After last night

Watching last night’s cage match among the Republican presidential candidates at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester on ABC, I found that event an exercise in reduction. Paul Mirengoff elaborates the details in here.

At the outset, I want to insert my usual media note. ABC News should not be part of the equation for Republicans. George Stephanopoulos should not have a hand in any event sponsored by the Republican Party. He shouldn’t be within a thousand miles. Ditto for Martha Raddatz. Ditto for Donna Brazile. Democratic operatives all.

The Republican Party needs to reformulate the process. Start from scratch and come up with a system whose sole object is the selection of the strongest candidate to advance the principles of the party in the general election.

The reductions, as they seemed to me:

On events related to the Iowa caucuses, Ben Carson slightly reduced Ted Cruz.

On eminent domain, Jeb Bush slightly reduced Donald Trump.

On the Gang of Eight and so on, Chris Christie reduced Marco Rubio. He reduced Rubio into a sputtering automaton. The software froze. The beach ball of death spun wildly. It was an event out of Twilight Zone. One almost expected Rod Serling to emerge from the wings of the stage and draw the moral of the story.

The competition among the candidates at this point is not binary. Carson reducing Cruz did not elevate Carson. Bush reducing Trump did not elevate Bush. Christie reducing Rubio did not elevate Christie. I thought it reduced Christie as well, into an essential nastiness.

The net effect almost certaiainly left Trump in the commanding position he occupied when he entered. Who’s on second and third? The wheel’s still in spin.

Which of the conservative candidates would be strongest in a general election against Hillary Clinton? That is the question to which I want the answer. Putting last night’s debate scorecard to one side, that seems to me the true object of these debates. I think the choice remains one between Cruz and Rubio. After last night, however, the choice leaves me less hopeful of victory in November.