In Tuesday night's GOP foreign policy debate in Washington, D.C., Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul proved themselves the strongest candidates, while Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry barely squeaked by and Herman Cain and Rick Santorum were left floundering.
Here, read the top quotes of the night, and get a full rundown of the Republican candidates' performances at the CNN debate.
Mitt Romney: B+/A-
Romney made a strong showing and countered some criticisms of his seeming softness on immigration by being one of the toughest on immigration reform.
He stayed mainly in the background, which we've come to expect, but except for one very early (and very memorable) gaffe, he made a strong showing.
1. I'm Mitt Romney. And yes, Wolf, that's also my first name.
Actually, it isn't. Romney's real name is Willard Mitt Romney, and the slip has been going viral ever since.
2. Amnesty is a magnet. That's only going to encourage more people to come illegally. ... I'm not going to start drawing lines here about who gets to stay and who gets to go.
Romney was, for the most part, the hardest on immigration, in a shift from previous debates. He made a strong point that Latin America has been neglected in discussions of national security, and was tough on the border issues as well.
3. Just one more country with a flag.
Romney went after President Barack Obama, claiming he acts like America is just one country among many rather than a special force on the global scene, and accused Obama of apologizing for America rather than championing it.
Michele Bachmann: B
Bachmann was a pleasant surprise. The Tea Party favorite spoke knowledgably about foreign policy, especially in reference to Pakistan. Her comments on terrorists however, raised some eyebrows, and the candidate still didn't present herself as strongly as Huntsman, Gingrich or Romney.
1. It's highly naïve.
Bachmann went after Perry for asserting that Pakistan shouldn't get one penny from the U.S. until it proves it's an American ally. The line is well-played, but considering Perry has dropped this line before, obviously prepped beforehand.
2. [Obama] has handed over the interrogation of terrorists to the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union].
This comments generated some applause and some shaking heads. Bachmann went on to say that terrorists don't have Miranda rights or civil liberties, comments that Santorum ran with in his discussion of profiling.
3. Pakistan is a nation, that it's kind of like too nuclear to fail.
Bachmann displayed an impressive grip of the situation in Pakistan, and the country's relationship with China. She argued that China's moves to befriend Pakistan, at the expense of U.S. interests, sprang from a similar need to secure its nuclear weapons.
Herman Cain: D
Cain floundered throughout the foreign policy debate, unsurprising given his recent embarrassing interview on the situation in Libya. He also committed another gaffe, adding what is sure to be one more viral video to his impressive collection.
1. I would work with people that know better to make a plan.
Throughout the debate, Cain avoided giving an opinion on the actions he would take as president, often citing those he would ask for advice over his own theories. Such a strategy is healthy (in part) in practice, but is political kryptonite in a presidential debate.
2. If you take a look at the people who have tried to kill us, it would be easy to identify what that profile looks like.
Cain, like Santorum, was firmly in favor of profiling, which he called targeted identification. When moderator Wolf Blitzer compared the profiling of Muslims and Arabs to that of Christians or Jews, however, Cain rejected the comparison as simplistic.
A classic blunder. Cain mistakenly called Wolf Blitzer by an abbreviation of his name. Blitzer's response: Cain?
Rick Santorum: C-/D+
The former Pennsylvania senator came off far more radical and hawkish than he probably intended, advocating racial profiling to combat terrorism and making one egregious error when discussing the African continent.
1. I'm concerned about the spread of socialism.
A reference to Hugo Chavez of Venezuela that sounds straight out of the 1950s. Santorum's comment may have struck a chord with some frightened by Occupy Wall Street's leanings, but Twitter is already abuzz with McCarthy comparisons.
2. [The U.S. is] the shining city on the hill.
He got into the Thanksgiving spirit a little early, expounding on the Puritan principle that America should be a moral compass for the rest of the world. He advocated U.S. aid to any country that needs it, sending troops in when necessary.
3. Africa was a country on the brink of chaos.
Santorum was apparently channeling Michele Bachmann here. GOP reactions? Ron Paul smirks. Herman Cain nods in agreement.
Jon Huntsman: A-
Huntsman made a very strong appearance, sticking to the foreign policy issues discussed even when his fellow candidates veered far off course. His biggest focus was on Pakistan, but he also addressed the ways in which domestic policy affects U.S. actions abroad.
1. Pakistan is the country that should keep us up at night.
Huntsman advocated using drone planes and Special Forces against al-Qaeda. He has the diplomatic background to back up his words, even as Bachmann redirects the conversation to Pakistan's relationship with China.
2. I would listen to our commanders on the ground.
Huntsman has been gunning for Romney since the debates began, and Romney finally returned the favor when the debate turned to Afghanistan. We can't cut and run, he said. Huntsman's response was to compare Afghanistan to Vietnam, saying listening only to the generals at the Pentagon and not the troops stationed abroad was what turned that conflict sour.
3. Our biggest problem is right here at home. And you can see it on every street corner. It is called joblessness.
Given that Huntsman probably has the most foreign policy experience of all the GOP candidates on the debate stage, he made an interesting choice by turning the conversation back home. He did so however, by saying that U.S. domestic economy has a direct effect on our national security, affecting our country's image, resources and immediate future.
Ron Paul: A
Paul was a force to be reckoned with in the debate, which considering how often he veered from foreign policy, and how opposed he is to international involvement to begin with, is surprising. The congressman stuck by his ideals and expressed them eloquently, making a strong showing.
1. Why do we have this automatic commitment to Israel?
Paul's frustration over the other candidates' unquestioning support of the Jewish state reached a boiling-point halfway through the debate. Though his view may not be a popular one, his question is not outlandish, and certainly ties in with his general view that international aid is totally worthless.
2. The war on drugs undermines our civil liberties.
When the topic turned to war, Paul took the subject and twisted it to another war he feels the U.S. should cancel: the war on drugs. Paul reiterated his support for medical marijuana, but also went after welfare states, hitting both sides of his small-government viewpoint.
3. Terrorism is a tactic. It isn't a person. It isn't a people.
The Texas congressman was infuriated at Santorum's view that some rights were dispensable in times of war, and his advocating profiling of Muslims at airports. When Gingrich later voiced his support for the Patriot Act, Paul went after him too, calling the act unpatriotic and warning about the dangers of sacrificing liberty for security.
Newt Gingrich: A
Gingrich was on top of his game tonight, balancing tough words on global terrorism with a surprisingly balanced approach to immigration reform. Most opponents didn't take him on during this debate, but if his numbers continue to rise in the polls, that could change.
1. All of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives ... the dangers are literally that great.
The former House speaker had strong words about the threat of terrorism in the United States. This extended to his views on the Patriot Act, which he not only opposed changing but was considering strengthening and extending its reach.
2. We should be furious.
On the Osama bin Laden assassination, Gingrich played both sides with great finesse, showing he understood the effect the action had on U.S.-Pakistan relations but still striking at the heart of America's anger and pain over 9/11. Calling concern about relations with Pakistan a perfectly natural Washington assumption, Gingrich argued that America should have been the angry ones, for Pakistan having hidden the al-Qaida leader for so long.
3. I am prepared to take the heat for saying: Let's be humane in enforcing the law.
In a surprise twist, Gingrich advocated more moderate immigration laws than his fellow GOP candidates, saying there could be a middle line between deporting immigrants and granting them U.S. citizenship. He decried the deportation of families that had been in America for a quarter of a century or who came here at three years of age who wanted to start a path towards citizenship through military service or a similar avenue.
Rick Perry: C
Rick Perry performed better than Cain or Santorum, but the Texas governor still seemed lackluster next to his more eloquent rivals, and many of his jabs fell flat.
1. I believe life begins at conception and ends at immigration.
This nonsensical and offensive line appeared in the middle of a debate on immigration policies and the Mexican-American border. Perry went on to advocate a 21st century Monroe Doctrine, meaning that the U.S. would treat any foreign intervention in the Western Hemisphere as hostile to America, a policy largely abandoned since World War II.
2. Here we go again, Mitt.
Perry attempted to channel Ronald Reagan's famous jab against Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980. It fell flat, and Romney rallied with an impressive argument on immigration policy.
3. I think a no-fly zone is an option, one of a multitude of options that we should be using.
Perry's push for a no-fly zone over Syria was attacked by his fellow candidates. Cain felt the policy was too soft, arguing that we need to be serious about Syria. Romney meanwhile, pointed out that a no-fly zone was rather ineffective when Syria was using tanks, not planes, to suppress dissidents.