It’s easy to laugh at the freak-show race for the Republican presidential nomination. Unfortunately, the antics of the candidates—and the media’s fascination with them—have diverted attention from what the Republicans would do if they win.

The sexual harassment accusations against Herman Cain, along with his confusion over matters such as Libya, make for entertaining television. So do the stumbles of Christian-right-hope Rick Perry, the collapse of ultra-conservative heroine Michele Bachmann and the sudden emergence of shopworn hack Newt Gingrich. The pratfalls of these people make perfect material for the media in a presidential campaign that is breaking new ground in superficial coverage.

Such coverage has always been part of political reporting. But this year, it’s worse. To a great extent, the contest is being waged on simplistic cable television shows and blogs. This season’s new development, a multitude of debates with their one-minute answers and chances for unexpected disasters, feed the process.

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