Actually we all lost the GOP debate Thursday night. The event went a full 71 minutes before any substance was discussed. We suffered embarrassing exchanges between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on natural born citizenship. That one lasted far too long but Cruz got the better of it. He dismissed Trump’s charges as false and came back with a previously unknown fact that Trump’s mother was Scottish and a better known fact that Trump never raised the “birther” issue on Cruz until the polls between the two actually tightened. A stupid rejoinder to a stupid issue. Judging by the audience’s response, Trump received a lot of boos on this one. Point for Cruz.

The second bout of stupidity was an exchange between Marco Rubio and Chris Christie. To be fair, a candidate cannot always control what one of its support PACs say in a commercial, but Rubio honestly supported the charges that Christie was an Obama-like liberal because he allegedly “wrote a check for Planned Parenthood” as well as supported gun control and Common Core. Christie was able to deftly dismiss these charges and the factual record is on Christie’s side.

Donald Trump did not like the comments made earlier in the week by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who warned against anger by admitting he “likes Nikki but I am angry about the mess we are in.” And Cruz scored against Trump again by reminding the audience that Trump once supported gun control because “I am from New York” – neither the position nor the geography things that play well in South Carolina.

Silly stuff. Goofy to be sure. But then the debate moved to some substance and the candidates performed a lot better.

All the candidates got a fair amount of time because only seven of them were on the stage. All stated conservative positions adequately but there were some substantial differences in demeanor (the angry vs. the steady) and policy. Here is how I see the results based solely on who I can picture as a GOP President.

Chris Christie:The New Jersey governor was the winner. He emerges as the leader of the establishment and a forceful representative of the moderate, conservative establishment. He has a successful alternative governance model to consider.

John Kasich: He got the chance to state and restate his successful experience in both Congress and in Ohio. He, like Christie, has a solid mantra about making government work for people and a force for good.

Jeb Bush: This was his best debate and moment. He came off as the steady hand and as a reminder that anger is not a platform. He stood up to Trump’s comments on banning all Muslims by offering a more reasonable policy of tweaking the US vetting policy for refugees.

Ted Cruz: Cruz scored a lot of points and is the leader of the conservative wing. He is a seasoned debater and made Trump look like a minor league bench warmer by reminding him (and everybody else) that he argued for the Constitution at the Supreme Court for many years.

Marco Rubio: Rubio was eloquent and focused as usual but we are getting closer to voters casting a ballot but he took his hits in this debate. He effectively went after Cruz and held his ground on defense. But Cruz wounded him too. Are either of them ready to really be President of the United States?

Donald Trump: The GOP frontrunner is master of the one liner and the angry rhetoric. No doubt he has support but he got a lot of boos and hisses tonight. Corporate raider Carl Icahn as a negotiator for the United States against China? Angry voters are also angry against Wall Street, too. I am not sure what happens in the polls. I am sure he has a lot of support among those who want to punch someone – especially a public servant – in the nose. But there was some vulnerability tonight.

Ben Carson: Carson fading in the polls because there is just no there there.