The debate is over and the grades are in. Here is how the GOP candidates performed tonight.
2. Rick Santorum: B
Under attack from all sides, Santorum couldn’t rise above the fray. Ron Paul and Rick Perry succeeded in drawing him into the debate, and managed to elevate themselves in the process. He’s not the Romney-alternative after this debate, he’s one of several, which means there still isn’t one.
4. Rick Perry: D-
Sending troops back to Iraq?!?!? That was the most memorable thing he said tonight, and he couldn’t have put his foot any deeper into his mouth. He almost dropped out on Wednesday morning, and he’s probably regretting that decision now.
6. Mitt Romney: A
Mitt Romney won this debate by default. He didn’t have too many great lines, but he avoided getting drawn into any fights with the other candidates. He looked presidential and above the fray as the other candidates squabbled second place. It’s hard to overstate how good tonight was for him.
8. Newt Gingrich: B-
He didn’t attack Romney. Everyone expected him to, and he shied away from it. Debates were his strong suit, but this was his worst debate performance so far.
10. Ron Paul: B-
Paul succeeded in taking Santorum down a few notches, but his opponents branded him a liar, and he still doesn’t have an answer on the racist newsletters published under his name.
12. Jon Huntsman: C
He’s still in the race? Out of the headlines for a week while everyone focused on Iowa, Huntsman didn’t make the case for his continued candidacy. He shied away from attacking Romney at precisely the moment he desperately needed to do so. He’s already looking for the exit.
(Image Source: Reuters Pictures)