The Catch-22 of Republican opposition to Donald Trump was laid bare in the final moments of the latest debate, when co-moderator Chris Wallace asked the candidates about their previous pledge to support the party nominee.
Following a two-hour indictment of Trump's basic integrity, sanity and honesty, with his rivals describing a Trump presidency in the terms of a global catastrophe, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ted Cruz nonetheless said they would support him if he won the nomination.
It was a whimpering comedown for a day that was supposed to mark the opportune moment of the "Never Trump" movement, which began with the unprecedented action of the party's past nominee, Mitt Romney, taking to a podium to vilify his near-sure successor.
In a "State of the Race" speech at the Hinckley Institute of Politics in Salt Lake City, Romney called Trump a "phony," and warned Americans that his election could imperil the nation's economy and national defense. And yet, it stopped well short of a denouement.
To New York magazine's Jonathan Chait, the speech typified the fundamental problem of the GOP anti-Trump revolt: "Full of righteous rage, but confused about how to proceed and unwilling to follow its own analysis through to its conclusion."
That unwillingness was only further ratified at the debate.