Republicans just hit rock bottom in tonight’s 2024 primary debate – and it was a bad sign for Donald Trump too

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How fundamentally is the Republican Party collapsing? Tonight it held a presidential primary debate, and not one of the candidates who participated is even in contention for the nomination. Even worse, the party’s absentee “frontrunner” – who’s currently out on bail awaiting four criminal trials – isn’t realistically in contention either.

Yet for some reason the Republican Party keeps holding these debates, humiliating as they are, presumably because it doesn’t know what else to do. The RNC can’t get the frontrunner to start showing up, both because he’s too tied up with his trials, and because his handlers are afraid a debate appearance would highlight his worsening senility. But to cancel the debates would be to surrender to a “frontrunner” whose life is in such full scale collapse that he may not end up with the nomination anyway.

These otherwise pointless debates are useful in one way, albeit unintentionally. These Republican primary debates are a reminder that if any of these candidates were something other than a complete joke, they could in fact take the nomination away from an increasingly helpless Trump.

We saw this earlier this year. Republican primary voters are so eager to move on from a fading Trump, they sent Ron DeSantis all the way to the top of the heap and he was tied with Trump in polling, just because the media told them that DeSantis was a viable alternative. Then he spoke. And it was over for him. But the point is that if DeSantis weren’t such a hapless creepy weirdo, he would be the 2024 Republican frontrunner right now – not Trump.

There’s still plenty of time for someone else to end up being the Republican nominee. Not a single primary vote has been cast yet, and it’ll be months before that happens. Even from there it’ll be several more months before we get to next summer’s Republican National Convention, during which the delegates could attempt to take the nomination away from a convicted and/or imprisoned Donald Trump even if he is still in the lead. We don’t know what will happen in that kind of unprecedented chaotic scenario, and anyone who claims to know is either naively overconfident or full of it.

But we do know that while there’s plenty of time, there aren’t plenty of alternatives. The people on this debate stage have already all disqualified themselves. No one seems to care about any of them, beyond the opportunity to mock them for entertainment value. Then again, if anyone was seriously considering trying to win the 2024 Republican nomination, they’d likely hold off getting into the race until after the Trump smoke has cleared. The people who are in the race now are presumably just looking to get book deals out of it once they drop out.

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