13 June 2011 8:28 PM, PDT | The Daily Beast | See recent The Daily Beast news »

Romney showed front-runner status, while Bachmann proved she belonged on stage. Mark McKinnon on why they shone-and the rest of the debaters flopped Monday night.Plus: More Daily Beast contributors on the Gop debate

The two clear winners in the Gop debate hosted Monday night in New Hampshire were former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Political debates are all about expectations. Mitt Romney had more than anyone to lose. Michele Bachmann had more than anyone to gain. Romney deftly fended off attacks particularly on health care, and Bachmann proved she's smart and credible, and has every right to be on the stage.

Related story on The Daily Beast: The Gop's Bin Laden Jitters

The rest were window dressing.

While former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum leapt out forcefully for a question or two, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich proved the depth of his knowledge, »

- Mark McKinnon

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