Will the Republicans Ever Stop Talking?

That's up for debate

May 5. June 13. August 11. September 5, 7, 12 and 22. October 11 and 18. November 9, 12 and 15. December 1, 10, 15 and 19. January 16, 19, 26 and 30.

With Election Day more than a year away,  the GOP presidential wannabes  have thus far generated almost 1,000 minutes of  hot air—enough to float a balloon from Washington to President Obama’s birthplace, Kenya.

From Greenville, S.C., to, most recently, Las Vegas, this band of bloviating politicos has put on an entertaining road show. The source of this diversion has not been the litany of predictable platitudes, however.  Even world-class bullshit artists can’t be expected to come up with new material for every gig.

Rather, the sideshows have provided the most reliable viewing pleasure.  Instead of ganging up on Obama, the Republicans have devolved into beasts of prey, stalking each other before going for the kill. In short, they’ve been acting like Democrats, the masters of self-destruction.

Now that’s a party, TV fans.

The ground rules created for these so-called debates have been equally amusing. To the surprise of no one, Snow White (Bachmann) and the Seven Dwarfs (Romney, Perry, Paul, Gingrich, Cain, Huntsman, Santorum) have been breaking them, easily and often.

Although the various moderators have been prepared for this brazen lawlessness, they still have managed to become thoroughly flummoxed. As a result, they’ve lost any semblance of control, which they never had in the first place.

Even when a candidate appeals to the moderator to step in, nothing  happens. Last week in Vegas, for example, frontrunner Mitt Romney implored CNN’s Anderson Cooper to give the hook to Texas Gov. Rick  ‘Rickus Interruptus’ Perry for continually poaching Romney’s allotted time. Cooper went hookless.

Maybe that’s because CNN, like its competitors, has learned that Robert’s Rules of Order don’t score ratings. Smackdowns do. To the networks, these live debates are not public-service vehicles, they are ‘Maury,’ with high-school graduates.

Case in point: The Vegas event delivered 5.5 million viewers—up 51 percent over CNN’s Sept. 12 telecast from Tampa. Vegas ranks behind only Fox News’ Sept. 22 broadcast from Orlando, Fla., with 6.1 million viewers.

Next up for the GOP is Nov. 9 on CNBC, live from Rochester, MI. With any luck, the candidates will keep their gloves off. And go for a knockout.