I can't remember who posted it first -- TNR? -- but the best thought I've heard about the Republican debate was: don't any of these people see anything wrong with the Country? Isn't there anything different they'd like to do, something they'd want to change?
Excepting possibly immigration, it's startling how much of the current Republican crop hews to orthodoxy. No serious new ideas. No serious policy proposals. Simply repetition about the endless culture war and god-forsaken Iraq. Not even acknowledgement that there might BE problems.
Seems like what's going on is that Conservative Orthodoxy has gotten so severe and rigid that it's not even possible to lead it in a new direction. After all, you can't borrow from a Democrat idea because you would be automatically screwed. You can't deviate from Federalism, so new spending programs are out. Any economic proposals will be scrutinized for their tertiary effects on the god-damned culture war. You CAN offer to cut taxes, but we've heard that noise for the past thirty years.
Even on the culture war, there isn't much you can do except appoint "Strict Constructionist" judges. You're just supposed to sit there and praise the Boy Scouts, I guess.
All in all, it's pretty thin gruel. It can't last in the general election