In the typical year with a nominally competitive primary, Paul’s question would be rhetorical. Is Saratoga Springs going to cancel the horse race? Christ, there was a spike in RFK Jr. coverage at one point which calmed down mainly because he couldn’t even pretend to run as a Democrat. But the Paper of Record — which not too long ago was pumping DeSantis’s tires almost as enthusiastically as Rupert Murdoch himself — has pretty much given up the pretense that there is a competitive Republican primary:
No candidate even getting 5 points on 10 point scale in debate #2? And the declared winner in both being someone nobody has ever thought would be the nominee? Looks like the horses aren’t even being taken out of the barn.
Since we will presumably never need to think about him ever again, remember the brief Ramaswamy media bommlet? Whew is that over:
Jane Coaston He is clearly very irritating to the other candidates, and to many people in general, and is aware of that fact, and yet, he goes on.
Gail Collins No matter how you feel about the issues, it cannot be fun to listen to this guy yelling. And quote of the night from Haley: “Every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber.”
Matthew Continetti I gave Ramaswamy a high score last time because, though I find him annoying, I could see his appeal to MAGA populists looking for a disruptive outsider. I don’t think MAGA will be as pleased with his performance in Simi Valley, however. He tried to be collegial and modest, but it’s hard to be something you are not. The field scored major blows against him on the TikTok question and on his business connections to China. His youth and inexperience were on display. This debate won’t change the trend.
Michelle Cottle He went from glibly insulting his rivals in the first debate to repeatedly lecturing them about not being insulting in this one — which just ticked them off more. He wasn’t as bro-ish, which was a small blessing. But he once again came across as obnoxious, wildly over-caffeinated and aggressive verging on angry. He is so lucky Haley didn’t smack him.
Ross Douthat Somebody told him that his attention-grabbing performance last time was too polarizing and alienating, so he decided to go with unctuous fake humility instead. He still stirred up the same hatred from his rivals, and honestly I preferred Vivek 1.0 to the pious, Reagan-invoking reboot.
Michelle Goldberg He had the unctuous interparty magnanimity of a man who imagines himself the front-runner. It was even more insufferable than the pugilistic pose he adopted in the last debate.
Trump contemptuously skipping the debates shows that, despite his many political drawbacks, he somehow has much better competitive instincts than any of his formal competitors.