Last night’s GOP debate was a mess. The moderators were terrible — historically terrible. They were biased, they were unprepared, and they infuriatingly combined their incompetence with stereotypically liberal smirking and condescension. But even the best moderation can’t obscure a fundamental failing of the Republican field: There are simply too many candidates in the race. The sheer numbers dilute the conservative message, create an unprofessional atmosphere of on-stage chaos, and diminish the candidates as they’re often reduced to shouting for attention like students in an unruly classroom.

Yes, I understand ambition. I also understand hope – especially when filtered not only through fans and supporters who believe the candidate’s breakout moment is just around the corner but also through the candidates’ own political history of triumph, sometimes against long odds. The presidency is the job of their dreams, they think they can win, and they also feel that it will be best for the nation they love if they’re in the Oval Office rather than their rivals.

Moreover, they can make a case for hanging in just a bit longer. After all – if you’re an establishment candidate like Jeb Bush – can’t you argue that John McCain was dead in the water in 2007, right until he came roaring back to win the nomination?