I was looking for sparks and for each candidate in the first debate to define himself. They did not disappoint. I saw and heard quality, regardless of whether I agreed or disagreed with anything they said. At one and the same time, I saw a metaphor for the fundamental GOP problem this year. Stated simply, these guys just don't like each other. In addition to Santorum being testy with everyone, Jindal getting annoyed with Pataki and Santorum, and Graham just being angry - I also saw a brief moment when at a break, Santorum walked right in front of Pataki and did not say one word.

The other problem is that the party has a split, perhaps a hopeless one. On one side, there was Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal carving out the strict ideological position within the party - pro-life, anti-abortion, anti-Iran deal, and federal spending. They are the tree shakers. They don't like compromise, even though they have a record of doing just that. And they are the rejectionists who will go down with the ship.

Then there was George Pataki and Lindsey Graham trying to school the other guys on how the real world works. Pataki, in addition to his leadership in the aftermath of September 11, reminded those watching that he won election three times in the belly of the beast, advanced a conservative agenda, and also had to strike deals with a state Assembly that two to one Democrat. And Lindsey Graham, the successful legislator, suggesting that a realistic Senator knows when to fight battles and when to give in - especially if it can strengthen the party for other battles.

So they all carved out their personas and they benefited from having only four on the stage. Graham won, in my view, because he stayed on message, made additional points, but stayed focused on winning the war against radical Islam. But he also came off as folksy, humorous and most likable. Coming in a close second was Pataki who finally explained why he was running and what he brings to the table.

Santorum and Jindal are just too angry to lead a nation. Trying to make a case for one county clerk as a hero when her job is really to carry out the law is very weak and un-presidential. Comparing her to Rev. Martin Luther King who led a movement for change, as opposed to one lonely clerk who hasn't gotten any county clerk to sign on with her, was pretty lame.