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Will candidates bring real firepower to the GOP debates?

Will candidates bring real firepower to the GOP debates?
The debate hall for Thursday's Republican presidential primary debate: Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

Will there be a metal detector at the GOP presidential debate? Not for the audience – for the candidates.

Maybe there should be. The Republican runners have been packing heat and then some lately, trying to outdo one another with absurd stunts, many involving gunplay, in order to rate a spot in the "big" debate lineup.

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Ted Cruz bragged about how he cooks weekend breakfasts Texas-style – wrapping bacon around the barrel of a "machine gun" and blasting away at the gun range. C’mon, kids – get your ear protection: Daddy’s cooking this morning!

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, whose followers include a Nerd Army, put on safety goggles and took a chainsaw to the tax code, then set the shreds on fire.

His Senate colleague Lindsay Graham, from South Carolina, in the wittiest video, painstakingly destroyed his cellphone, the one whose number Donald Trump had revealed to millions. He tried a whole tool kit of mayhem: a cleaver, a blender, a golf club, bleach, a baseball bat and lighter fluid. In the end, his white shirt still immaculate, Graham hurled his phone into a wall.

Rick Perry shoots guns on YouTube; Sarah Palin and Iowa’s newest senator, Joni Ernst, have wheeled out the firepower. Even the original good ol’  girl, Democrat Ann Richards, the governor of Texas in the 1990s, took her shootin’ iron out for some photo ops.

What does this swagger accomplish, apart from stealing some clicks from Donald Trump? Does it sway the small percentage of 2nd Amendment single-issue voters to support the candidate with the most firepower? Arizona GOP congressional candidate Gary Kiehne tried that tack in a debate last year: "I probably have more guns and ammo than any one of my competitors." (He lost, but perhaps because he compared Vietnamese war refugees to undocumented immigrants and said Democrats were responsible for most mass shootings; he walked that one back.)

This “quien es mas macho?” stuff considerably ups the ante from earlier famous presidential and candidate photo ops: New York mayor John Lindsay put on a scuba suit to check out ocean pollution in Florida; Richard Nixon strolled the San Clemente beach in dress shoes; Michael Dukakis popped out of that tank; John Kerry emerged from a space shuttle tour in a “bunny” suit; and Calvin Coolidge put on that native American headdress, an image that still gives campaign consultants the fantods, lest their candidates get caught appearing equally awkward.

Today's campaign behavior looks more comically Putin-ish than presidential. Will the day come when one of our GOP presidential contenders goes full Vladimir and tries horseback riding bare-chested or deliver judo chops?

If gunplay is the new ''beer-buddy" standard for choosing a president, we're more cooked than Ted Cruz's breakfast bacon.

For my money – and my vote – I'd prefer a president who governs with a brain, not a trigger finger.

Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes

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