That said, there were a few absolutely key moments — ones that told you a lot about the candidates on stage, and the state of the race as a whole. So I've compiled a little cheat sheet of the four important, interesting, or difficult exchanges for each candidate in the main debate: a sort of guide to what really mattered in last night's fete (many thanks to the Washington Post for providing a transcript with which to check quotes).
Most notable moment: "TAPPER: In an interview last week in Rolling Stone magazine, Donald Trump said the following about you. Quote, 'Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?' Mr. Trump later said he was talking about your persona, not your appearance. Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona.
FIORINA: You know, it's interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.
TRUMP: I think she's got a beautiful face, and I think she's a beautiful woman."
Most compelling speech (that was also entirely false): "As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it's heart beating, it's legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain."
Her foreign policy, in one sentence: "Having met Vladimir Putin, I wouldn't talk to him at all. We've talked way too much to him."
On the drug war: "My husband Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction. So, we must invest more in the treatment of drugs.
I agree with Senator Paul. I agree with states' rights. But we are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having a beer. It's not. And the marijuana that kids are smoking today is not the same as the marijuana that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago."
Most notable moment: That exchange with Fiorina above. It was just incredibly embarrassing for him.
Most outrageous, downright irresponsible claim: "Autism has become an epidemic. Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control.
I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. Because you take a baby in -- and I've seen it -- and I've seen it, and I had my children taken care of over a long period of time, over a two or three year period of time."
Most weirdly un-conservative foreign policy speech: "So, number one, they have to respect you. [Putin] has absolutely no respect for President Obama. Zero.
Syria's a mess. You look at what's going on with ISIS in there, now think of this: we're fighting ISIS. ISIS wants to fight Syria. Why are we fighting ISIS in Syria? Let them fight each other and pick up the remnants.
I would talk to him. I would get along with him. I believe -- and I may be wrong, in which case I'd probably have to take a different path, but I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.
Most Trump-y moment: "I never attacked [Rand Paul] on his look, and believe me, there's plenty of subject matter right there."
Most notable moment: "BASH: Governor Bush, Mr. Trump has suggested that your views on immigration are influenced by your Mexican born wife. He said that, quote, "If my wife were from Mexico, I think I would have a soft spot for people from Mexico." Did Mr. Trump go to far in invoking your wife?
BUSH: He did, he did. You're proud of your family, just as I am.
BUSH: To subject my wife into the middle of a raucous political conversation was completely inappropriate, and I hope you apologize for that, Donald.
TRUMP: Well, I have to tell you, I hear phenomenal things. I hear your wife is a lovely woman...
BUSH: She is. She's fantastic.
TRUMP: I don't know her, and this is a total mischaracterization...
BUSH: She is absolutely the love of my life, and she's right here...
BUSH: And why don't you apologize to her right now.
TRUMP: No, I won't do that, because I've said nothing wrong.
TRUMP: But I do hear she's a lovely woman."
Worst answer to an obvious question: "HEWITT: Governor Bush, I talked to you in February about the biggest elephant in a room full of elephants, which is your last name. And you said you would not be burdened either by your brother or your father's legacy in the Middle East. And then, a week later, you rolled out your list of foreign policy advisers, and it was a lot of the band getting back together again...
BUSH: Well, first of all, Hugh, if you're looking at Republican advisers, you have to go to the last two administrations. That happened to be 41 and 43. So just by definition, if you're -- and many of the people here that are seeking advice from the foreign policy experts in the Republican side, they -- they served in my dad's administration, my brother's administration. Of course that's the case.
But I'm my own man."
On abortion: "i'm the most pro-life governor on this stage. I got to act on my core beliefs. It's part of who I am. Life is a gift from God. And from beginning end we need to respect it and err on the side of life. And so I defunded Planned Parenthood."
Best Trump zinger: "TAPPER: Here's the next lighthearted question, you all know that the United States Secret Service uses codenames for the president... what would you want.
BUSH: Ever Ready, it's very high energy, Donald."
Most notable moment: "I do give interviews in Spanish, and here's why -- because I believe that free enterprise and limited government is the best way to help people who are trying to achieve upward mobility.
And if they get their news in Spanish, I want them to hear that directly from me. Not from a translator at Univision."
The case for Rubio, in one speech: "Well, you should ask him [Trump] questions in detail about the foreign policy issues our president will confront, because you had better be able to lead our country on the first day.
Not six months from now, not a year from now, on the first day in office, our president could very well confront a national security crisis. You can't predict it. Sometimes you cannot control it.
And it is the most -- the federal government does all kinds of things it's not supposed to be doing. It regulates bathrooms. It regulates schools that belong to local communities.
But the one thing that the federal government must do, the one thing that only the federal government can do is keep us safe. And a president better be up-to-date on those issues on his first day in office, on her first day in office."
On the Iran deal: "We have got this horrible deal with Iran where a radical Shia cleric with an apocalyptic vision of the future is also guaranteed to one day possess nuclear weapons and also a long-range rocket that can hit the United States."
On climate change: "You can measure the climate. You can measure it. That's not the issue we're discussing. Here is what I'm skeptical of. I'm skeptical of the decisions that the left wants us to make, because I know the impact those are going to have and they're all going to be on our economy."
Most notable moment: "TAPPER: Dr. Carson, you support scrapping the entire tax code and replacing it with a flat tax based on the principal on tithing from the Bible. If you make $10 billion, you pay $1 billion in taxes, if you make $10, you pay $1 in taxes...
CARSON: It's all about America. You know, the people who say the guy who paid a billion dollars because he had 10, he has still got $9 billion left, that's not fair, we need to take more of his money. That's called socialism. That doesn't work so well."
Most cowardly dodge: "TAPPER: Should [Trump] stop saying that vaccines cause autism?
CARSON: Well, you know, I've just explained it to him. He can read about it if he wants to. I think he's an intelligent man and will make the correct decision after getting the real facts."
On the Iraq war: "I haven't had an opportunity to weigh in on foreign policy, and I just want to mention that when the war, when the issue occurred in 2003, I suggested to President Bush that he not go to war? OK. So I just want that on the record."
Most telling quote (about immigration, but also his whole candidacy): "We don't have to keep reinventing the wheel. All we have to do is look at things that work. All we have to do is use a little common sense."
Most notable moment: "There is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who says they smoked pot in high school, and yet the people going to -- to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren't.
I personally think that this is a crime for which the only victim is the individual, and I think that America has to take a different attitude. I would like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration."
Best takedown: "I think really there's a sophomoric quality that is entertaining about Mr. Trump, but I am worried. I'm very concerned about him -- having him in charge of the nuclear weapons, because I think his response, his -- his visceral response to attack people on their appearance -- short, tall, fat, ugly -- my goodness, that happened in junior high. Are we not way above that? Would we not all be worried to have someone like that in charge of the nuclear arsenal?
What makes him different from other Republicans: "Sometimes both sides of the civil war are evil, and sometimes intervention sometimes makes us less safe. This is real the debate we have to have in the Middle East."
Best exchange: "PAUL [to Bush]: Under the current circumstances, kids who had privilege like you do, don't go to jail, but the poor kids in our inner cities go to jail. I don't think that's fair. And I think we need to acknowledge it, and it is hypocritical to still want to put poor people in jail.
BUSH: I don't want to put poor people in jail, Rand.
PAUL: Well, you vote -- you oppose medical marijuana...
BUSH: Here's the deal. No, I did not oppose when the legislature passed the bill to deal with that very issue. That's the way to solve this problem.
Medical marijuana on the ballot was opened up, there was a huge loophole, it was the first step to getting to a (inaudible) place. And as a citizen of Florida, I voted no.
PAUL: But that means you'll put people in jail."
Most notable moment: "I think there is a way to get this done by giving governors the ability to be able to act to defund Planned Parenthood. But when it comes to closing down the federal government, you gotta be very careful about that.
When we shut the government down -- if we have a chance at success and it's a great principle, yes. The president of the United States is not going to sign this, and all we're gonna do is shut the government down, and then we're gonna open up -- open it up, and the American people are gonna shake their heads and say, "what's the story with these Republicans?"
Most "reasonable man in the room" quote: "Listen, you know, I -- if I were sitting at home and watch thing back and forth, I would be inclined to turn it off. I mean, people at home want to know across this country, they want to know what we're going to do to fix this place, how we'll balance a budget, how we're going to create more economic growth, how we'll pay down the debt. What we're going to do to strengthen the military."
On the Iran deal (or, why liberals like him): "Now, this agreement, we don't know what's going to happen in 18 months. I served on the Defense Committee for 18 years. I've seen lots of issues in foreign affairs, and foreign -- in terms of global politics, you have to be steady.
Now, here's the -- if they cheat, we slap the sanctions back on. If they help Hamas, and Hezbollah, we slap the sanctions back on. And, if we find out that they may be developing a nuclear weapon, than the military option is on the table. We are stronger when we work with the Western civilization, our friends in Europe, and just doing it on our own I don't think is the right policy."
Who he would put on the $10 bill: "Well, it's probably not, maybe, legal, but, I would pick Mother Theresa, the lady that I had a chance to meet, a woman who lived a life so much bigger than her own. An inspiration to everyone when we think about our responsibility to love our neighbor as we love ourselves."
Most notable moment: "Mr. Trump, we don't need an apprentice in the White House."
Best attack line (also on Trump): "You want to talk about balanced budgets? You took four major projects into bankruptcy over and over and over again. You can't take America into bankruptcy. That's what's wrong with the politicians in Washington right now. They think we can take a country into bankruptcy."
On diplomacy: "When it comes to China, why would we be giving an official state visit to a country that's been involved in a massive cyber attack against the United States? That's not just a visit, that's a 21 gun salute on the South Lawn of the White House. It just doesn't make any sense. If we're ever going to send a message to them, wouldn't this be the time, when they've issued this, sort of, massive attack against us?"
The inevitable union fight reference: "When there were 100,000 protesters in my capital, I didn't back down, when they issued death threats against me and threats against my family, I didn't back down, when they tried to recall me, I didn't back down, and when they made me the -- one of their number-one targets last year, I didn't back down.
Give me the chance to be your president."
Most notable moment: "We made accommodation to the Fort Hood shooter to let him grow a beard. We made accommodations to the detainees at Gitmo -- I've been to Gitmo, and I've seen the accommodations that we made to the Muslim detainees who killed Americans.
You're telling me that you cannot make an accommodation for an elected Democrat county clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky? What else is it other than the criminalization of her faith and the exaltation of the faith of everyone else who might be a Fort Hood shooter or a detainee at Gitmo?"
Most honest moment: "TAPPER: Governor Huckabee, I want to bring you in very quickly if you could. Will you have a litmus test when it comes to appointing Supreme Court nominees?
HUCKABEE: You better believe I will, because I'm tired of liberals always having a litmus test and conservatives are supposed to pretend we don't."
On same-sex marriage: "Because the courts just decided that something was going to be and people relinquished it and the other two branches of government sat by silently -- I thought we had three branches of government, they were all equal to each other, we have separation of powers, and we have checks and balances.
If the court can just make a decision and we just all surrender to it, we have what Jefferson said was judicial tyranny."
On the Iran deal: "This threatens Israel immediately, this threatens the entire Middle East, but it threatens the United States of America. And we can't treat a nuclear Iranian government as if it is just some government that would like to have power. This is a government for 36 years has killed Americans, they kidnapped Americans, they have maimed Americans. They have sponsored terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, and they threaten the very essence of Western civilization."
Most notable moment: "George W. Bush appointed John Roberts, and let me give you the consequences of that.
If, instead, the President Bush had appointed Edith Jones, and Mike Luttig, which is who I would have appointed, Obamacare would have been struck down three years ago, and the marriage laws of all 50 states would be on the books. These matter, and I fought to defend the constitution my whole life."
The quote that best captures his principles: "You know, Obama's committed to his principles. His liberal principles, he will fight for them. He says I will veto any budget that doesn't fund Planned Parenthood, and Republicans surrender. We need to stop surrendering and start standing for our principles."
On Iran: "This deal, on its face, will send over $100 billion to the Ayatollah Khamenei, making the Obama administration the world's leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism."
Most correct answer (to a trivial question): "Well, I wouldn't change the $10 bill, I'd change the $20. I'd take Jackson off and I'd leave Alexander Hamilton right where he is as one of our Founding Fathers. And I very much agree with Marco that it should be Rosa Parks."
Most notable moment: "Jake, listen. While I'm as entertained as anyone by this personal back-and-forth about the history of Donald and Carly's career, for the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight who doesn't have a job, who can't fund his child's education, I've got to tell you the truth. They could care less about your careers. They care about theirs."
Most "real talk" moment (on deporting undocumented immigrants): "The fact is though that for 15,000 people a day to be deported every day for two years is an undertaking that almost none of us could accomplish given the current levels of funding, and the current number of law enforcement officers. "
On drugs (and his long-running feud with Rand Paul): "I'm for rehabilitation, why I think the war on drugs has been a failure.
But I'll end with this. That doesn't mean we should be legalizing gate way drugs. And if Senator Paul thinks that the only victim is the person, look at the decrease in productivity, look at the way people get used and move on to other drugs when they use marijuana as a gateway drug, it is not them that are the only victims. Their families are the victims too, their children are the victims too, and their employers are the victims also."
On Kim Davis: "She is [sworn to uphold the law], and so if she, based on conscience, can't sign that -- that marriage license, then there should be someone in her office to be able to do it, and if the law needs to be changed in the state of Kentucky, which is what she's advocating, it should be changed."