In this first Republican debate, every time Donald Trump said something that made you think he just might be unfit for the presidency, somebody else would open his mouth.
Even before the first words came out of his mouth, Mr. Trump announced that he still might run as an independent if he loses the Republican nomination. Right there, in the very belly of the Republican beast, Donald Trump announced to an arena packed to the rafters with loyal Republicans, that he places his own political fortune over that of the party whose nomination he is seeking.
Then moderator Megyn Kelly took a wire brush to him, scouring him for a litany of outrageous insults the real estate mogul has hurled at women over the years. (Do you think we might hear that line of attack again in this never-ending 'War on Women?')
Mr. Trump muddled and equivocated and dodged and generally looked bad.
But then everybody else started talking.
Nipping first at Mr. Trump's heels: Jeb! Bush, who now spells his first name with an exclamation point at the end, which seems to be compensating for something, maybe.
And where did all of Jeb!'s baby fat go? He used to be so roly-poly and now he looks so gaunt and austere, like he is going for the "severely conservative" mantle.
And why did he keep defending his pro-amnesty political positions as "a driver for high sustained economic growth?" He said it three times during the debate.
So, he really does just want illegal Mexicans to come here and unclog his toilets, raise his children and cut his grass because the old patrician blueblood is too freaking cheap to pay an actual legal American a living wage to do it? Wow, that really is severely conservative. At least his brother was "compassionate."
Oh, and, yeah, Jeb! was on a board that gave tons of money to Planned Parenthood for slaughtering babies and selling baby parts.
But as governor of Florida, I issued the "Choose Life" license plate!
Dear God, we are doomed.
And what is it about Rand Paul? He always draws out the final syllable of every sentence like he's sitting around the frat house and just exhaled a big toke from his favorite skull bong that says, "I'm hungry, duuuuude."
I guess it's not the biggest thing in the world, but it is truly weird. I had lots of buddies in school who smoked weed and talked like that - and, funny thing, many of them were kids of doctors. Great guys, but just not so sure I want them holding the nuke codes.
And then Ted Cruz, the master debater from college, who sounds like he never quite got debating society out of his system. Somebody told him he scares people when he talks with his hooded eyes, so now he tries this sing-song cadence that makes it very hard to think he is being genuine.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich is one guy nobody doubts is genuine. But somebody needs to tell him he is running for the Republican nomination. Not the best forum for talking about letting crazy people out of prison or people "living in the shadows" or his chairmanship of the budget committee.
Sure, Republicans might care about those things, but it's a short debate and there should be 3,000 priorities before those concerns.
And then there is this nonsense that all these politicians fall into about how running for president is some kind of accomplishment that their mail carrier father should be proud of. Really? I would be prouder of the mail carrier.
Truly, the finest and most accomplished man up there was Ben Carson, who probably deserves a debate stage all of his own. (Alongside fiery Carly Fiorina!) Unfortunately, Mr. Carson struggles when he slips into the nerdy talk of a brain surgeon. But his closing statements were the most inspirational lines of the entire debate.
• Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter via @charleshurt.