ATLANTA — Three weeks ago, after Donald Trump made a gibe about Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) years as a prisoner of war, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) joined his Republican peers in a dogpile. "John McCain is an American hero," he tweeted. "I have nothing but respect for his service to our country."

Today, after a speech at the conservative RedState Gathering, Jindal dismissed a question about Trump's campaign, specifically whether the billionaire candidate might splinter voters in an independent bid.

"I think that the party donors, the party leaders, need to take a deep breath and put down the sharp objects," Jindal said. "Get away from the window ledges. The reality is this: The voters will decide who our nominee is. They will decide who the president is. Anybody who tries to clear the field, anybody who tries to pick our nominee -- there'll be a backlash against that. I think Donald Trump has tapped into a powerful sentiment amongst voters, the sense that things don't change in Washington, D.C. no matter who you elect."

Jindal was giving voice to a new conventional wisdom. There is no obvious upside in shaming Donald Trump. It is safer for a candidate to praise his voters, attack the media and hope that if the Trump piñata bursts, the best candy falls into his lap.

"This was more of an inquisition than it was a debate," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," criticizing the grilling Trump got from Fox News moderators. "At the end of the day, ask the man a question that explains his position and his solutions rather than a ten-minute question that describes him as the biggest bastard on the planet."

Graham, like Jindal, had been relegated to the "undercard" debate, taking the Quicken Loans Center stage four hours before the GOP front-runners. It was in the undercard that the mellowing-out began. Former Texas governor Rick Perry had unloaded on Trump for weeks, both for the way he discussed immigration (a "toxic mix of demagoguery and nonsense") and for his insult of McCain.

"His attack on veterans make him unfit to be commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces," Perry said last month, "and he should immediately withdraw from the race for president."

At the debate, Perry grinned through a much more polite version of his disagreement. "I've had my issues with Donald Trump," he said. "I talked about Donald Trump from the standpoint of being an individual who was using his celebrity rather than his conservatism."

From taking a jab at Rosie O'Donnell to acknowledging Sen. Rand Paul's difficult night, here are Donald Trump's best moments from his first televised debate. (Fox News Channel)