JEB BUSH: Needed to have a good night and it didn't happen. He chose to attack Marco Rubio and that backfired. He was steady in his answers on some topics but seemed at times to wish he was somewhere else. Faces a real battle to stop his big money backers from heading to another candidate. His campaign is now really on death watch. The big loser of the night. 3/10

BEN CARSON: Wasn't as exposed on financial questions as some thought he may be, but then his questions were a lot softer than others. Steady performance and will continue to have support but may now have reached his peak in the polls. 5/10

CHRIS CHRISTIE: Got a bit more time and used it well. He talked about the concerns of average Americans and dismissed a question on gambling with passion and fire. Someone from another campaign told me it was Christie being Christie. And it worked for him. Slowly climbing the polls and this will help. 7/10


RELATED: Jeb Bush pins hopes on game-changing night in Boulder


TED CRUZ: Republicans never go wrong attacking the "mainstream media" but his outburst on the nature of the debate; the fact that candidates were being insulted and invited to attack others brought the loudest cheers of the night. Ironically, for someone demanding more substance, it created the breakthrough moment he needed and the thing most people will remember. More Republicans will now be looking at the senator from Texas. The night's big winner. 8/10

CARLY FIORINA: Solid, steady performance and again was forced into defending her record when she was the head of a computer company. Didn't make any mistakes, but didn't shine either. 5/10

MIKE HUCKABEE: The former Arkansas governor is convinced if he can get to the Iowa caucuses, he can get an unlikely win which will propel him to the White House. Didn't get as much time as others but is an accomplished TV performer when the camera's on him. Steady night. 5/10

JOHN KASICH: Came out all guns blazing, criticising others in the race for coming up with fantasy plans for taxation, talking nonsense on immigration and suggesting some on the stage simply weren't ready to lead the country. His frustration at not being able to break through in the polls is showing, but has the backing and the experience to hang in for a bit longer. Will want to avoid being the angry man all the time. 6/10

RAND PAUL: A largely anonymous performance for the senator from Kentucky. He went for an outstandingly long time without being called. And when he talked, he made his points but lacked the common touch of his father. He has never banked on having big donors and believes his grassroots campaign will carry him through many of the early contests. 4/10

MARCO RUBIO: Knew the attacks on his record in the Senate were coming and he batted them away and scored with his responses. Continued to take any question and flip it to his personal narrative with ease. A good night and will continue to build support. I've said before, he is everyone's second favourite candidate but fast becoming the favourite with more. 7/10

DONALD TRUMP: This is his first time going into the debates without a lead in the polls. Performed reasonably enough, but everyone in the spin room, except the Trump camp, is beginning to wonder if he's not on a slow slide down. The next debate is going to be important for him and another lacklustre performance will put his campaign in trouble. 6/10

Source: Al Jazeera