GOP Candidates Keep Embarrassing Their Party: Detroit Debate Was Latest Example


It’s highly questionable whether anyone emerged as the winner in Thursday’s Republican presidential debate in Detroit, though the candidates’ spinmeisters would all quibble with that. There was one clear loser: the Grand Old Party.

The 11th debate of the Republican campaign tested the patience and the limits of viewers and voters. Insults and interruptions overwhelmed sober discussion. The raucous audience, now a staple of the GOP debates, only added to the sense of game-show politics.

Can anyone credibly suggest that the Republicans put their collective best face forward on Thursday night? At a time when the party is in crisis over the possibility that Donald Trump will become the nominee, the debate did next-to-nothing to make Trump or his three remaining candidates look or sound presidential.

Designed to define candidates’ differences, the debates have become tedious and repetitious rather than enlightening or illuminating. No new information was imparted, no truly new arguments advanced. Even the insults were tiresome.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who drew criticism earlier for trying to limit the number of debates, must be wishing he had pushed for even fewer, given the tone and tenor of Thursday’s forum in Detroit and last week’s mud bath in Houston.

Thursday’s debate came at the end of an extraordinary day in the Republican campaign, a day no one can remember ever seeing, when the party’s 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, delivered a scathing attack on the 2016 front-runner as unfit to be president and unworthy to be lead the party.

Romney did what none of Trump’s rivals for the nomination has done. He set out a slashing and coherent attack on the New York billionaire. He described Trump as a fraud and a phony, as a failed businessman and an aspiring politician with no ideological moorings. Trump’s policies, Romney warned, would be disastrous domestically and dangerous internationally.

It was left to Trump’s rivals — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — to drive home those arguments on Thursday. At times Cruz and Rubio tried, attempting to unmask Trump on immigration and foreign policy. Meanwhile, Kasich continued his strategy of trying to stop Trump by declining to criticize him.

But then, as if to take a hammer to their own arguments that Trump is not the kind of candidate the party needs to lead them into the fall campaign, Rubio, Cruz and Kasich closed out the evening by saying, however grudgingly, that they could support him if he wins the nomination.

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