Ron Paul reaffirmed his view that Newt Gingrich is a chickenhawk.
Rick Santorum called Ron Paul a liar.
Jon Huntsman explained to his fellow contenders that his marriage was not threatened by civil unions.
Gingrich said Barack Obama was "sincere" in his determination to create "a radical European socialist model" of governance.
Rick Perry proposed reinvading Iraq. Seriously.
Perry said that if he wasn’t debating, he’d be at the shooting range. Most of the rest of the candidates said they would be watching football — except for Paul, who said he’d be reading an economics text. Seriously.
Then the six men who would be president sent the better part of Saturday night’s debate arguing about contraception.
It was drab and uninspired debate. And so it should come as no surprise that the winner was the drab and uninspired frontrunner, Mitt Romney.
Indeed, said ABC News’ Jake Tapper, "It was almost as if they (the other candidates) were not aware that Mitt Romney is the frontrunner."
Instead of taking Romney down a few pegs on the eve of a primary polls that polls suggest he is likely to win, the other candidates pretty much gave Romney a pass. Indeed, even when they tried to damage him, it was with ineffectual jibes — like Santorum suggestion that the former governor and organizer of the Olympics is too much of a manager.
The only real dust-up between Romney and one of his challengers was a late-in-the-debate clash with Huntsman.
And Romney won that one. Big time.
Huntsman scored Romney for some protectionist statements regarding China.
Romney shot back that, while he and the other candidates on the stage were fighting the Obama administration’s policies in recent years, Huntsman was "implementing" them as the U.S. ambassador to China.
Huntsman responded by speaking Chinese.
Romney walked away stronger than he went in.
He also got off the best line of the night.
As the most arcane Republican presidential debate wrestled with a question about federal regulation of birth control, Romney wisely gave up and turned to Paul, the Texas congressman who has positioned himself as the most consistent defender of the Constitution in Washington.
"You can ask your Constitutionalist here.," said Romney. "I don’t know whether a state has a right to ban contraception. No state wants to… it’s kind of a silly thing I think."
Paul assured Romney and the rest that the 4th Amendment protects privacy.
But Romney was right. The whole debate was "kind of a silly thing."
And he walked away looking kind of like the likely nominee of the Republican Party.