Superficial impressions gleaned from last night's showdown:
Newt exercised restraint, defended himself against outrageous assertions, avoided attack responses, and largely came off as competent but with a few valises in the hall closet.
Romney looked better (to me) than I had seen him before. He was well prepped and looked the model of executive competence. His major asset is private sector experience and familiarity with government relationships.
Ron Paul had my benefit of the doubt going into the event. I've previously expressed here that I thought he was a loon, but his recent surge in the polls caused me to give him a second look. He didn't disappoint. Every time he opened his mouth he looked like a nut job. Whether it was rambling about Austrian economists or single-handedly cutting a trillion off the budget in his first year, or reverting to 19th century isolationism, he always sounded like a fringe weirdo.
Michelle Bachman confirmed my judgment that she is a button-pushing harpy with little in the way of policy suggestions or reasonable proposals. Like a yippy little Pomeranian she barks with more noise than her bite justifies.
Rick Santorum is a conundrum. He should have more traction, but he simply isn't lighting the electorate's fire. Can't figure out why.
Rick Perry sinks further in my estimation. He simply isn't bringing the right sized guns to the OK corral. He may not possess such weapons.
And poor John Huntsman, who should have some level of appeal, continues to mumble about Utah's success and how to be an ambassador to Beijing. I honestly think even I could effectively govern a state which is predominantly white, hard-working and moral. It can't be that hard with that environment.