0:00 Candidates come on stage to the sound of applause and popping corks. Debate Moderator Jancis Robinson welcomes crowd, holds a glass of Champagne toward camera to toast the TV audience.
0:03 In first fireworks of the night, candidate Mitt Romney announces he doesn’t drink. Former Senator Rick Santorum jumps in, saying frantically that he doesn’t drink even more than Romney. He doesn’t drink a lot, he says, because that’s what made America great. Candidate Herman Cain says he likes a little Chianti with his pizza. Michelle Bachman says there’s nothing wrong with a little wine, because “President Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence had a wine cellar at Mount Vernon.”
0:06 Newt Gingrich considers a dry white, mulls its qualities, pronounces it a perfect example of Sancerre. The other candidates jump all over him, declaring that Paul Ryan says it’s Vin de Pays d’Oc so they think it’s VDP d’Oc, too. Gingrich points to the label, which says “Sancerre” and launches a discussion of French wine regulation. The other candidates turn their backs on Gingrich.
0:08 Offered another taste, Candidate Michelle Bachman demures, asking instead if they just have some Pinot Grigio.
0:14 Standing up in the crowd, guest journalist Steve Heimoff wants to know how the candidates feel about high alcohol levels in wine. First to respond: Tim Pawlenty, who points out he was raised in a working class family.
0:22 Gingrich refers to a velvety red as a “panty dropper,” which makes Candidate Ron Paul blow wine through his nose. Bachman wonders aloud how Gingrich found even one woman to marry him, let alone three.
0:25 Moderator Jancis Robinson pours the dark red into the candidates’ glasses. Romney points out helpfully that he still doesn’t drink, but the wine is beautiful to look at. Santorum jumps in to announce that he has decided not to drink even more, and that no one else should drink, either, and that if he’s elected he’ll introduce a Constitutional Amendment that bans wine glasses “to preserve the vision of the Founding Fathers.”
0:26 Bachman sips the wine, swirls it around in her mouth, and spits it out on Pawlenty.
0:36 Gingrich says he needs to cleanse his palate in the same manner that Charlemagne cleansed his palate, asks someone off camera to find him a loaf of bread “or two.”
0:42 Romney thinks it would be a good idea to discuss the perils of alcohol. An obviously intoxicated Ron Paul disagrees: “Bah! If it weren’t good for you, people wouldn’t drink it. People know what’s good for them. Stay out of their lives!”
0:49 Candidate Herman Cain says he thinks New World wines would have a distinct advantage over Old World wines if President Obama would “just get out of the way of the American entrepreneur.” Tim Pawlenty pounds his lectern in approval, belching loudly and announcing that he was raised in a blue collar family.
0:51 All candidates agree that alcohol taxes are too high. Santorum says that when he lowers alcohol taxes, revenue will increase because people will drink more. Then he stares blankly into the camera for eight seconds.
0:59 During the throw to the top-of-the-hour commercial break, home viewers see Newt Gingrich swagger over to candidate Bachman to suggestively offer her a bite of his baguette and pat her on the ass.
1:01 Coming back from the break, Bachman stands prim and sparkly as a Barbie Doll. A close-up reveals that Gingrich’s face is a bloody pulp.
1:09 Candidate Ron Paul suggests that box wine may offer better value.
1:13 Pawlenty slumps against the lectern. It becomes apparent that he has put even himself to sleep.
1:15 Santorum announces that if he did drink, he’d only drink value wines from districts that didn’t allowed gays to marry.
1:22 Romney says he doesn’t believe European wine is as good as American wine. Moderator Jancis Robinson asks him how he knows that, given that he doesn’t drink. Romney says nothing in Europe is as good as anything in America.
1:28 Robinson says that during the candidates’ wrap-up, she will collect the score sheets and tally up the winning wines. As his closing statement, Pawlenty falls to the floor. Gingrich mumbles something and spits out a tooth. Herman Cain says he could really go for a pizza about now. Romney says that if it will help his polling, he’ll be glad to start drinking. Santorum wants to remind people that he was against drinking “even before it was cool.” Ron Paul says he really didn’t keep score because his opinions are no one’s business. Bachman looks squarely into the camera and announces her preference for wines from Iowa and New Hampshire.
1:30 Robinson announces the vote tally: it’s unanimous. The candidates have all chosen as their favorite the wines produced by the event’s corporate sponsor, even though none of those wines was featured in the tasting. As the camera pulls back and the credits roll, Sarah Palin walks out on stage, holding a can of beer.