Last night's debate in Jacksonville, Fla., will be the last one until the end of February. (We hope, anyway!) Since May, candidates have come and gone, just about every media organization has had at least one crack at hosting, and this moveable feast of the same set of questions being asked over and over again has gone all across the country.
But as we take a break from the constant din of 2012 hopefuls clashing, you know who we'll really miss? The real star of these contests: the audiences.
The debates during the primary season are a different animal from the staid affairs that are staged once the nominating season concludes. At those later events, the audience stays hushed, honoring the moment. But during the primary season, they can let their hair down a bit. And this year, the audiences at the GOP debates have gone buck wild.
The audiences' reactions first gained notoriety thanks to a few catcallers who made themselves the story, booing gay soldiers and jeering at people without health insurance. But the fever has spread, and since then, the debates have become sessions that remind one of the fight scenes from the movie "Gladiator." They cheer executions, boo the Golden Rule and join in with lusty approval or passionate derision whenever the battle is joined between candidate and moderator, depending upon who is doing the attacking. Along the way, some candidates have been broken by the audience's reaction, some have weathered it and some -- most notably Newt Gingrich -- have harnessed it, conducted it, used it to inject new life into their campaigns.
Now, the bar for raucousness has been raised so high that we expect future primary-season debates on both sides to serve as a vehicle for the audience to channel their passions. But for now, with the help of HuffPost's Ben Craw, we present to you our orchestral tribute to the true breakout star of this debate season -- the unrestrained id of the GOP base.
[Video Produced by Ben Craw]
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