1. I thought Newt Gingrich did not do well. Not just when he defended his (essentially indefensible) work at Freddie Mac, but also when he cited FDR as a model for how he would handle the court. Terrible argument, one that any self-proclaimed constitutional conservative should be concerned about.
Gingrich cited favorably the Federalist Papers about a Supreme Court that doesn't impose its will on a democratic society. Fair enough. But those documents also cite the need for an independent judiciary, which is exactly what FDR tried to destroy with his court-packing plan. As somebody who claims to be a policy wonk and a historian, Gingrich really should know better.
2. Jon Huntsman demonstrated why he is still in the second tier. He had a fantastic angle on the nomination -- the anti-Obama whistleblower who ran as a true conservative. But he hasn't pursued that path at all. Subtle evidence of that came tonight when everyone was asked to name his favorite Supreme Court justice. Huntsman named Alito and Roberts but not Scalia and Thomas. That omission said a lot to me.
3. The highs and lows of Rick Perry are tough to follow. Some near cringeworthy moments went hand-in-hand with some of the best lines of the night, especially when he talked about border security and sending Texas Rangers to do recon. He's about 80 percent of what the Republicans need, but that 20 percent makes all the difference.
4. What is the point of Ron Paul in these debates? He should build a time machine and go back to the age before Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Arthur Vandenberg reoriented the GOP toward internationalism. Sorry, but as long as he is out of sync with the rest of the party on foreign policy, he'll be nothing more than a fringe candidate. He may do well in the caucuses, where turnout is low, but he will be obliterated in the primary battles, and such intensive focus on his out-of-step foreign policy views is a waste of everybody's time. On a related note, nobody is winning any points any more by even arguing with Paul's foreign policy positions. That ship sailed a long time ago. Just ignore him and move on, already.
5. I thought Romney did very well, for what it's worth. Smooth and relaxed, he parried Chris Wallace's "gotcha" question about gay marriage with relative ease. Not sure if it buys him anything, at least nothing that his massive ad blitz in Iowa and New Hampshire can't purchase, but there it is.