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Imagine if Marco Rubio had said he wouldn’t support Donald Trump in a general election.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As many have noted, the Republican presidential candidates at the debate undermined all their attacks on Trump by saying they would ultimately support him if he were the nominee. The unavoidable conclusion is that Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich are okay with putting a con artist who is unfit to be president in the Oval Office. Even Mitt Romney, who is not running for president (not yet anyway), has been reluctant to make the seemingly logical jump to abandon the GOP if its nominee turns out to be, as he claims, a threat to American democracy itself. If we can indulge in counterfactuals for a moment, a candidate declaring that he would not support Trump under any circumstances would have been the big takeaway of the night, lifting him out of the morass of petty bickering that defined the debate. More importantly, it would have acknowledged that there is little distinction between the party and its leader. There is, after all, no point in declaring allegiance to a party that is no longer yours.