Thursday: GOP debate without Trump clarified how badly he's destroyed the party
The candidates stood there amid the ruins of something, trying and failing to make sense of the world.
Ron DeSantis fell completely flat. Unhinged Vivek Ramaswamy—and the response to him—showed that MAGA extremism still gets the base intoxicated. Chris Christie mostly failed at landing hard blows on Donald Trump. Mike Pence was like a split-personality holy roller, defending Trump, attacking Trump, and letting everyone know he gave himself up to "our Lord and Savior."
Tim Scott is done. Nikki Haley, unfortunately, will see another day. Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum made no lasting impressions.
Trump didn’t win by not going. But neither did anyone else. Most of them secretly hate Trump but profess allegiance to Dear Leader, telegraphing fear and ambivalence. They’re in a world of hurt on abortion—deeply divided, angrily sparring—as well as on climate change and Ukraine.
I watched the first GOP primary debate, live from Milwaukee and hosted by Fox, so that you didn’t have to.
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