You know, the more I think about it the more I think that Dean did alright by himself tonight.
You see, many of us early adopters came to Dean because of the passion he was bringing to a contest that was defined by its lack of same. Unfortunately, with that came some of the early Dean memes about him being nothing but the angry candidate.
As more people start watching this process (and it is still very early), they will be coming to it with some media-programmed assumptions about what the candidates are going to be like. If the media has been selling Dean as the angry candidate, watching a performance tonight where Dean was calm, cool and collected may actually leave them with a better impression than it would have if he had been screaming and pounding on the podium.
I haven't watched any TV commentary on this yet, but reports I have heard are that several commentators have called Dean's performance "Presidential".
That's the kind of thing we want to hear!
Update: I have to wonder how much of a difference having fewer participants in these debates would have on Dean's performance. As it is, each candidate can go 10-15 minutes before they get a chance to speak. If the field winnows down to 3-4 candidates then they will all get a lot more face time and a better chance to really show their character.