All the Republicans came out to play hard tonight but Senator Marco Rubio and Governor John Kasich clearly won—but for two different reasons. Rubio weathered very tough attacks with facts, passion and style. He was asked very difficult questions about personal finances which he deflected by bonding with his fellow middle class families and claiming he faced tough decisions. He was bombarded on not showing up to work and hating his job as a Senator and he was prepared with facts about other candidates who ran from the Senate and missed votes. Rubio also forthrightly addressed the charge that a young man should wait to run for the high office. He was answering his call—the timing is now. And the Florida senator lambasted the moderators for asking uncivil questions. Rubio faced the heat and emerged solidly.

Mr. Kasich came out firing his guns. He stayed focused on his record and it is an impressive one. He was a Congressional leader who actually balanced the federal budget, cut taxes and grew the Ohio economy, led his state to job growth, and is known as an innovator. He got a chance to say it. He came out hard and he won on substance.

They were closely followed by former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Senator Ted Cruz. Fiorina is simply very strong. She laughed at herself and came off human. She not only defended her record at HP but made sense out of it. She weathered a tough question about one of her supporters who is an elitist: “Now you see why we had arguments in the board room.” Sensible, modulated, she is the lady who gets it done. She did nothing to dispel that notion.

Senator Ted Cruz is sharp and will rise in the polls after tonight. He is the outsider working on the inside. He is the most passionate and, after tonight, made enough of a presence to pick up some votes from Donald Trump and Ben Carson, as well as Rand Paul.

In the middle of the pack were Governor Chris Christie and former Governor Mike Huckabee. They won on style—Huckabee is the master of folksy metaphors and Christie is the trash talking guy from “Joisey.” Very entertaining but nothing to brag about.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Rand Paul were just overwhelmed. They seem to be overtaken by time and other candidates cutting into their support. Bush is just too mild. If voters are looking for a successful governor, they have Kasich. If voters are looking for a Ron Paul libertarian, they have Ted Cruz.I think Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson were just out of their leagues tonight. Trump still has zingers but Republicans are getting to close to a voting decision and his bravado and lame defense for being a rich guy who used bankruptcy laws to make himself fat are running on empty. Heard that before.

Dr. Carson is making it up as he goes along. He lamely defended his positions on corporate boards but his tithing flat tax has huge holes in it. He has no real economic plan and cannot rely on any record where he made it work (like a Kasich or a Fiorina) or defend it to economists.

But listening to the audience tonight, the real loser was “the mainstream media.” The media, specifically CNBC, got bashed and trashed to the loudest applause. Best line of the night: Christie who told John Harwood that “even in New Jersey, that is rude.”