As attention shifts to the general election, it’s worth taking a moment to remember the defeated Republican candidates, dismissed by Trump as "losers" or worse as they fell by the wayside. Below is a look back at Trump’s most significant opponents (and one other also-ran) and their fatal flaws.
Ben Carson: Carson enjoyed some early success in the polls, riding the same anti-establishment fervor that propelled Trump’s candidacy. Carson’s campaign had similar celebrity vanity project trappings; however, while Trump rants with an almost comically preening theatricality, Carson would blather in a somnolent monotone. Alas, for Carson, Republicans prefer their ignorance and incoherence delivered with some gusto.
Jeb Bush: Jeb was supposed to be W. with a brain, but he revealed himself to be W. without the (unearned) swagger. As the presidential election campaign season began in earnest, “low-energy” Jeb quickly became Trump’s favorite whipping boy. Jeb was unable to shake the image of running a listless, soporific campaign devoid of any genuine grass-roots appeal. Jeb would become especially rattled when Trump taunted him about his brother’s presidency, which was so disastrous Republicans usually just try to pretend it never happened. Jeb’s self-contradictory rejoinder to Trump that “we were attacked, and my brother kept us safe” didn’t help his cause. His campaign reached a nadir when he pleaded with an audience to “please clap” after a would-be applause line was met with deathly silence.
Scott Walker: Walker was a “good on paper” candidate and favorite of the Republican establishment/donors. Conservatives admired him for his union-busting successes as governor of Wisconsin, and he seemed to prove his political prowess by winning 3 statewide elections in 4 years. But as a presidential candidate, he proved to be a lethargic, gaffe-prone campaigner, at one point comparing Wisconsin pro-union protesters to ISIS. Walker dropped out of the race before the Iowa caucuses, making him a strong contender for the primary contest's biggest dud.
John Kasich: Kasich’s candidacy operated on the bizarre premise that the entire primary contest would “reset” once Kasich won his home state of Ohio. He did indeed win Ohio, but no such “reset” occurred, and Kasich failed to win a single additional state. An affable, congenial Midwesterner—and the closest thing to a moderate in the Republican field—Kasich had little appeal to a Republican electorate that was not in a congenial or affable mood. Kasich nonetheless soldiered on through the Indiana primary, accomplishing little other than voraciously sampling various states' culinary offerings while earning his own personal insult from Trump, who chided Kasich for his “disgusting” eating habits.
Carly Fiorina: Fiorina was fired from her last full-time job as CEO of HP, a once-great company she nearly destroyed. That didn’t prevent her from saying she would run for president on her record “all day long”. Similarly, though as HP’s CEO she laid off tens of thousands of employees, as a candidate she boasted that she “saved” jobs. Apart from this ability to sound highly authoritative while turning reality on its head (and an extra X chromosome), there was little to distinguish Fiorina’s candidacy.
Ted Cruz: Cruz boasted of the mutual contempt between himself and what he called the “Washington cartel”. But Cruz’s smooth, slick, polished style—oddly dull even when spouting seemingly fiery rhetoric—didn’t have the same appeal to anti-establishment voters as Trump’s more rough-and-tumble approach. Ultimately, most voters came to share the assessment of the “Washington cartel” that Cruz is “Lucifer in the flesh”, as former House speaker John Boehner put it.
Marco Rubio: Rubio was another “good on paper” candidate: young, telegenic, staunchly conservative but not scarily so. But his campaign suffered a fatal blow when, under fire from Chris Christie at a debate for being just another Washington politician repeating rehearsed talking points, he responded by .... repeating a rehearsed talking point about how we need to "dispel with the fiction" that President Obama doesn't know what he's doing.
Soon after, Rubio had to dispel with the fiction that repeating the same canned stupidity four times in five minutes was actually a savvy debating tactic, as well as the fiction that he still had a chance to win the nomination.
George Pataki: Yes he actually ran for president.
There were several others, though none will merit more than a footnote in histories of the race. A total of 16 would-be contenders, in a Republican field notable more for its quantity than its quality, succumbed to the Trump juggernaut. So, while Trump has promised that Americans will be "bored of winning" if he's elected president, Trump himself may already have reached that coveted state.