Why This GOP Debate Is The One You Should Watch

Amazingly, there's going to be yet another Republican debate on Thursday. It'll be the seventh GOP debate of the season, but definitely not the last. These things are becoming a wee bit tiresome, and it'll be tempting to just sit this one out. But don't! There's one big reason you should watch the seventh GOP debate: It's the last one before the Iowa caucuses, and there's a chance that this might be the last time we'll see Donald Trump on stage at one of these things.

Now, this is by no means a consensus opinion, so bear with me. Despite his sustained support in the polls, Trump has never actually participated in an election before. In electoral politics, the only thing that ultimately matters is how many people vote for you — everything else you do is in service of that goal. In that sense, then, Trump is wholly untested as a candidate.

It's distinctly possible that he'll come in first or second in the Iowa caucuses. That's what the polling would suggest. But what if it's all a mirage? What if Trump, as The New York Times has reported, has a truly awful ground operation in Iowa that fails to turn out the vote? What if, rather than placing first or second, he places sixth or seventh?

Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If that were to happen, it would suddenly become obvious that the entire Trump phenomenon was just an illusion. Given his hatred of losers, Trump would almost certainly drop out of the race rather quickly if he suffered a humiliating defeat in the Iowa caucuses. If it was obvious that he couldn't win, why would he risk losing any more? He wouldn't.

Which brings us back to the debates. In all likelihood, Trump will do well in Iowa and his campaign will live to see another day. But if the scenario I suggested plays out, the upcoming Republican debate would be Trump's last. With one notable exception, Trump has had all of the show-stealing moments at the GOP debates so far, and to the extent that the Republican primary has been interesting at all, it's been because of Trump's involvement.

In other words, there's a chance — however remote — that the Republican race is about to get a whole lot more boring. If that's the case, the next GOP debate will be the last opportunity to witness Trump's presidential run in all of its insane glory, and that alone would makes it worth tuning in.

Admittedly, that is a difficult scenario to imagine. It's also difficult to imagine Trump announcing a presidential run and then leading the polls for eight months straight. And yet, here we are.