While center-stage, poll-topping Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will likely garner the most attention from Thursday's Fox News debate, influential Republicans, commentators, and reporters gravitated toward Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich as winners of Thursday night's theatrics.
As far as speaking time went, Trump was the clear winner, according to PBS's breakdown:
As far as social-media engagement went, Trump was the most-discussed candidate on Facebook, followed by neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The most talked-about moment on Facebook was when Christie and Paul went toe-to-toe on the NSA, according to a statement from the social networking site. Conservative radio host Glenn Beck tweeted that that was a breakout moment for Paul.
Commentator Teagan Goddard zeroed in on the Florida senator and the Ohio governor, while acknowledging that Trump would likely suck up all the attention.
Former George W. Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer liked Kasich (along with Rubio).
For what it's worth, liberal sex columnist Dan Savage picked Kasich, too:
GOP operative Rick Wilson tweeted another vote for Rubio:
Conservative radio host Dana Loesch also picked Rubio, adding in Texas Senator Ted Cruz to her mix:
Loesch was unimpressed by Bush:
The Club for Growth concentrated on inveighing against the front-runner. “This sounds like the worst of Washington politicians: Trump is proud that he made money from filing bankruptcies that cost thousands of jobs for Americans,” said Club for Growth President David McIntosh in a statement e-mailed by a spokesman during the debate. “That’s a terrible track record for a man who would inherit a massive national debt that will need to be addressed immediately in January 2017. The last thing we need is Donald bankrupting the United States."
The National Review's Rich Lowry and pollster Frank Luntz praised Carly Fiorina, bypassing the prime-time debate altogether:
As it happens, Luntz's Fox News focus group was not blown away by the Republican front-runner, moderator Megyn Kelly tweeted.
Former New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg advocated for creating a Frankenstein's monster of several of the contenders:
Texas Governor Greg Abbott chose Trump, particularly impressed by his dig at Rosie O'Donnell:
Trump, in shocking turn, agreed with Abbott and said he was the champion in a statement from his campaign.
"I am very proud of my great performance tonight," he said, according to the statement. "I am not a debate, but I am a winner. If I am elected, I will make this country a total winner—I will make Make America Great again."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Texas Governor Greg Abbott's last name.