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Well, the second primetime GOP Presidential Primary debate is in the can. None of the candidates really landed a knockout punch, and none had a moment or line that will likely doom their campaign. That said, there were some clear winners and losers from tonight’s debate, and we are here to separate the two. Let’s get right to it!

The Winners

1. Carly Fiorina – Fiorina didn’t walk away completely unscathed as she did in the first debate, when she was on the JV stage, as Trump landed some substantive punches on her record at HP. However, she clearly showed that she belonged on the big stage, and had probably the most memorable moment of the night, stinging Trump on his attempted dodge about his remarks on her face, and forcing the alleged alpha male to eat his humble pie. Fiorina was also able to grab an outsized piece of air time, given her standing in the polls, which showed the personal magnetism she clearly conveys through a TV screen.

2. Chris Christie – Christie didn’t get a ton of screen time, but made the most of what he had. He was one of the first candidates on screen and had a warm and funny exchange with Carson that made people remember what made him a star in the GOP prior to the 2012 elections. He also was able to interject himself into a number of pertinent discussions and scored surprising points during the discussion of Planned Parenthood…

3. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) 92% – Another candidate who didn’t have a ton of screen time, but had a couple of meaningful exchanges with Trump in which he came out looking well. In particular, the anecdote he told about his father teaching him to love America by speaking Spanish because it was the only language he knew was the sort of poignant 30 second story that only Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) can pull off. Rubio also won the third hour of the debate with a great answer that stole the entire global warming sideshow…

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Losers

1. Jeb Bush – Jeb Bush had one job tonight, and it was to land a meaningful punch on Donald Trump, and he failed. This is most inexcusable because he had two very easy softball opportunities. When Trump confronted him about his “women’s health” remarks – which he had already explained by saying that he misspoke. But he was summarily unable to access that explanation when Trump pressed him on it. He also had a great opportunity to step on Trump about Trump’s remarks about his wife, and he flubbed it. He scored a minor victory in the fracas about the casinos in Florida, but it wasn’t nearly enough…

2. Ben Carson – Carson didn’t have anyone land a substantive punch against him, but he was nonetheless exposed as a guy who still has not really thought about the issues. He stumbled and stammered in response to questions about his tax policy and the minimum wage, and essentially answered that he still didn’t know what he thought about those issues…

3. John Kasich – Kasich continued to do his best Bob Dole Jr. impression, by far the most dour and gruff person on stage. He attempted to angrily interrupt repeatedly in discussions that didn’t concern him to basically say that GOP voters are unrealistic in their expectations…

Impossible to Quantify

1. Donald Trump – I’ve long ago stopped trying to predict what will or won’t affect Donald Trump’s standing in this race. As usual, his answer to every question is that he is leading in the polls. He out of nowhere took a petulant and pointless swipe at Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) standing in the polls (and his looks) in the response to his first question. He came off as the clear loser in at least two exchanges with Carly Fiorina (and the narrow winner in one other). His body language when confronted on the Florida casino deal was purely Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny. On the other hand, he got the better of Jeb Bush, which seems to be his only goal in life…

Also Present

1. Scott Walker – For people who only tuned in to the first 15 minutes or so, Scott Walker had a great debate. Good opening statement, and came out of nowhere to rip in the middle of the first Trump/Bush exchange. After that, Walker mostly entirely vanished…

2. Mike Huckabee – It took 45 minutes for Mike Huckabee to get his first question, and no one really objected. Nothing wrong with anything that Mike Huckabee said tonight, but I’ve heard it all before… He gave a pretty good defense of Kim Davis, but was otherwise mostly set decoration.

3. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) 100% – Cruz also took about 40 minutes to get his first question. Cruz was solid and knowledgeable, as he always is, and strongest on the Iran deal. But he had few memorable moments…

4. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) 87% – Paul had I think a pretty good response to Trump’s bizarre, out of the blue attack in the opening minutes of the debate, but after that was almost totally forgotten… He did score a style point in a testy exchange with Jeb Bush over medical marijuana, but I’m not sure that moves the needle for him in the polls. In a couple days, people will mostly forget he was there.

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