Eight Republican presidential hopefuls duked it out on Thursday night in a Fox News and Washington Examiner sponsored debate in Ames, Iowa.

The debate ranged from reactions to the recent Standard & Poor's downgrade of long-term U.S. credit rating to the candidates' thoughts on illegal immigration.

Here are the night's winners and losers: 


Fox News

Fox News came out swinging in this debate, completely willing to challenge Republican candidates on tough issues. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrigh had to push back on Fox's "Gotcha questions" a few times, showing the broadcast company was willing to go after some of the conservative movement's best liked politicians.

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace was particularly tough in his line of questioning, especially to Gingrich on his loss of staff members.

Newt Gingrich

The former Speaker of the House had fallen off the map recently, notably after many of his chief strategists left his campaign, but he came back strong in this debate. He was sharp, crisp, and had some good memorable lines sprinkled throughout his talking points.

One of the best points he brought up, which most candidates have ignored, was when he talked about the likely failure of Congress' "Super Committee." Gingrich proposed cutting the program already and just get Congress back in session and deal with the process through usual legislative means.

It's unclear whether this debate can launch Gingrich back into the race, but it should at least get him back in the conversation, something that couldn't be said for the past month.

Mitt Romney

Romney, the former 2008 presidential hopeful, didn't have one spectacular moment, but held consistent throughout the whole debate and didn't get caught up in the bickering that dragged other candidates down.

Romney focused on his business background, at one point harping on the fact he was able to get Massachusetts an upgrade from S&P when he was governor.  He stressed the need for budget cuts, job creation, and the importance of the private sector - all messages directed at the fiscal conservative base.


Tim Pawlenty

If Pawlenty was looking for a boost to his slumping campaign, this debate didn't do it. Pawlenty got caught up in bickering with Congresswoman Bachmann and outside of a solid line about mowing Romney's lawn, didn't impress.

It certainly wasn't for lack of effort though. Pawlenty took big swings at every fastball that came his way, but was unable to hit a home run. Bachmann likely won the public's score of their debate skirmish, despite Pawlenty's best efforts to leapfrog his fellow Minnesotan. Bachmann nailed a major hit when she compared his size of government views to those of President Barack Obama.

With a lackluster debate outing, the end might be near for the former Minnesota governor - especially with Texas governor Rick Perry expected to announce his presidential campaign on Saturday.

Rick Santorum

Look at me! Look at me! Will someone please ask me a question? Rick Santorum resorted to begging for attention during the debate, as the debate moderators largely avoided talking to the longshot candidate.

Santorum was eventually able to get in a few points here and there - and certainly worked hard for them - but overall did nothing over the course of the debate to really launch himself into the national discussion. He continues to linger on the way outside, and this debate won't change that.

Jon Huntsman

Similar to Pawlenty and Santorum, the longshot candidate just didn't do enough to warrant major media attention for the long run. He claimed he didn't have an economic plan due to only announcing his campaign a month and a half ago, but that's a lost opportunity.

He scored some points in referencing his experience as ambassador to China in the hacking debate, but missed on domestic job creation. The former Utah governor continues to stumble along in the process, notably shown in a Politco piece on his campaign, and the opportunities will begin to run out soon.

Rest of Field

Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain all had ups and downs over the course of the debate. If you liked Ron Paul going into this debate he likely reaffirmed those feelings, though didn't do much to appeal to anyone outside of his libertarian base. Paul will certainly get drilled in the future about his leftist views on Iran's nuclear operations, a point that Rick Santorum tried to drive in big-time.

Bachmann certainly won the duel with Pawlenty, but didn't quite dominate the night like Gingrich or gain momentum like Romney. She still is likely sitting solidly in second nationwide and should win the Iowa straw poll on Saturday.

Cain continued to entertain but was still a bit rough around the edges. The former Godfather Pizza CEO was at his best talking about business growth, but continued to stumble a bit over touchy religious subjects. He's hanging right in the middle of the large Republican field, which this debate won't impact either positively or negatively.