Lets take a look at how each of the candidates fared in the first presidential debate of 2016. (Saved Trump for last)
Ted Cruz -
Cruz was very concise with his answers and easily outpaced the rest of the field with his grasp of domestic and foreign policy issues. He's also not afraid to "tell it like it is" and showed no regret for calling a spade a spade (McConnell lying). While goaded a few times he did not bristle up and fall into a petty argument as some others did. He also laid out exactly what he would do on first day in office something no other candidate was clear about.
My pick for best Cruz quote (among several) "If you join ISIS, if you wage jihad on America, you are signing your death warrant".
Mike Huckabee - Clear, funny, passionate and no apologies, Mike Huckabee gained some ground during this debate. While he performed well, will be remembered for setting up the Trump insult then blasting the Hillary punch line. Note: Trump was bracing for it and relieved when it didn't happen.
Marco Rubio - Scored huge points with comments regarding Jeb Bush and Common Core and his candidate for the "line of the night" when speaking of God... “He has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. The Democrats can’t even find one.”
Made some headway:
Ben Carson - While Carson has some trouble in a debate format with his methodical approach, was very engaging and passionate. Super final comments with the "half-a-brain in Washington". Ben made up a bit of ground tonight but is far overshadowed by most everyone else on the stage because he's so laid back.
Scott Walker - He could've lost some as well with the "mother's life" exception on abortion. Laid out his accomplishments and stuck to his message. Did not have the "gotcha" moment at any point during the debate.
Jeb Bush - Stuck to establishment policy and gave up some ground with Common Core answers. No win or loss and his campaign chest will keep him in the race for quite some time. Good job laying out accomplishments as governor of Florida but no big moments for Jeb.
Rand Paul - Seemed to have showed up to debate right after getting splashed at the arena urinal. Was not in a good mood and it played out on stage. Lost huge ground in a spat with Chris Christie just by seeming to be so bitter. With his current campaign team issues this was not the showing Paul was looking for.
Chris Christie - While Rand Paul lost the spat, Christie didn't fare much better. Was seen more as a bully than a Presidential candidate. Moderators hit him hard with questions on the job and economic numbers in New Jersey under his governorship and while he responded well, that won't be remembered.
John Kasich - Had the homefield advantage and performed great for most of the debate. When it came to the subject of Gay Marriage, totally alienated the GOP Conservative base with his comments. Will likely fade into obscurity
Should've stayed home:
Donald Trump - The Donald set himself up for the line of questioning with all of his comments the last few weeks and he didn't respond to those questions well. While some would say Megyn Kelly attacked him, his answer by going after her will not sit well and he looked absolutely horrible to women that's a death sentence to a national campaign.
Donald Trump lost big-time ground at the very beginning when he refused to pledge he would support the eventual nominee and not run a 3rd party campaign. Totally soured the GOP base with that moment and it stayed with him throughout the night. Booed numerous times.
Unless you've been bit by the Trump Bug and still under its spell (or work for the campaign) this cannot be seen as anything but a negative showing for Trump. His anger issues did not play out well and we all saw the reason that Clinton is beating him in all the polls for a general election.
Donald Trump decided not to attend the forum on Monday night in New Hampshire and should've stayed away from this one.
Ted Cruz and Huckabee came out of the debate looking the best with Rubio not far behind. Cruz has raised alot of money for this campaign and it will likely end up with him vs Jeb Bush when it shakes out down the road. Bush will be the establishment choice but Senator Cruz is more than capable of energizing the conservative base which was needed in 2012 and didn't happen.
Other candidates like Kasich, Walker, Trump, Christie had moments where they totally alienated vast voting blocks in the GOP and will suffer accordingly.
Trump will continue to make headlines just by his brash personality but he lost a tremendous amount of ground in this debate and it will take a miracle to gain any more than he has at this moment.