He’s big and loud and makes outrageous comments but in the primetime debate he showed some substance, even while getting into a fierce scrap. Governor Christie really does have a grasp on issues like national security, and it is unavoidable that he would have a fight with Senator Paul. A fight which both went looking for. Could Christie have avoided making it so personal? Perhaps as a former US Attorney for New Jersey he feels entitled to go gunning for Paul, but that means that most will remember the scrap and not his command of the facts on entitlements, for example. And Rand himself with his bad hair seemed angry, defensive, and frazzled. As Trump suggested he did not have a good night.

Trump was Trump, but perhaps – despite his “I don’t have time to be politically correct” zinger – his lack of substantive detail to back up his statements started to show. It’s early days and there are several debates to go, but it will be interesting to see where his numbers are in a few months. Carson got precious little time – 38 minutes without a question from the moderators – and appeared a little nervous and tense in the beginning. But he finished strong and that just might help his numbers.

And while Rubio emerged as the darling of many observers – at least those who are not Democratic strategists – he seemed just a little too young and cute. But he had the best lines of the night and held his own against all those he faced, including his mentor Jeb Bush. Which leaves the question of how the former governor of Florida performed. He seemed a little more comfortable and fluid, but had no over-reaching moment that rose above the fray. Jeb Bush is like the college professor admired by his former students: even Trump called him a gentleman and seemed to mean it. Jeb is the only candidate in the GOP field who likely knows as many world leaders as Carly Fiorina. He’s statesmanlike, experienced, diplomatic and tough. He knows everyone who matters in the establishment – both Democrats and Republicans, both DC and Wall Street – and is smart in a low-key way. What a wonderful Secretary of State he would make with say, Carly Fiorina as his boss in the Oval Office.

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