It was really amazing. The question had to be asked. Just last week, Donald Trump said of Carly Fiorina, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”

The debate moderator had to ask about it. But in doing so, they first let Donald Trump attack Jeb Bush.Bush had said he would cut money for women’s health care. Bush then said he misspoke. Donald Trump made Bush own it. He hammered Bush whose response was flat footed. He refused to concede that Bush misspoke.

Carly Fiorina turned the tables on Trump. She said millions of American women knew what Donald Trump meant. It forced Trump, perhaps for the first time, to walk back his remark and declare that Fiorina had a lovely face.  Fiorina was the only person on the stage that Trump seemed fearful of.

Time and time again, Carly Fiorina showed she could hold up against the rest. It was a very real introduction to the nation as a legitimate contender. She showed herself strong on defense; she had a command of the issues; and she was willing to take the fight to Hillary Clinton.

Toward the end of the debate, Fiorina recounted the death of her child due to drug addiction. She connected with the audience. Earlier, she clearly became emotional talking about the Planned Parenthood videos, challenging Democrats to watch them.

Donald Trump could not play off the crowd’s energy on Wednesday night. The crowd was very subdued. They also were not, for the most part, his fans going into the debate.  It worked against Trump. He repeatedly tried to land blows and with only a handful of exceptions, they fell flat. Trying to accuse George W. Bush of making the nation less safe also hurt him and it gave Chris Christie a way to use his resume.

But time and time again, Carly Fiorina showed she could hold up against the rest.  It was a very real introduction to the nation as a legitimate contender.  She showed herself strong on defense; she had a command of the issues; and she was willing to take the fight to Hillary Clinton.  “It was an activity, not an accomplishment,” she said of Hillary flying on airplanes. It was a strong blow by a candidate most people had never seen.

The big question now is not whether Carly Fiorina’s polling goes up, but from whom does she take votes?  My guess is, among others, Ben Carson, who does great as a lecturer, but not as a debater.  He was very soft spoken and not very engaged. 

The Republican Primary just got a lot more interesting.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor. He is host of "Erick on the Radio" and founder/editor of The Resurgent. He is the founder of RedState.com. Follow him on Twitter @EWErickson.