In previewing the Republican debate, I said the Debate is All about The Donald:

I’m going to sit back and enjoy the show. Whatever will be will be.

I didn’t watch the 5 p.m. debate, but the punditry is unanimous that Carly Fiorina was the clear winner, and it was her Breakout Moment. The other candidates in that grouping should just drop out.

I did watch the 9 p.m. main event, and it was a weird experience. Here are my impressions:

Fox News Moderators: 

At times I felt the aggressive attacks on candidates were inappropriate, and much of the show was the moderators using oppo-research type facts to get a reaction. Trump was the focus of most of this. That’s not the role of moderators. BUT, when viewed in its entirety over the two hours, I think the moderators achieved a good result. What could have been a snoozer was interesting, candidates got to address their weaknesses, there was some engagement with each other, and we came away with a sorting out of the field. So, while it was uncomfortable to watch at times, the end seems to have justified the means.

The Donald:

This is becoming the present-day Rorschach test. I thought he did horribly. Trump did not appear comfortable in the setting. Many of his one-liners that work so well when he is alone and has a camera close up didn’t work. He was petulant, shallow and thin-skinned. BUT, if online voting is any indication, he didn’t hurt himself with supporters.

Nonetheless, if Trump’s goal was to broaden his support, I can’t see how this helped. But what do I know, I misjudged him from the start.

Jeb!

Mr. Boring, but that probably helped him. Gave some good defenses of his record, scored well on the “presidential” meter. Established himself as the “non-Trump” candidate. If I were a Jeb advisor, I’d be pleased. He’s in it for the long run, and first he did no harm.

He still has trouble with the Iraq issue:

Scott Walker:

A very workmanlike performance. Weaved his way around questions to answer the questions he wanted to answer, refocusing on Hillary when he could. Often had time left because he answered so succinctly. Not sure this will light his campaign on fire, but in playing the long game, he didn’t hurt himself.

Marco Rubio:

Did very well. Came across as knowledgeable and focused. Not a Breakout Moment, but a strong stage performance. Of all the candidates in the primetime debate, I think he helped himself the most.

Ted Cruz:

Very strong performance substantively. Did himself no harm, maybe some good.

John Kasich:

Got serious air time. But I can’t believe this will launch him into the top tier. I view him as a regional candidate.

Ben Carson:

Hell of a nice guy. But I don’t think he came across as ready to be President. It’s been his problem all along.

Christie, Huck, Rand:

Blah, blah, blah. Don’t think any of them helped themselves. The Christie-Rand shouting match helped neither. Huck was a sideshow, and I can’t imaging he will break out from his base.