Fox hosted another debate last night. It was one of the better ones in my opinion. I must admit I missed the bulk of the second half due to a DVR conflict, since I was taping Burn Notice and Beavis and Butthead. As much as i love Ron Paul, I'm not missing Beavis and Butthead. The first half featured the best and worst of the presumed frontrunner, Newt Gingrich. The good: he was eloquent in channeling peoples' anger at the federal judiciary. The bad: Michele Bachmann pretty much destroyed him over the FRE payments. You could literally hear his campaign sinking under her assault. If Arnold decides to make another Terminator movie, I think he should seriously consider Bachmann for a role as a Terminator. She certainly is not afraid to go for the kill. Tim Pawlenty thought it was a good plan to engage her. The next thing he knew, he was on the floor looking up at the lights ,wondering what hit him. Rick Perry thought he would skate in and grab the nomination. She tore him apart over the twin issues of the mandatory HPV vaccination and the big contributions that accompanied it. Now Gingrich has wandered into her kill zone. She also fired several clips of neo-con ammo at Ron Paul, but it is unclear if she scored any hits or perhaps shot herself in the process instead. Romney, as always, was Mr. 3 C's. Composed, confident and competent. He looks more presidential by the day. He is a reassuring figure in an increasingly crazy world. I heard nothing last night to damage any of that. Ron Paul was clearly the story of the night, along with the attacks on Newt. Paul's caution about foreign entanglements drives the Fox News staff apoplectic. Bret Baier tried several times to paint Paul into a corner over Iranian nukes, but Paul never wavered. Bachmann was close to foaming at the mouth over his refusal to commit to attack Iran, but Paul pointed out how many other odious regimes also have nukes. Are we going to attack all of them? Huntsman continues to impress (me at least), but he is going nowhere. Santorum and Perry are on borrowed time. Santorum has a big ground game in Iowa and may surprise at the caucuses, but that would say more about the wisdom of giving Iowa such prominence than it would about his chances. I thought the winners were Romney by virtue of the hits scored on Newt, Paul, who has clearly gone way past kook/ego candidate to become a genuine threat and Bachmann, who has a surprising ability to command the stage. The big loser to me was Newt. It's clear his big payday from FRE was influence peddling, pure and simple. He desperately needs to change the subject, but to do that he needs to answer the charges in a believable manner, and I can't see a way for him to do that. Rather than insult ou rintelligence with claims about consulting work, he would be better just to say, look, I had huge legal bills and a fine to pay, I was desperate for money and I had to take it.