Matthew Continetti predicted earlier today that tonight's debate could be “Michele's Moment.” He may well prove to be right.
Bachmann's strong performance tonight may be the beginning of a process where she begins to separate herself from her two current competitors for fourth place, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum. Perry claimed near the beginning of the debate to want to be Tim Tebow, then did nothing to engineer a comeback the rest of the night. Santorum, it seemed to me, never really broke through. If enough Iowans were watching, and if they agree that Michele was impressively tough and convincingly true-blue conservative, I suspect we could see a Bachmann surge in the remaining two and a half weeks—perhaps enough of one to push her into the first tier.
As for that first tier, Romney seemed to play it safe tonight, Paul went a little crazy on Iran and probably helped limit his further upside growth, and Gingrich managed at once to get clobbered by Bachmann on Freddie Mac and do very well for much of the rest of the debate.
A prediction—for what it's worth—of where we could end up on January 3? Gingrich 26, Bachmann 22, Romney 19, and Paul 18, with Perry, Santorum, and Huntsman dividing the remaining 15. For what it's worth . . . and I'll be the first to proclaim, at this stage and in this year, any prediction ain't worth much.