Embittered conservatives might say that suggests how endemic the cynicism and hypocrisy of that crowd has become. But from the standpoint of a sympathetic political writer, it’s not that simple.
The fact is that quite often, candidates who blow it in a debate have only themselves to blame. In part, that’s because the media just likes to reward winners. Whether it’s Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, or Mitt Romney in his first showdown with Obama, good performances get good press. In larger part, it’s because the media loves to punish losers. Candidates who do okay but turn off the media — like Trump — don’t pay much of a price in the horserace. Candidates who have a rotten debate night — like Bush — do. And when they do, it’s almost never because of a Crowley-esque act of butting in. It’s because the debate is a crucible, however clumsy, where a candidate’s behind-the-scenes struggles are revealed.