The winners and losers from Thursday night's prime-time GOP debate:
Trump's campaign might eventually unravel, but it didn't happen Thursday night. The front-runner in the polls thrived off a series of tough questions about his past — in most cases, quickly pivoting to a condemnation of political correctness and politics as usual. Trump is clearly a TV veteran: His timing was impeccable when he quipped to debate moderator Megyn Kelly that the only woman he ever trash-talked was Rosie O'Donnell. It wasn't true, but in TrumpWorld, it didn't really matter.
The recitation of many of Trump's past liberal positions — his support for abortion rights and single-payer health care, for instance — might alienate some supporters unfamiliar with the finer points of his record. But time and again he demonstrated why so many conservatives are in love with his blunt message. "I've been challenged by so many people, and I don't frankly have time for total political correctness," he said at one point. "And to be honest with you, this country doesn't have time either."
The Ohio governor snuck onto the main debate stage thanks to a late surge in the polls — and immediately proved he might belong in the field's top tier. It wasn't just his strong command of the facts, though he demonstrated that with a detailed defense of his decision as governor to expand Medicaid. Kasich also showed a charisma that made him — and not Jeb Bush — look like the most electable Republican in a general election. Whether he was touting his record as a swing-state governor or finessing a question about how he could justify his opposition to gay marriage to a gay son or daughter, he talked like a formidable potential nominee.