Establishment Candidates Walker, Bush Stumble In GOP Debate

Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, two of the leading establishment candidates in the Republican primary, turned in deeply unimpressive performances Thursday evening in the GOP debate, further casting the race for the nomination into uncertainty.

Earlier Thursday, Carly Fiorina, who'd been barred by polling averages from the primetime debate, seized her moment, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and casino entertainer Donald Trump commanded the stage later that evening.

Walker, the Wisconsin governor, came off flat, while Bush seemed himself unconvinced by his own lines. "Looks like he wouldn't vote for himself up there," quipped one unaligned GOP operative.

In Bush's closing statement, he asked people to vote for him "whenever the primary is." He meant to nod to the different dates of primaries in different states, but it sounded more like a statement of ultimate ambivalence.

Walker, meanwhile, returned with predictable regularity to his vanquishing of teachers in Wisconsin, which he called "big government union bosses." In his closing argument, he offered humbly, "I'm a guy with a wife and two kids and a Harley."