First, as a preamble, I thought the 5pm appetizer debate, consisting of the seven contenders whose polling numbers didn't qualify them (by Fox's standards) for the main event, was one of the most boring political debates I've ever seen. Sad to say, that debate made pretty clear why those seven candidates polled so poorly.
But on to the debate of 10, which took place from 9 to 11 tonight, I'll appraise this by ranking the performances from worst to best, on all the issues:
10. Ben Carson, neurosurgeon was amiable enough, but clearly out of his depth. I'll be amazed if his polling numbers don't dip below one percent in the weeks ahead.
9. Gov. Scott Walker, who was seen in reaction shots agreeing enthusiastically with whatever Carson was saying, didn't do very well himself. I can't think if a single surprising or memorable point he made.
8. Sen. Rand Paul came on strong with an attack on Trump at the beginning, and had a few good moments, but let Gov. Christie get the better of him in an exchange about hugs - Paul slammed Christie for hugging Obama, Christie responded that the hugs he most remembered were those of 9/11 victims. This reprised, in effect, the exchange about national security between Ron Paul (Rand's father) and Giuliani in 2007, except tonight Christie did much better than Giuliani.
7. Gov. Huckabee had some strong moments - his best his joke at the end, in which he talked scathingly about someone leading in the polls with no valid ideas, whom we expected to be Trump, but turned out to be Hillary - but for the most part Huckabee looked and sounded tired.
6. Sen. Ted Cruz was clear and dynamic, but I can't think of an original or commanding idea expressed by him.
5. Christie had a surprisingly good debate, getting the best of Paul, as I said above, but also making powerful points about his success as Governor of New Jersey (and, fortunately for him, no one brought up Bridgegate).
4. Gov. Jeb Bush, as second in the polls after Trump, had more than anyone other than Trump to lose. He accounted well for himself - spoke well, and came across as the compassionate conservative, especially on immigration, which is where he wants to be.
3. Sen. Marco Rubio came across as the man of the future - showing an understanding of the digital age - as well as compassionate and savvy on a variety of issues. He was well-spoken, genial, and incisive.
2, Donald Trump held his own, including even in his answer to Megyn Kelly's question about the vicious and demeaning things he's said about women, and later defending his declared bankruptcies in response to a question from Chris Wallace. For someone with zero experience debating and running in elections, Trump, whatever you may think of his views, stood strong up on that stage.
1. Gov. Kasich was the biggest surprise of the night. He was powerful without being belligerent, and like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio displayed what seemed like a real compassion for humanity.
So there you have it - an honest appraisal, without reference to my own political views, which are mostly in disagreement with everyone on the stage (I voted twice for Obama).