13 June 2011 9:22 PM, PDT | The Daily Beast | See recent The Daily Beast news »

Mitt Romney showed great strides from 2008, Michele Bachmann was smart on policy, and Rick Santorum deserved his seat at the table-but Pawlenty, along with Cain, Paul, and Gingrich-disappointed.Plus: More Daily Beast contributors on the Gop debate. And watch eight video highlights.

If you ask me for order of finish, I'd say Romney, Bachmann, and Santorum for the medals, with the rest interchangeably lagging. Romney was the most polished by far. Sometimes over-polished, as is his way, but he was much improved over 2008, when he was in fact pretty bad at this. His defense of his health-care plan was surprisingly strong and sharp, and I was surprised that he was challenged on it just once. Bachmann is smarter on policy than most people think, and she made good use of the minutes allotted to her. Santorum mostly trotted out tried and true platitudes (Obama has "embraced our enemies" ), but at »

- Michael Tomasky

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