I just finished watching the whole thing and I think objectively Ted Cruz is the winner (though I won't blame you for not believing me as I run a Jews for Ted Cruz blog). So was Fox Business, which ran a much more respectful debate than CNBC (I liked Neil Cavuto's dig at CNBC at the end). Anyway, here are my candidate by candidate thoughts:
Ted Cruz - As I mentioned, he was the winner. He clearly had a good handle on all the issues and is a principled conservative. I like that he took over the gold issue which should take some votes from Rand Paul (Ted Cruz is basically running as a non-kooky Rand Paul who doesn't have extreme views on foreign policy). He also was able to hit Marco Rubio on sugar subsidies without actually mentioning his name. And finally, by mentioning JFK as being a President from the past that has had great economic policies, he makes himself look less like an extremist and should help start the flow of moderates and independents to him (though obviously he has a lot more work to do). When was the last time the Democrats have mentioned a Republican President from the last 60 years that they have liked?
Marco Rubio - He was very knowledgeable on foreign policy and I liked his comment about us needing more welders than philosophers (though I think he should instead say we need more welders than burger flippers as the move from manufacturing to service jobs is what has destroyed the working class of this country). But I think Rand Paul and Ted Cruz were able to make Marco Rubio sound less conservative that I think he would like. That said, he probably will be taking votes from Kasich and JEB after this debate so will probably have an increase in the polls.
Carly Fiorina - She really is an American version of Margaret Thatcher. I just really wish she had some sort of ground game so other than getting periodic boosts from polls, I just don't think she will be able to go very far. I have to say though she would make a wonderful Secretary of State!
Rand Paul - His best debate so far. He was able to make substantive attacks on Rubio which made Rubio sound like just another politician who likes handouts. Of course though, his night wasn't perfect as he confused Iraq with Syria repeatedly in an extended answer. Maybe he will get a bump or maybe the gold bugs behind him will defect to Ted Cruz who has a better chance and doesn't sound as kooky.
JEB - Much better delivery than normal. He sounded experienced and reasonable. He pretty much screwed himself though by not shaking Marco Rubio's hand during the break as that is really the only thing people are talking about in relation to his performance. I do want him to drop out but I like him in the race as he is splitting the moderate/establishment vote. If we have more moderates than conservatives running, it increases the chance that a real conservative will win the nomination. That is probably the only way Reagan was able to triumph in 1980.
Donald Trump - His schtick is getting a little long in the tooth and he looked like an idiot in talking about TPP and China for so long only to get corrected by Rand Paul that China isn't a party to that treaty. But I did like that he said that any of the candidates' tax plans would be better than what he has now as he finally sounded like more of a team player and less of a narcissist.
Ben Carson - Started out really strong with his comments on his past and the minimum wage. Really good stuff that would have broad appeal. But then I started to lose the ability to follow his responses. He's a smarter Herman Cain but still is a Herman Cain.
John Kasich - As someone else mentioned, he is Jon Huntsman with a social disorder. His angry interruptions were just too much. Also, his attempt to sound reasonable and practical in his policy proposals was torpedoed by his talk about picking which depositors get their money back from a bank failure (first, we have FDIC insuring deposits so I dont even know the point of his argument and then to say that the government should decide which individual depositors should be bailed out was nonsensical and asking for trouble).