1) Marco Rubio is on a roll – for the second-straight Republican debate, the Florida senator was the clear winner. He successfully knocked down Rand Paul in an exchange over defense spending and seemed comfortable with all of the other questions and jabs that came his way. One quibble: Mr. Rubio is clearly ready to answer certain questions with prepared answers, but he'd be better off if those prepared answers didn't come off as prepared answers.
2) Good news for Jeb! Bush: He didn't lose! But he didn't help himself much either. His halting attempt to find a joke while contrasting Washington, DC, with Washington, Iowa, was cringe worthy. And even when given the opportunity by the moderators to jump into a discussion about the economy, he failed to shut down an interruption by John Kasich. Being a skilled debater in and of itself isn't necessarily a requirement for a presidential candidate, but being assertive and quick on your feet is. Maybe Jeb! should come down with a case of laryngitis for the next GOP debate.
3) Ben Carson was tossed a softball from the moderators when it came to a discussion about inconsistent claims about his past. Carson didn't even answer the question; instead, he took the chance to launch into a predicable rant – OK, calling anything that comes out of Dr. Carson's mouth a "rant" might be a stretch – about the media and Hillary Clinton. But, stunningly, the other candidates didn't challenge Dr. Carson over the questions either. Maybe beating up on the mainstream media is more fun than holding your fellow candidates accountable?
4) The Fox Business/Wall Street Journal debate was the most substantive so far, and that meant Donald Trump didn't have much to say. We heard repetitions of his standard stump-speech promises, without much elaboration, and he stepped back when other candidates clashed over, you know, actual policy questions. The one time we did notice what Mr. Trump said? When he chastised Carly Fiorina for interrupting other candidates, a grouse that A) seemed misplaced because all of the candidates – Jeb! excepted – interrupted all of the other candidates all night long and B) made it pretty clear, once again, what Mr. Trump really thinks about women.
5) What did we think about the debate? The folks in Facebook's policy communications office tracked our discussions there during the debate; here's what they came up with. The top moment: The exchange between Sens. Rubio and Paul on defense spending and entitlements. The top issue: Taxes, followed by immigration, the minimum wage, jobs and health care. The most-discussed candidate, overall and by women: Dr. Carson. The candidate most discussed by men: Mr. Paul. And finally, we don't know where Pennsylvania fell in terms of engagement during the debate, but we do know the Top 5: Virginia, New Hampshire, Maryland, Wisconsin and Vermont.