The consensus from last night’s second Republican debate is that Carly Fiorina brought the house down. Across social media and in snap polls both Republicans and Democrats agreed the outsider former chief executive was the standout performer in the debate while flamboyant candidate Donald Trump divided critics.

Sixty percent of Republican insiders in Iowa and New Hampshire considered Fiorina the biggest winner of the second Republican debate hosted by CNN on Wednesday. The former Hewlett-Packard executive was praised by the Republican panel on how she handled herself, spoke solidly on policy issues, brought Trump down a notch and finally ended with an inspiring message that brought the five hour debate to a stirring end.

One New Hampshire Republican led the praise for Fiorina saying “The nation finally got a chance to see what we in New Hampshire have been intrigued and impressed by: a political outsider with some real policy chops and the demeanor to be considered a serious contender.”

In Iowa, the message was the same. One GOP insider said, “She was new onstage with most to gain and she delivered for herself.”

Praise for the only female candidate in the GOP debate was echoed by the Democrats. Asked who won the debate, an Iowa Democrat responded, “Fiorina drops the mic. Her closing argument was Jeffersonian. She handled Trump like the junior high schooler he is. Holy shit.”

Fiorina made it to Wednesday’s debate after CNN changed the rules allowing leaders in polls drawn from the recent month to have a slot in the debate. A showdown between her and Trump was widely anticipated after Trump recently dismissed her with derogatory remarks about her appearance.

In explaining why no one would vote for Fiorina, Trump jabbed, “Look at that face!”

In the debate, Fiorina was applauded when she responded to Trump’s remarks, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”

A New Hampshire Democrat said, “Trump takedowns were appropriately icy without being over the top.”

The Republican insiders polled gave former Florida Governor Jeb Bush second place with only 18 per cent saying he was the winner.

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