1. It was a mostly enjoyable debate (if you like that sort of thing - and I do.) There were some heated exchanges on issues like foreign policy and especially constitutional and policy federalism.
2. The debate featured almost nothing in the way of talk of entitlement reform or positive health care policy (rather than the grounds and intensity of opposition to Obama's health care policy.) They also weren't asked questions about it. There is no sustainable budget without enormous tax increases absent reforms to those partly overlapping sectors and we heard very little about it.
3. If the Republican nomination race were simply a demagoguery contest, Bachmann would win every state, plus Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. Her answers on the debt ceiling were perfectly crafted to hide the consequences of refusing to raise the debt ceiling and thereby having to balance the budget in one year without tax increases. Santorum mentioned the likely consequences one time. The panelists let her off the hook.
4. Pawlenty's attacks were feeble. He still doesn't have a vivid, fact-based narrative of how he brought spending down in Minnesota. People know that Bachmann fought against this, that and the other thing. People have, at best, only the vaguest sense of what Pawlenty did in Minnesota and there is no emotional resonance there. Thanks to Bachmann, people also know (or think they know) that he supported an individual health insurance purchase mandate and implemented cap and trade. His main argument against Bachmann is that he is a winner and she is a loser. From what people have been able to see in the debates, the reverse appears to be true.
5. As far as I can tell, Bachmann's political skills are limited to those that can appeal to a subgroup of previously committed conservatives, but those skill are impressive within those limits. I strongly doubt that she can win the nomination, or, if she gets the nomination, the presidency. I can just barely imagine a scenario where Bachmann gets elected President. First she wins Iowa and Romney wins New Hampshire. Perry fades and all the other candidates are marginalized. Then it comes out that Romney uses puppies for batting practice and Bachmann wins by default. Then we have a second banking crisis. Credit is frozen even worse than in 2008, GDP collapses and the unemployment rate starts going up at the rate of 1% a month. She might still lose to Obama even under those circumstances.
6. No one laid a glove on Romney.
7. Gingrich got back some of his old mojo. Part of it was he was able to effectively revert to victim politics by positioning himself against the hated gotcha liberal Fox News media that had the temerity to ask him about the management and fundraising problems of his campaign. Part of was that he actually has a record of getting good policy out of divided government (and then being bounced from power by his own party.) If he hadn't revealed himself to be a fraud with his cynical attack on the Ryan PTP (and it was the transparent cynicism rather than the attack itself that did him in) people would be talking about him as almost a real contender to get the nomination.