Actually, Vivek Ramaswamy’s agitated, hyperbolic, comically exuberant turn traveled beyond pragmatic calculation into a whole different, more disturbing realm, that of Trump fanboy, Trump sycophant. I assume this was his audition to be Trump’s running mate?

He called Trump “the best president of the 21st century,” which put Trump ahead of only one other Republican commander in chief, but that wasn’t even his strangest and most slavish act of worship. No, he topped it when he proudly asked who among his bickering rivals had the “courage” — he really used that word — to promise that on Day 1 of their presidency, they’d pardon Trump of whatever might need pardoning.

They seemed to ignore him, at least then, though they swatted him down at other junctures. Rising in the polls and ripe for attack, he got schooled by Haley on foreign policy, by Pence on our country’s ability to tackle multiple challenges at once, by Christie on his lack of experience and unwarranted confidence.

All of 38 years old, Ramaswamy is like Trump in the larva stage, molting toward the full MAGA wingspan but not quite there yet. His narcissism, though, is fully evolved. On social media in the days leading up to the debate, he posted a video of himself in “three hours of solid debate prep.” It showed him playing tennis — shirtless. Call it an underdressed overshare, as well as an unsubtle reminder that a certain older, rounder, slower front-runner favors the more aerobically forgiving habitat of the golf course. I guess Ramaswamy does have a Trump dig or two in him, but they’re subliminal backhands.

On Wednesday night, Ramaswamy took his lickings and kept on ticking, muscling his callow way into as many topics of discussion as he could. And there were topics galore, as the moderators marched the candidates through abortion, Ukraine, education, immigration, government spending, climate change and more. That tour revealed Haley’s desire to be seen as somewhat moderate and less vain and rash than the men; Tim Scott’s rearing by a poor, single mother; and Christie’s ability to survive a tsunami of booing.

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