Iowa Stage Show

Rarely does a presidential-candidate debate turn into a, well, debate. It’s a lowest common denominator performance-art exercise that no forensic society would ever countenance. Now let’s see who drops out. Vanity or an audition for Fox News hosting can keep some candidates on stage longer than political viability would suggest.

Trump, the serially indicted huckster, of course, was a no-show. He’s ahead, still has an alarmingly hefty cult following and awaits coronation, not incarceration. The GOP, as we’ve seen, is now more nativist, tribal movement than party.

The pro-Trump Milwaukee debate crowd loudly booed any unflattering references to Trump—especially by Chris Christie. “Booing is allowed,” responded Christie, “but it doesn’t change the truth.”

Takeaways: Nikki Haley never seemed so reasonable. Mike Pence still showcases his pious, evangelical chops. Ron DiSastrous still hopes no one notices when he looks for cues and tentatively raises his hand in response to a moderator question for all and then avoids a direct question and immediately pivots to his platitude agenda. He spoke in stump speech argot and even worked in a George Soros reference. Is there a Trump-Ramaswamy ticket coming our way?

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