Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN) – Five things we learned at the debate:
1) Michele Bachmann is now a candidate for president. The congresswoman from Minnesota was the only person on the stage who was not officially a candidate at the start of the debate. That changed minutes into the debate, when Bachmann told CNN's John King, the moderator of the debate that "I just want to make an announcement here for you, John, on CNN tonight. I filed today my paperwork to seek the office of the presidency of the United States today. And I'll very soon be making my formal announcement."
2) Mitt Romney is already running a general election campaign. The former Massachusetts governor, who is the front-runner in the most recent national GOP horserace polls, saved his firepower for President Barack Obama, going as far as saying "I can't wait to debate him." At the same time, Romney passed on criticizing any of his rivals on the stage, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who had in recent days attacked Romney over his Massachusetts health care law.
3) Tim Pawlenty's missed opportunity? The former Minnesota governor, when asked about his use Sunday of the term "Obamneycare," didn't strongly respond. Pawlenty's muted response, and Romney's lack of criticism of Pawlenty, avoided a political World War Three. Instead of taking on Romney, Pawlenty went after the president, saying "President Obama is - is the person who I quoted in saying he looked to Massachusetts for designing his program. He's the one who said it's a blueprint and that he merged the two programs. And so using the term "Obamneycare" was a reflection of the president's comments that he designed Obamacare on the Massachusetts health care plan."
4) Michele Bachmann's successful debate debut: The congresswoman from Minnesota had some of the best lines of the night, and because of that she received some of the loudest applause. But besides some strong one-liners, such as her "take it to the bank" comment on repealing the president's health care law, Bachmann also appeared to have strong responses on policy.
5) Newt Gingrich is still in the race. He wasn't asked about the mass defection of most of his campaign staff, and he didn't bring it up himself, but the former House Speaker did show that he came to play, that he is a serious presidential candidate. And his comment on loyalty to the government may have been the most shocking moment of the evening. He didn't back down from his criticism of House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal, either. Was Gingrich successful or did he dig himself a deeper hole?
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
All this talk about cutting entitlement spending, figures provided and Romney pointing out it accounting for over half the budget. What about cutting military spending?
It has been stated tonight that we have a $1.5 trillion deficit, what is your specific plan to get rid of the deficit?
Sounds to me like these candidates live in the past. I have been hearing the same old 'song" for years. In fact, it's the 'song' that got us into the mess we are in.
Right now all bets are off that the Republicans can carry Florida. Florida gov Rick Scott is so hated just the mention of his name brings out droves of Democrats and Independents. He might lose the state for the Republicans. watch! Obama needs Florida bad!
Great coverage. Doug.
Why is there no mention of ron paul? Oh wait, you don't want him to win. BE FAIR
Tim Pawlenty is a cowardly wimp in this debate, Ron Paul came out looking the best.
It's funny sad how Ron Paul isn't even mentioned.
I haven't had a chance to watch this yet, but if recent history is any indication I suspect the differences are in how they approach attacking Obama, not in how they sell themselves.
I'm rooting for the Republicans in this race, but quite frankly Michele Bachmann as a contender for any office is a terrifying prospect for the future of this country.
Ron Paul is the only chance
So we really learned nothing.
6) Ron Paul is more intelligent than anyone else that was on that stage tonight
7) Us media will continue to push our candidate and ignore what's best for the country... Ron Paul
That was a weak debate and nobody made it worth watching compared to the Bruins. Bachmann is a joke and will never get votes in New Hampshire. She's way too stupid for New Englanders.
Republicans in New Hampshire were watching the Bruins. Obama won tonight.
man i hope people at least give Ron Paul a chance. If not i guess ill vote for obama again.
Republicans are running on an I hate Obama platform. Lots of criticism and no ideas. Maybe I am old fashioned but a long time ago people ran on ideas and if they did not like something they at least had a competing idea. Nowadays it is nothing but smear complain procrastinate and offer nothing. When will someone run that has ideas or vision or something of substance and when will we quit letting these people play politics and block any idea just to score political points.
So what the writer of this article is saying...is that we learned there are only three candidates worth looking at. Romney, Bachmann and Gingrich. I love when the media tells us who to pay attention to. I also love how he uses Bachmann in two of the five responses.
I think all the candidates looked good tonight. Maybe some missed opportunities to showcase themselves. This is a good field of candidates. There is someone for everyone. Now let's see who pulls it out. :)
I thought Governor Romney was tonight's winner. He answered the questions concisely and accurately.
I learned two things: 1) None of them can count past 30. 2) Any question can easily be answered by blaming Obama for something totally irrelevant to the real question asked. If this level of logic was applicable back when I was in college, I would have earned a PHD in two weeks. This was a poor excuse for a debate.
The most important question came from the moderate Republic about the candidates' ability to include moderates and independents. it's clear that the field will continue to pander to the Tea Party. As a fellow moderate, I wanted to like at least one of them. It didn't happen.
OK, so we're back to the 'Ron Paul wasn't even there' coverage? How brave of you.
RON PAUL can and will beat Obama!
You didn't learn anything from Ron Paul? It seems you weren't listening.
#6. The American public has come a Loooong way toward the views of Ron Paul. Almost every question could have been taken from Paul's 2008 campaign that were scorned by the political establishment at the time. Monetary policy has become a national issue. Drastically reducing the size, scope, and function of government. No candidate lauded "nation building" or being in some contry for the next 50 years. THE QUESTIONS from the public were more telling than the answers.