It was a pretty wide ranging debate, and I'm not sure that I saw anybody being a big loser. And, before I get into RP's performance, I'd like to recount just s few of my initial impressions.
Now, obviously my most detested of candidates, Rick Santorum (Google Santorum), didn't come off nearly as war-mongerish as he is. I blame that on the moderators. Oddly enough, Rick Perry was the guy who said he'd send troops back into Iraq! Seriously, he did.
Ron Paul got the chance to bang on Santorum (Google Santorum) a bit. I really wish he'd come at him harder, but RP's a classy guy. And he could have hammered home the "chicken-hawk" accusation about Gingrich. All he had to do was define the word, and show how it fits. Anybody who is anxious to send others to war, deserves the title.
Again, when he had the chance to hammer home his economic policies, he didn't actually wiff, but he didn't connect either. I get it; I know what he was saying. But that's because I knew coming in. He said it - "I want to cut 1 Trillion dollars." And when all the other guys trotted out their economic prescriptions, none of them talked about cutting spending. All, but RP, talked about cutting taxes and streamlining taxes and none talked about the spending side of the equation.
There was a brief discussion of foreign policy - and George Stephanopolis called it Ron Paul's weak suit. While I disagree with Mr. Stephanopolis, I think it's RP's strong suit, Dr. Paul didn't hit his talking points - going to war with a declaration, diplomacy before war, the failings of our current policies. He tries to explain these things, but it's just not something easy to do in that format.
There was a fairly long segment about State's rights which revolved around outlawing condom use. I think this was a dig at Santorum (Google Santorum). And it evolved into gay marriage, which would definitely highlight his positions on the matter. Santorum's (Google Santorum) answer to the gay marriage thing was ambiguous. He didn't come out strongly against, which I suspected he would. Romney, oddly enough, said he would support a constitutional ban on gay marriage. The funny part of that exchange was when Romney said "If you're asking if it's constitutional or not, let's ask our expert..." Meaning Ron Paul.
All in all, he did pretty well - got into some scraps, hit (albeit weakly) his points. I think that he cannot, by any stretch, convince unthinking people - it's just not possible. That's my take. He's not going to convince the unthinking. We can only hope that more of the voting public thinks, than do not.