Trump proceeded in this vein, combining outrageousness with evasiveness, for the rest of the night. He refused to substantiate his immigration claims; he praised single-payer health care; he said his views on abortion had “evolved.” He didn’t seem to be doing himself any favors, but who can really say? His candidacy has already gleefully broken every supposed rule of politics; any further predictions about his campaign seem destined for the punditry scrap-heap.
Over on planet Earth, between Trump eruptions, the other candidates were having a different, more serious and, let’s be honest, more boring debate. The prevailing strategy was to try to win this real-world debate rather than try to play on Trump’s terms. Jeb Bush, the but-for-Trump frontrunner, did not distinguish himself. Pressed to explain his views on immigration, the Iraq war, and education, he seemed always to be dancing on the cliff’s edge of incoherence.