Donald Trump: The New York billionaire skipped the Fox debate, giving his opponents two hours to attack without retaliation. But he was still the dominant presence, garnering as much attention with his counter-programming rally to raise money for veterans as the rest of the field combined.
Chris Christie: His focus on Hillary Clinton kept him above the squabbling senators.
James S. Gilmore III: The former Virginia governor, finally allowed into a debate for the first time this campaign, got chance to tell voters something few of them knew: He is running for president — in 2016.
Held their own
Jeb Bush: The former Florida governor had his best debate yet as he challenged Marco Rubio’s leadership. But a quarter of Iowa voters have consistently said they can’t support the former Florida governor, and he did little to dispel their concerns over his record.
Ted Cruz: Without Mr. Trump around, the Texas Republican was the top dog on a diminished stage. But he stumbled on his too-cute immigration stance during the 2013 Senate debate.
Marco Rubio: Mr. Rubio had been the most consistent debater throughout and tallied another solid performance, but Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s questions about his flip-flop on immigration — punctuated by video clips — were devastating.
John Kasich: The audience he’s trying to reach was in New Hampshire, not Iowa. Voters that liked his center-right view of the world coming into the event, likely still do, and those that didn’t, likely still don’t.
Rand Paul: Mr. Paul made his triumphant return to the prime-time debate stage and reminded the political world that his libertarian brand of conservatism has limited appeal among GOP voters in 2016.
Ben Carson: The retired neurosurgeon is a decent and honorable candidate, but he has become a non-factor in the debates.