GOP battle: Rubio down, Trump up, Cruz flat, Christie muscles in

For their part, Team Christie was delighted. More than delighted. “Oh man, it was the clearest one yet!” campaign manager Mike DuHaime exclaimed as he walked into the spin room, as if Christie had had a string of victories before but this one was the most decisive. “He’s prepared to give one-minute speeches,” DuHaime said of Rubio. “He’s not prepared to be president of the United States.”

DuHaime predicted Christie’s performance would pay off in the polls and on election day: “I think he’s going to climb quickly after this.” Christie will need the boost. Back in late December and early January, he was in the low double digits in the RealClearPolitics average of New Hampshire polls. Then, as January went on and the political world’s attention focused on Iowa — Christie himself made a swing or two there — Christie began a slow slide in the Granite State. Now, he’s about five percent in the RCP average. Even if he does get a much-needed jolt from the debate performance, there’s almost no time to take advantage of it before Tuesday.

Still, Christie had about the best night he could have had. And, by the way, fellow governors Jeb Bush and John Kasich had pretty good evenings, too — so much that ABC’s Jonathan Karl called the debate “the revenge of the governors.”

The other leading candidate, Ted Cruz, had only a so-so night. But that was fine with him.