A recurrent Chait blog theme that looked good tonight: Pay attention to Michelle Bachmann. I was not surprised by her performance, but everybody else was.

A recurrent Chait blog theme that looked bad tonight: Tim Pawlenty as front-runner. Boy, did he look weak, especially when he refused to defend his "Obamneycare" line. There's going to be a wimp narrative, and Republicans like their men manly.

A few thoughts on substance --

Pawlenty defended his promise of 5% annual growth by saying China did it, therefore we can too. That's ridiculous. There's huge growth potential in moving people from small farms to factories. But there's no record of advanced industrialized economies growing at such a sustained pace.

Mitt Romney was incoherent on the auto bailout in ways that merit further exploration. He began by lambasting the Obama administration's auto bailout as just handing out money. But then, pressed about his prediction that a bailout would destroy the industry, he insisted he was saying this would only happen if the government handed out money to the automakers wantonly. The implication, then, is that Obama avoided the mistake that Romney had just accused him of committing. I'd love to hear this teased out at more length.

Pawlenty's answer on the separation of church and state underscored the degree to which the concept of separation of church and state has lost all legitimacy on the right. Pawlenty depicted religious liberty as solely applying to religious Americans fearing an anti-religious government.

Newt Gingrich seemed to approach my parody Newt breakthrough proposalby talking up tax credits to encourage exploring outer space. No dinosaurs, sadly.