So who won the debate? Two people did. One was clearly Romney, who managed to stare down Pawlenty. Apart from a strong statement on Americans in uniform, inspired by a questioner who was a veteran, Pawlenty by contrast looked every bit the wimp he's been accused of being. If there was any hint of "fire in his belly", then Monday's group hug effectively extinguished it. And so Romney emerged as primus inter pares.
The other big winner was Michele Bachmann, who far exceeded everyone's low expectations for her – and her showing may well have knocked Palin out of the race (assuming she's still considering running).
Michelle Bachman is your second best candidate. This is like looking at your scorebook after a 90-24 AAU loss and seeing that your 8th best player got 3 late baskets and a free throw. Not much to build on.