In the spirit of the Kentucky Derby and this weekend’s Preakness, the Republican presidential contenders are off and in a full gallop after Tuesday night’s riveting debates. What has changed among the candidates since last week’s gathering? Well, if the first debate focused on the top-tier candidates like Romney, Giuliani and McCain, I would argue the second was more about the second-tier crop of candidates and the ground they covered through Turn 2.

Let’s start with Mike Huckabee. I continue to be impressed with his prowess and frank discussions on some tough issues. Will he be our next nominee? The political soothsayers opine “no," but credit him with a strong showing, and I bet Iowa voters as well as South Carolina conservatives were paying close attention. Jim Gilmore continues to slip, and let’s face it — he’s really more interested in positioning for a run at the Virginia gubernatorial spot one more time. Tom Tancredo with his fiery anti-immigrant stance reminded all of us how single-issue focused he is, but at what cost?

Romney in many respects was the “dog that didn’t bark," meaning that he didn’t make any mistakes, but not much progress either. As for McCain, in my mind he’s just not connecting with primary voters — and his comments on torture last night almost made him look squishy, right or wrong.

There’s no doubt the jockeys (political handlers) will whip their horses harder in turns 3 and 4, but remember: It’s a long race, and plenty of time for even other stallions to jump into the fray. Watch out for Bloomberg!