On Friday I asked readers what surprised them about the New Hampshire debate and if it would impact the race.

Readers’ answers pointed to a key skill in politics: measuring expectations. The liberal punditocracy set the bar so low by running down the GOP field that the contenders came off better than expected.

Donald Johnson, I think, hit the nail on the head:

The CNN Forum for GOP candidates in N.H. surprised me because the candidates were more articulate than I ever dreamed they would be. Everyone of them could debate Obama into a corner because he’s slow on his feet without a teleprompter. I don’t think Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Paul Ryan or Sarah Palin would have dominated the stage, and I think it’s too late for them to jump into the race.

The other surprise was Tim Pawlenty’s failure to show up. He just wasn’t there except when he came out in favor of the unions’ “fair trade” and chickened out on ObamneyCare.

Battleground51 likewise wrote:

I was pleasantly surprised that the Democrat media was deprived of anything to harp on about the Republican debate. It was a serious, civil debate and everyone seemed to be on the same page. The theme was righteously anti-Obama and why. The Obamacrats really were left without any bones to chew on.

Two other observations were widely voiced: Mitt Romney really does have the feel of a front-runner, and there may not be time (or need) for other candidates to enter the race. While I think there is still a month or so for others to get in, the readers make a good point: To the extent candidates perform well in these settings donors and activists will start choosing sides, making it that much harder for late entrants.