At Saturday's Republican debate, the night belonged to the three Governors. I give the win to Chris Christie because he not only asserted himself and his extensive experience as a federal prosecutor and chief executive but also because he pounded Marco Rubio who, I believe, never recovered. John Kasich pretty much tied Christie for the win by both appealing to the large number of independents who are expected to vote on Tuesday -- and by redefining the meaning of "conservative" as a having a big enough tent to include both economic growth and fiscal conservative and those with the compassion to care about those who, in Kasich's words, "live in the shadows".

Jeb Bush was on fire in this debate. He went head to head against Donald Trump and clobbered him. The issue of eminent domain is a big one in New Hampshire and Bush helped sort it out by refining the difference between the exercise of government power in the public interest vs. using it on behalf of selfish interests. "Was it the public interest, Donald, to try to remove an old woman from her home?" Bush asked Trump. Bush got the cheers. Bush also defined conservatism as emphasis on the Tenth Amendment - a popular theme among all conservatives.

The world was turned upside down in this debate. The three big winners in Iowa were the biggest losers at the debate. Rubio, who was soaring in the polls and who I expected to perform well again in New Hampshire, was simply out of his league at St. Anselm's College. Christie hammered him on never having had to make an important decision in his life. Rubio listed his accomplishments. The list was thin and included some fiction, as well, as Christie noted. Rubio tried to stay on message but it looked, sounded, and felt canned. The more Christie hammered, the more Rubio was booed. What had previously appeared to be eloquence in past debates, was reduced to emptiness at this debate.

Trump also found an unfriendly crowd. Frankly his responses were the same old same old. He was booed loudly for telling Bush to be quiet. He even attacked the crowd for being only representative of donors and special interests. The crowd did not like that. He argued that Mexico "is devastating New Hampshire with jobs" - but the state has been experienced lots of job growth.

Cruz was the most conservative of all the candidates. He was strong on North Korea, on waterboarding, on immigration. He was the most specific on immigration he has ever been. But this is New Hampshire and this is not a conservative state. While Ronald Reagan won in 1980 and Pat Buchanan squeaked by a tight race in 1996 against two moderates, this state has been won by the likes of George H.W. Bush, John McCain (twice), and Mitt Romney. Cruz told a compelling personal story about heroin addiction and his half-sister. But every time Christie nailed a very young and inexperienced Marco Rubio and his thin resume, Cruz was hurt by the same attack.

Ben Carson was genuine and gracious. He refused to take the bait from the moderators and decided not to attack Cruz for an ill-advised mistake in Iowa. He was also the most prepared for this debate than he has ever been. He helped himself but tonight was his valedictory, a good way to exit the race with dignity.

Many voters, especially independents, have not made up their minds on how they will vote. I think we will see that Christie and Kasich have helped themselves considerably. Bush displayed all the reasons why he would be a good nominee, except that of being the third Bush in a generation. Cruz, Trump, and Rubio will probably deflate.