuliani got a lot of applause with Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton's stand on abortion: It's up to a woman, her doctor, and her faith, and we should try to reduce abortions.

JOHN: Tommy Thompson speaks strongly here at the beginning to his pro-life beliefs, but there is very little expression on his face at all, and he doesn't gesture much at all. He is a black hole of charisma.

RACHEL: Is it wrong to say that he reminds me a little of Mr. Potato Head? Giuliani reminds me of the Jim Carrey character in "The Mask" when he smiles. Hey, these are non-verbal impressions, they count.

Whoa - Stephanopolous throwing it down to McCain, challenging him with Rudy's strength. McCain doesn't respond with strength here, though -- just makes a weird and tenuous link between national security and being pro-life. He doesn't really sounds like he believes it worked, either.

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