Otherwise, it was a good, punchy debate which showed most of the candidates off to their best advantage. McCain, in particular, was more eloquent and forceful than usual in his support of the war and his denunciation of torture. Romney was on the receiving end of McCain's torture lecture - Romney falling back on his all-too-typical letting the experts decide - but Ron Paul had a fine moment in his cogent explanation, back to McCain, on the difference between being an isolationist and a non-interventionist (Ron Paul is the latter). And Ron Paul also spoke truth about why violence has decreased in southern Iraq - that has happened because the British have left.
But Romney was excellent in knocking down Giuliani's attack on Romney's alleged employment of illegal aliens - Romney reasonably replied that he contracted with a company to work on his home, he did not directly hire illegal aliens.
I should note here, however, that although I admired Romney's rhetoric in this exchange - a rarity - I think most of the Republicans and many of the Democrats are making too big a deal about illegal aliens (which, not that terminology matters all that much, but I can't help thinking of people from outer space whenever I hear that phrase). One of America's greatest strengths has always been its openness to people from other countries and cultures.
Huckabee was probably the best on stage about this issue, refusing to back down from his funding of education for children of illegal immigrants.
Giuliani, other the exchange with Romney on the employment of illegal immigrants, was pretty much on top of his game, and Fred Thompson was a little more animated than usual tonight, too.
So where do we stand: Huckabee is personable and gaining in the polls and could conceivably pull an upset in Iowa. Even if he comes close, he could be a good running mate for Giuliani. I'd say it's too late for McCain and Thompson, whatever they do or say from now on. Romney is still Giuliani's major competition.
And Ron Paul still has by far the best positions. He alone among the Republican candidates continues to speak to truth to authority about war. We'll soon find out how many votes this translates into in the primaries.