I just finished watching the whole debate online (it was past my bed time last night). As a Ted Cruz supporter, of course I thought he won. He did a great job taking on Rubio and sounded sincere and tough. He also very successfully avoided fighting Trump. Anyway, here are my candidate by candidate thoughts in order of how well I think they did:
Cruz: He came across as strong, smart and sincere. Very Presidential. Also, by going against the neocon establishment that dominates the GOP he is one of the few candidates that people can sincerely say will not be another George W Bush with regards to foreign policy.
Christie: Did a really great job reminding people that he is a top shelf candidate. He speaks well and in a way that ordinary voters understand. I don't think he can win the nomination though. If he wins NH he will be this year's Santorum or Huckabee. He doesn't have the organization to capitalize on a NH win and we have a red state heavy calendar through March. And based on his contribution breakdown through September, he has almost no grassroots support.
Trump: I do not really like Trump but he had a great debate especially the moment when he seemed to very sincerely promise to not run as a third party candidate and talked about how much he respected the party. It was nice to see him classy, for once. This could get him a bump in the polls.
Paul: He really did have a good debate, especially when he was tag teaming with Cruz against Rubio (it would be hard for Paul to go against Cruz because they agree on so much including the gold standard for heaven's sake). He also didn't say anything crazy, which is always a plus.
JEB: I think he was strong this debate and if he was as good as he was last night 6 months ago, he would probably be much closer to being a front runner. Unfortunately, first impressions are hard to change and he will never shake the "low energy" thing.
Rubio: Once again he sounds very educated on foreign policy. But I thought he looked desperate. I think he must be getting a lot of pressure from donors (why aren't you winning these debates? why aren't you campaigning more? why are you wasting so much money on TV ads). I also think he is generally lazy. Not campaigning much and relying on 30 second TV ads? When has that ever worked? I think he is like Obama, thinking his oratory will win the day for him. But Obama was smart enough to know that he needs a good ground game.
Fiorina: I felt she was barely in this debate but when she was, she was on. I loved her list of generals she would bring back even though it probably wasn't 100% accurate. I would love her as Secretary of State.
Carson: I could tell he studied for the debate but unfortunately it was too obvious that he studied so his answers just didn't flow. He looked like he was in front of his class reciting a poem from memory or something.
Kasich: What a schmuck. At one point he said we need to go into Syria like we did into the gulf war. Really? Send hundreds of thousands of Americans to a country where we have no interests? Why the f*ck should we do that? And who is going to pay for that huge expense? I do want him to stay in the race though just to screw Rubio in NH.