From CNN's Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider's live coverage:
Huckabee scores in debates - 08:22 PM ET
Huckabee speaks in a manner using a language that connects with ordinary voters.
McCain and Romney sound like politicians. His appeal is that he doesn’t.
He won the Iowa caucuses because of his performance in the debates. It was the debates that put him out in front in Iowa – in a debate like this, he could make some gains.
Huckabee's common-sense response - 08:33 PM ET
Huckabee’s answer on climate change sounds like a common sense defense of federalism– right or wrong, Californians should be able to make the decision for themselves. And he brings up “unfunded mandates” – major negative buzzwords for GOP primary voters.
Common sense talk on stimulus ideas - 08:36 PM ET
Huckabee is still speaking in a language ordinary people understand. He communicates, and his infrastructure project makes sense. Most voters are pretty cynical about the rebates. They welcome them, but don’t think they’ll make a big difference.
Huckabee gets back in the game - 09:02 PM ET
He can’t compete with Romney’s millions – this is the only way he has a level playing field.
Not that he’ll be the nominee – but he could get a boost out of this, which would keep him in the race a while longer. That’s a problem for Romney, who’s plugging himself as the conservative alternative.
Meanwhile, McCain’s being cautious and evasive for fear of offending conservatives – and opening up a vulnerability in the long term.
The bystander benefits - 09:14 PM ET
The McCain-Romney debate diminished both candidates – they looked like squabbling politicians. Who benefits? Huckabee.
Huckabee scores again - 09:15 PM ET
More common sense from Huckabee – and on foreign policy, an area that’s been tricky for him this campaign season.
Huckabee makes a great case - 09:32 PM ET
This is one of the better answers for why a governor should become president I’ve ever heard — a very compelling and eloquent answer. This is how he scores points in debates — in this case, a well-spoken defense of federalism, a very deep Republican theme.
He simply speaks in terms people relate to. He makes sense.
The night's big winner: Huckabee - 09:49 PM ET
Huckabee, I think, stood out in this debate as the one who made sense, talked as ordinary people do, and rose above politics. They may have scored. He connected. And that’s a problem for Romney, who would like to become the alternative to John McCain among conservatives who oppose the Arizona senator. But he has very tough competition from Huckabee, who’s forcing people to re-think his run at a time when he was supposed to be out of the game.
But this has always been the way he’s worked: Romney uses money to stay competitive. Huckabee has debates.
I don’t think McCain made many gains – and I think he may have caused people to re-think the race. I don’t think this was his strongest night, not because he was under attack. But because he wasn’t a straight talker. He talked very much like a politician. He was making a lot of charges at Romney – some of which, like the timetable charge, seemed very questionable.
A couple of Romney’s answers were quite good, particularly on the Iraq timetables issue. I don’t think he did himself any harm. But I think the one who really helped himself was Huckabee.
All in all: Huckabee gained ground, McCain probably lost ground, and Romney didn’t help or hurt himself – although he did effectively defend himself. McCain sounded petty – and that’s not the McCain voters know and like.
But to the extent that Huckabee may have made any gains from his performance, Romney’s got bigger worries out of tonight than the Arizona senator.