I watched both Republican debates last week.

I watched both Republican debates last week. I empathized with the lonely four who participated in the first.

It was reminiscent of family gatherings at our dining room table too small to seat everybody. A folding card table was pulled out to accommodate the overflow.

Although it’s one big candidate family, they’re clearly excluded from the main table’s conversations. Of course, the separation is born of necessity but seating assignments prioritized by popularity spoke silent volumes.

However, the winnowing was necessary since no cogent debate could possibly occur with 15 participants. Of those relegated to the “card table,” I don’t think any of them appreciably scooted their chairs closer to the center ring. I suspect those four will soon fold their election tents as Scott Walker did.

The main-event 11 all acquitted themselves well. Unfortunately for some, there’s so much talent vying for this cycle’s nomination, bright bulbs are eclipsed by even brighter glows.

Donald Trump continues to lead all the others, but for the life of me I truly can’t imagine him as president. I like him and certainly like many of his “politically incorrect” positions but will be surprised if he makes the final cut.

I’m a fan of Carly Florina and salivate at the thought of her squaring off in a debate with Hillary. But it’s looking more and more like any such debate would have to take place in the visitation ward through a telephone with separating glass panel. That picture makes me grin.

There’s no downside to Ben Carson and I’d be very happy to see him at the finish line. But it remains to be seen if voters will opt for quiet intelligence and measured speech.

Marco Rubio went into the debate a favorite of mine and came out a bigger favorite. In fact if it were possible for me to divine an excellent primary outcome, Rubio-Florina or Florina-Rubio seems a wonderful ticket on many levels, at least at this particular moment.

Ted, John, Chris, Jeb, Rand, Mike or Scott didn’t do much to improve their prospects. I like them all but think their respective mountains got a bit steeper.

Of course talk about who wins and who doesn’t week by week is nonsensical at this stage of the race. The good news is that the country can’t lose with any of these candidates.

Whomever we choose in 2016 will be vastly superior to what we’ve had for 6-plus years. That’s a no-brainer. Lordy, I once said even Hillary would be an improvement!

Now the idiomatic “familiarity breeds contempt” has come into play with a vengeance. I was dead wrong thinking Hillary is anything but a totally empty pantsuit.

But the whole exercise about her lack of substance may end up being a moot point. I now have doubt she’ll even end up with her party’s nomination. But I’ve been wrong before underestimating the idiocy of today’s Democratic Party.

However it plays out, there’s never been a more interesting time to witness election history than now. It’ll be quite a ride and I hope on the morning of Nov. 9, 2016, I’m smiling.

Otis Gardner can be reached at ogardner@embarqmail.com.