My own take: the debate, the party and the voters were well-served by having eight distinctive personalities onstage at the same time.
Brian Williams questions clearly showed the MSM bias, but he did a fine job of managing time and interactions after the intro (overly focused on the 2 frontrunners) and other than the abrupt end (though I did not miss eight concluding statements).
Perry's lack of prior experience in these forums showed. He was less smooth than Romney or Huntsman, less in command that Gingrich. I suspect he will improve, he needs to improve or he won't be President.
Huntsman alternated between great (talking about his record in Utah, critique of Obama) and useless (giving aid to the "anti-science" arguments).
I agree that the polls will tighten up at this point.