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    opinion | Eric Fehrnstrom

    Another GOP debate down, and the needle doesn’t move

    Another Republican presidential debate is in the books and we’ve finally learned the answer to one of the most pressing issues of the campaign: the Fox Business Network’s moderators are more moderate than CNBC’s. Too bad we didn’t learn anything new about the candidates Tuesday night in Wisconsin.

    Jeb Bush lives to fight another day. Marco Rubio proved again he has the gift of a golden tongue. Ted Cruz had some pretty good zingers. John Kasich inexplicably defended bank bailouts.

    But the fact remains nothing has happened in the last four debates to change the basic fundamentals of the race.

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    Donald Trump and Ben Carson remain firmly in charge. Everyone else is trailing in the national polls by double digits. There is not a state in the country where someone from the rear guard of current and former officeholders can point to a lead. Not one state.

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    Carson’s views on the issues are perplexing. Some of Trump’s are so at variance with the GOP base they qualify as heresy. Yet no one has forcefully challenged them. Trump has been the one running a clinic on how to invalidate your opponents. And no, attacking Trump from the left on immigration is not the way to win a Republican primary.

    As Rubio, Cruz, and Bush claw for third place, the rest of the country is about to step into the holiday time accelerator. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Iowa, New Hampshire. It will happen that fast.

    Judging by their half-hearted performance, it looks like the rest of the field continues to hope that maybe Trump and Carson will self-destruct.

    Which brings me to a larger point, and that is in a campaign nothing happens by accident. It has to be made to happen. The successful nominee will be the person who can methodically disqualify his opponents while making the case for his own candidacy. It’s a job that can’t be entirely outsourced to a super PAC.

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    This is what past nominees have done so effectively, and what the establishment candidates as a whole have failed to do so far this time.

    Eric Fehrnstrom is a Republican political analyst, media strategist, and former senior adviser to former governor Mitt Romney.