Why the Anti-Trump Republican Primary Has Yet to Emerge

Just a few months ago, the Republican presidential primary seemed as if it might include a frank and vigorous debate about the leadership and limitations of Donald J. Trump.

But any appetite for criticism of Mr. Trump among Republicans has nearly evaporated in a very short time. Voters rallied around him after his criminal indictment in March on charges related to hush money for a porn star, and potential rivals have faltered, with few willing to take direct aim at the former president and front-runner for the nomination.

In a live town hall on CNN on Wednesday, the cheers for every falsehood and insult that Mr. Trump uttered under tough questioning by a moderator showed there was little to no daylight between Mr. Trump and the Republican base. A quirky effort to disrupt the love-in by Chris Christie — a potential rival who bought Facebook ads to supply audience members with skeptical questions such as “Why are you afraid of debating?” — went nowhere.

In surveys and focus…

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This article was written by and originally published on www.nytimes.com