The Note: Debate Night Takeaways

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidates take the stage during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. AP Photo
Republican presidential candidates take the stage during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif.


--THE MOMENTS THAT MATTERED AT THE DEBATE: Former President Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment -- not criticizing a fellow Republican -- took more than a few hits last night, as the GOP presidential candidates sparred at the second debate of the primary season. The showdown at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, had significantly different stakes than the first debate. Establishment favorites Scott Walker and Jeb Bush flanked frontrunner Donald Trump last month, but they have been slipping in the polls. Meanwhile, neurosurgeon Ben Carson is gaining momentum -- now the only candidate even close to Trump -- who has topped 30 percent in recent national polls and continues to lead in early states. There was one additional podium this time: former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was a last-minute add to the stage after gaining momentum in the polls because of a strong performance in the undercard debate last month. ABC's RICK KLEIN, RYAN STRUYK, SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, CANDACE SMITH and JORDYN PHELPS have more.

--WATCH the debate in a minute: BY THE NUMBERS:

--THE BEST ZINGERS: It was more OMG than GOP Wednesday night. ABC's MERIDITH MCGRAW reports, the second Republican debate was filled with memorable lines and zingers ranging from quips to personal attacks by candidates -- many from frontrunner Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina.

--ANALYSIS by ABC's RICK KLEIN: Since nothing seems to have worked in attempts to stop Donald Trump, his rivals tried a new strategy at the second Republican debate: everything. It didn't make Trump go away, and nothing is likely to have happened that would make his growing support suddenly crater. But Trump faded for long stretches -- and seemed more vulnerable than he did at the first debate, in front of a far-more raucous crowd. A tuned-in public saw a frontrunner with limitations in sharp view -- and who seemed to meet his match in the only female candidate in the field. ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE discusses three of the biggest moments of the night on World News Now this morning: And Walshe gives some analysis about how Fiorina and Rubio pulled off their big wins of the night:

--BREAKING DOWN THE GOP DEBATE. Political commentators Matthew Dowd and LZ Granderson offered their takes on who won and who lost last night. WATCH:

TODAY ON THE TRAIL with ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: It was a late night, but the candidates are back on the campaign trail today. One of the clear winners was Carly Fiorina and on GMA this morning she said she was "very satisfied" with her performance. Donald Trump took the red eye (in his own plane, of course) back last night and he's in New Hampshire today, holding a rally in Rochester this evening. Jeb Bush stayed on the west coast. Today he's in Las Vegas for a rally this evening. Rand Paul is also in Nevada, the first state in the west to vote. He makes four stops around the state. John Kasich and Ted Cruz both remain in California for events.

Hillary Clinton makes three stops, including one this evening around the same time as The Donald, but in a different city. Joe Biden may not be a candidate, but it is hard to tell from the official travel he's on today, including stops in Detroit and Columbus, Ohio. Martin O'Malley is in Denver, attending a marijuana legalization listening session, not something you traditionally see on campaign trail schedules.


HOW CARLY FIORINA RESPONDED TO TRUMP'S 'FACE' COMMENT. It's a faceoff for the ages. Carly Fiorina took on rival Republican candidate Donald Trump at the debate Wednesday night, swinging back at him for making comments seemingly about her appearance in a recent magazine article.

JEB BUSH ADMITS TO SMOKING POT -- THEN TELLS HIS MOM HE'S 'SORRY.' At the second Republican presidential debate, Jeb Bush acknowledged what no mother wants to hear. "Forty years ago, I smoked marijuana and I admitted it," Bush said. "I'm sure other people did it and didn't want to admit it in front of 40 million people." Perhaps knowing that his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, wouldn't be pleased, he had to add an apology, ABC's CANDACE SMITH writes. "My mom's not happy that I just did. That's true," Bush said, to applause.

DONALD TRUMP LOOMS OVER LOWER-TIER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE WITHOUT EVEN BEING THERE. Donald Trump may not have been on stage for the first debate Wednesday--but he certainly was in the spotlight. ABC's RYAN STRUYK and SHUSHANNAH WALSHE report, the real estate mogul dominated early discussion in the bottom-tier debate on Wednesday night, even though he was slated to appear in the mainstage debate two hours later.

AHMED MOHAMED, TEXAS TEEN ARRESTED FOR CLOCK, BECOMES ISSUE AT GOP DEBATE. The Texas teen arrested after his homemade digital clock was mistaken for a bomb went from getting the attention of President Obama to the attention of the GOP Presidential hopefuls at Wednesday's debate.Ahmed Mohamed, 14, was taken into custody on Monday at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas after a digital clock he crafted himself was mistaken for a bomb by school officials. Tonight, CNN debate moderator Jake Tapper asked Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal about the difference between vigilance and discrimination against the Muslim community, premising the question on Mohamed's arrest. ABC's MERIDITH MCGRAW has more.

WHY LINDSEY GRAHAM WAS TRENDING AFTER HIS DEBATE. While the leading 2016 Republican presidential candidates take their podiums, there is already one clear victor from the earlier "undercard" primary debate held among the lower-polling primary contenders: South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. With poll numbers that have consistently hovered around 1 percent so far, the Senate war hawk has always had one thing: a sense of humor. But Wednesday his jokes hit high notes, earning him applause and laughs that have many calling him that debate's obvious winner, ABC's ALI DUKAKIS writes. Indeed, according to Google, Graham was the most searched candidates from the early debate.

TWITTER GOES CRAZY OVER HUNK BEHIND JAKE TAPPER. Here's a good question -- who's that dude? While politicians traded barbs and talked policy, Twitter had its eye on the breakout star of the GOP forum: the guy sitting behind moderator Jake Tapper. The man in the gray suit sitting over Tapper's shoulder seemed to make hearts flutter on social media, ABC's JESSICA HOPPER writes. For the millions watching the presidential debate at home, some seemed fixated on him, calling him "eye candy" and pleading for him to get in touch.

DONALD TRUMP AND BEN CARSON SHARE AWKWARD HIGH FIVE. I love you man? The two leading GOP candidates in the polls shared an awkward yet friendly moment on stage last night during the second Republican debate when the business mogul tried, but failed to high-five the retired neurosurgeon. The two "outsider" politicians have been cordial towards each other during the debate, avoiding direct attacks against each other, according to ABC's VERONICA STRACQUALURSI.


HILLARY CLINTON SAYS DONALD TRUMP'S HAIR IS LIKE 'SOFT SERVE AT DAIRY QUEEN.' It's not just his flamboyant personality and over-the-top rhetoric. Hillary Clinton is now going after Donald Trump's hair, ABC's LIZ KREUTZ notes. During her appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" last tonight, Clinton mocks the Republican presidential candidate's famous coif -- joking that he has "one strand that he twirls over his head like a soft serve at Dairy Queen." Clinton makes the remark during a sketch where she sits down for a phone interview with Fallon, who pretends to be Donald Trump.


@ItsDavidFord: Young Republicans Abandon Trump, Move Toward Fiorina... (via @FusionNews)

@TheFix: Carly Fiorina's touching personal story about drugs registers as a huge debate moment.

@ByronYork: Most candidates are happy if they have one Big Moment; can coast on it for weeks. Fiorina had at least four.

@ThePlumLineGS: How many times has Trump continued climbing in polls after pundits confidently concluded Trump-ism has burned out?

@LincolnChafee: Wow, so much anti @Obama vitriol #GOPDebate. THEY forget the mess THEY handed him in '08- deficits, freefall economy, broken MIddle East.