GOP debate: It's Romney's night, not Perry's
Winner on points: Mitt Romney. Came equipped with slick, well-honed attack lines to use on Rick Perry, and landed them all -- on Social Security, immigration and "electability." His defense of "Romneycare" is so well practiced that it's beginning to sound almost plausible.
Loser: Rick Perry. The Texas governor started strong but ran out of gas at the halfway mark. Got a "3 a.m. phone call" question about a crisis in Pakistan and floundered as he tried to think of something coherent to say. Battered from all sides on in-state tuition for illegal immigrant kids, his response was that if you don't want to give the kids a break, you don't have a heart. Wrong audience for that one!
Most effective wing-man: Rick Santorum. Romney didn't need much help on the immigration issue, but Santorum gave him some anyway.
Missing in action: Michele Bachmann. Last time, she made hay with the HPV issue. This time, she couldn't find a foothold.
Post-debate winner: Romney. Fox News awarded him a nice long interview to repeat his attacks on Perry, and Fox's focus group said they thought the former Massachusetts governor did the best job.
Issues you didn't hear mentioned: The global economic crisis, the swooning financial markets, the record-high poverty rate and the decline of median family income, energy and the environment. But take heart: We still have at least a dozen debates to go!
Photo: The Republican presidential candidates gather before the Sept. 22 debate in Orlando, Fla. Credit: John Raoux / Associated Press