If one were scoring the laugh track to Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate, it would be an exercise in restraint. The light-hearted moments, while a relief, were sparse and awkward.

The candidates, at perhaps their last on-stage duel of the campaign, were able to pull off some zingers, though no one is winning a spot to appear at the late-night Laugh Shack downtown.

Newt Gingrich showed his penchant for strenuous sentence structure. Rick Santorum, with his insults that aren’t really meant to be insults, looked surprise with each amusement. Ron Paul was just his perpetual Ron Paul-iness.