So yes: constant televised conflict is bound to make most, if not all, of the candidates seem somewhat less likable. But by transforming a selection process that used to take place in a few unrepresentative states into more of a collective, national experience, the debates have ensured that by the time this year’s picky GOP voters finally settle on a nominee, they will know full well that they tested everyone else out—with their own eyes and ears, together—and simply couldn’t find anyone better.
Without this eyewitness, process-of-elimination approach, Republicans might forever fret about a standard-bearer who was forced upon them by the so-called Establishment. But thanks to the debates, they will know—and they will know that other Republicans know—that whoever wins the nod was the least worst candidate, and that they were the ones who selected him, more or less. Now if only they can make sure he’s more of a Kelly Clarkson than a Taylor Hicks.
I think the other half of the story is that while familiarity can and in this case certainly should bread contempt, it also breads, well familiarity and people are so often more comfortable with the idiot they know.