MIAMI—The stage keeps shrinking; Donald Trump’s lead keeps growing. That’s the scenario facing Republican candidates after yet another televised debate seemingly failed to catapult any of them into real contention with the former president in the race for the GOP presidential nomination.
There were only five candidates on stage in South Florida on Wednesday, down from eight in the first debate and seven in the second. Throughout, the sparring over domestic and foreign policy has been substantive, budding rivalries have intensified, and the jockeying for second place has ratcheted up. Nikki Haley is rising; Vivek Ramaswamy is falling; Ron DeSantis is stuck in neutral.
None of it, including the recent withdrawals of former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, has threatened Trump’s standing atop the field or produced a consensus alternative. And upon the conclusion of the third debate, conversations with the campaigns chasing the former president suggest they don’t have an obvious strategy for altering this essential dynamic of the GOP primary—other than to have faith that what hasn’t worked so far will eventually pay off.
Time is short; voting begins with the January 15 Iowa caucuses.