I’ve said repeatedly going back almost a year that there’s virtually no way anyone can defeat Donald Trump in the GOP presidential primary. Certainly nothing has changed to alter that judgment. The two GOP debates have amounted to a kind of cosplay episode. Aside from the yelling, canned comments and embarrassing moments, the one thing that struck me about tonight’s debate is this: two or three of the contenders seem to be realizing, finally, that there’s zero point in doing this without attacking Donald Trump. Not in some vague wink wink way but directly. Is this a game changer? Of course not. But it was enough to give a hint of how this primary process might actually have been contested in some meaningful way, even if Trump likely still would have been the nominee.
Fundamentally it’s Trump’s party. So he’s the nominee. But in those few moments of attacks you could see how a different kind of contest could have unfolded. They really seem to have thought that Republicans might abandon Trump (to whom Republican voters have committed so much) without them even saying there was anything wrong with him. That’s a remarkable failure of imagination and personal character.