On points, Fred Thompson won the debate.

Every answer was thoughtful and well-crafted; his tone matched the tone of the question; he wisely refrained from interjecting in the back and forth squabbling. He very deftly reminded viewers that he served on key Senate national security panels and is bringing his experience to bear. Even his insults were subtly and gently constructed In some ways, Thompson did McCain’s bidding. You skeptical readers can tell me that if Thompson had finished a solid fourth in Iowa, I might not be writing about Thompson at all, that said, he's still a candidate, and his performance tonight tells me his mind is not elsewhere.

Romney sounded like a hose, unbent, finally released after months of building up pressure… his vast intellectual energy gushes forth… but he sounded almost too unfocused… the water, to continue the metaphor, sprayed everywhere. He was backed into a corner on mandates in health care by Fred Thompson. He gave strong answers on energy independence toward the end. He was a target all night, though, for everyone.

In this chess game, every move against Romney helps John McCain, so McCain, who debated evenly, solidly, if not spectacularly, probably gets the biggest juice out of the debate.

Mike Huckabee did little to stick out, which seemed to be deliberate. Same with Rudy Giuliani.

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