Stu Spencer, the man who managed Ronald Reagan’s successful presidential campaign, had an unexpected message for the Republican presidential candidates following the debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley: “My counsel to anybody will be, Reagan’s gone. Reagan was great. We’re in a new world; new generations.”

Spencer acknowledged that the candidates who talked about Reagan at the debate did so as tribute to the former president and that was appropriate. But he advised: “Be yourself. What are you going to do? Don’t compare yourself to Reagan.”

The veteran political advisor watched the debate with an expert eye and a bit of nostalgia. The man who ran Reagan’s campaign for the presidency and also worked with President Gerald Ford turned on the TV, looked at the debate setting, and his first thought was that he must have flown a hundred times in the Air Force One used as a backdrop for the debate.

Yesterday, Spencer offered up a brief synopsis of what he saw in the lengthy debate.

Spencer said the early debates are meant to influence the caucus and primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. In that way, the debates helped Fiorina and loosened money up for Rubio.

The first official test for the candidates is the Iowa caucuses. Spencer suggested that some of the candidates like Bush and Kasich would act like they are contending there but are not competing. “They are putting all their marbles up in New Hampshire.”

“You will see attrition over the next four or five months,” Spencer predicted “and most of it will be dictated by the lack of fundraising, not polling.”

I asked Spencer, in evaluating the field of candidates after two debates, who has the best long term potential? He did not hesitate: “Rubio,” he said.