Who scored the highest at the GOP debate?

An important part of running a campaign is image. So how did the candidates come across in the third Republican debate?

Republican candidates at the CNBC GOP Debate in Boulder, Colorado.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Republican candidates at the CNBC GOP Debate in Boulder, Colorado.

Here's my analysis of the top performers at the latest GOP debate — and who scored the highest in my book. (On a scale of 1-10)

Marco Rubio

Did you notice how Marco Rubio looked like a kid sandwiched between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush? The wide shot that included all three of them really highlighted how young and eager Rubio looks on TV.

And when a moderator asked Rubio why he was in such a rush, Rubio's youthful demeanor was amplified by both his delivery and answer that the moderator's criticism is exactly what he is hearing from the GOP establishment. Some say Rubio is a gifted orator. But on TV, he lacks gravitas.

Rubio came across as eager to prove he belongs with this crowd, but his articulate style pushed him up slightly in the favorable area.

Debate performance score: 9

Ted Cruz

If you close your eyes and listen to Ted Cruz, do you hear a puppet speaking? Cruz didn't bring any substance when a moderator asked him a question on the debt limit. Instead, he criticized the liberal media, saying Americans don't want to hear these questions. It's Congress, it's the debt limit. These are issues the Senate is currently facing.

The question was as relevant as any — it wasn't like the moderator asked him if he had ever received voice training.

Cruz came across too angry. The conservative crowd may have loved his venom on the media, but to viewers, including my group watching it in Las Vegas, his tone came across as vindictive and childish.

Debate performance score: 7

John Kasich

John Kasich really tried hard in the debate. The opening question was delivered to him, but rather than answer the softball question on what was his biggest weakness, he stuck with his talking points. He didn't even answer the question. But we can't just criticize Kasich for that. Rubio and Rand Paul also didn't answer it, preferring to pivot to talking points.

Kasich knows the issues, communicated his experience for the job and leadership for the country. He started out on a rough patch by not answering the question, but he improved quickly.

Debate performance score: 8.5

Donald Trump

As always, Donald Trump brings the debates alive. The problem is, we aren't watching a reality show or "Saturday Night Live." These are real issues that will not only impact our future lives in America, but our world. Our next president will lead a policy and military that will possess the power to end it all — or lower America's standing.

When Kasich was deep into a policy answer, Trump criticized him for being way in the corner, so he should be ignored. Everyone in my room laughed at Trump's zinger, but it's not a laughing matter if this is how he will deal with global leaders.

And, it was disturbing that Trump said his biggest weakness was forgiving others who wronged him. Politics is a dirty game and I say that from experience. I ran U.S. Senate and congressional media campaigns and the opponents played dirty. If Trump holds a grudge against future political enemies, we are going to be at war quickly.

Trump has the confidence and communication skills but he still speaks in generalities. Like many CEOs, Trump communicates the big picture and avoid the details, but in a debate, he needs to add more substance to his responses.

Debate performance score: 8

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina was asked a question that was perfect for the CNBC business audience: You were fired as CEO from Hewlett-Packard and your stock performed worse than others compared to other public companies. Why should America promote you? Fiornina needs to better prepare for this question. She should know the HP firing is one of her biggest weaknesses since she is running on her experience as a CEO. She can't continue with her canned answer that it was a difficult time for America and she had differences with her board.

Fiorina didn't answer the tough question on her HP firing and seemed to undermine her credibility with her jokes.

Debate performance score: 7.5

Ben Carson

I'm a little taken aback with Ben Carson's rise to second place in the polls. Yes, he is the exact opposite of Trump in nearly every way — demeanor, humility, energy and delivery — and he's an outsider in an election year when inexperience in Washington is viewed as a strength. I'm not in Iowa or New Hampshire, but I have lived in the Southwest, Southeast and Northeast. I do have broader view of other regions in the U.S.

It's almost like I want to fact-check Carson's statements because every time I hear him give an interview on a tough question, he says the reporter had it wrong. As we get closer to the primaries, fact checkers from both sides will be ready to pounce. I hope his answers are correct.

Carson is articulate and full of conviction, which makes for a strong leader, but he doesn't seem as forceful as Trump, Kasich or Cruz.

Debate performance score: 7.5

So whose performance came across the best? It depends on your definition of best. Trump was once again the best entertainer, while Kasich was the best debator. Rubio was the best communicator and Cruz was the best fighter. The other candidates all seemed to merge together when it came to their message and delivery.

Commentary by Mark Macias, head of Macias PR, a global public relations firm that has run media and branding campaigns for politicians,tech start-ups, financial firms, nonprofits and companies. He's also author of the book, "Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media." Follow him on Twitter @markmacias.