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  1. Opinion

Ruth: Weeding out the GOP field

Many of the headlines following Thursday night's Republican exercise in candidate speed dating generally concluded the "winner" to be Donald Trump, the Tangerine Scream of the GOP.

But is that truly accurate?

Up against this collection of whiners, blowhards, preeners, hand-wringers and cluckers, it didn't take all that much to capture the lion's share of attention. This had to be a bit like Olympian Michael Phelps arriving at the pool to discover all of his competitors are wearing water wing floaties.

If the intent was to cull the herd, the Pie Fight On The Cuyahoga River achieved its intended purpose, beginning with the earlier T-Ball Debate among the also-rans-in-waiting.

You know you are in deep trouble when former governors George Pataki of New York and Jim Gilmore of Virginia based their pitches on infusing "new blood" into their campaigns. Pataki is 70. Gilmore is 65. Ba-bye.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal hardly helped himself when he couldn't quite explain how polling numbers in his home state reflect voters would rather shove broken glass into their eyes than vote for him again. See ya.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham pretty much responded to every question by calling for the 82nd Airborne Division to launch an invasion. And former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum appears to be basing yet another run for the presidency on the basis of having nothing else better to do. Toodle-loo.

Little wonder that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who managed to get through the High-Chair Debate without experiencing a brain freeze, and former business executive Carly Fiorina got high marks for besting the other dithering Katzenjammer Kids. Very impressive.

That brings us to prime time.

Much of the evening's discourse appeared to be an effort on the part of the 10 candidates who made it to the big house to avoid saying anything that might annoy the Great and Glorious Gourd of the GOP. And that led to some curious spats as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen, Rand Paul delivered stink eyes at each other.

Just what the political gain is for two chaps lagging far behind in the polls to pick on each other isn't clear.

Retired brain surgeon Dr. Ben Carson did not bathe himself in glory when it was revealed he had no clue who former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan is and was unfamiliar with Israel's political parties. When your idea of revamping the tax code is replacing it with a system of tithing, that is a ticket back to full-time retirement.

A few candidates — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — seemed happy simply to have made it onto the stage.

Right about here, it should be noted that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, looking every bit like a used shark salesman, also participated in the debate. Duly noted.

That leaves Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb. Bush and Donald Trump, the Yosemite Sam of the stump.

Rubio and Bush performed fairly well, although the governor still seems to struggle when the issue arises about whether his candidacy is an attempt to extend a Bush dynasty. The answer, clearly, is yes. And after all this time, one would think Bush would have figured out a way to respond without coming off as if he was just walking down the street minding his own business when the notion of becoming president popped into his head.

And what of Trump? The question is simple. Would Trump be the dominant political figure he's become if the rest of the field was more intellectually imposing? Or is this is as good as it's going to get?