Perhaps it was naive of me, but I had high hopes for this campaign season. Unlike 2012, when a pathetically thin bench was unable to muster a serious challenger to the uninspiring Mitt Romney, we had a whole host of accomplished and popular governors who had thrown their hat in the ring. We had firebrands from the Senate to keep us ideologically on track. The Democrats were running a bunch of tackling dummies for Hillary Clinton, who is a terrible candidate who would lose to anyone we had on offer.

Then Donald Trump happened. Trump tapped into the worst and ugliest elements of the conservative movement and made them feel that their vices were actually virtues. Trump is a lifelong Democrat and Hillary supporter, and I am 99.9% sure that Trump is the result of a brilliantly Machiavellian plan hatched by the Clintons to divide and dispirit the Republican party so as to ensure that it ultimately lost to Hillary.

I’m so in awe of the entire concept that I’m currently searching for a filthy rich conservative who is willing to mount a not-very-convincing public conversion to liberalism, and then run for President as a Democrat by appealing to the lowest common denominator of the comment sections of leftist conspiracy theory blogs. I’m sure it will work and I’m mad as hell at the Democrats for thinking of it first.

Trump’s candidacy, and the existential threat it poses to the conservative movement and the Republican party as a whole, has irretrievably poisoned the race – not just because Trump has lowered both the intellectual and rhetorical bar below where it has ever been before – but because the justified panic his rise has induced has caused a series of ugly, unforced errors by the other candidates, who have found themselves facing the pressure of jockeying aggressively against each other while constantly looking over their shoulders at the Trump menace.

So it’s all fitting that this toxic situation is coming to head tomorrow in South Carolina, a state that is infamous for its bare-knuckled and underhanded brand of politics. It’s only right that candidates should have to prove their ability to emerge from this gauntlet before punching their ticket for Super Tuesday.

This is the race Trump has created, and it’s only fitting that South Carolina should end up as the final threshing floor. New Hampshire tried and failed to meaningfully thin the herd, but South Carolina will doubtless succeed where New Hampshire failed. Game on.