Donald Trump’s 2024 Republican presidential at presidential Debate campaign wrestled with his eight primary rivals on Wednesday night for second place as a result of Trump’s absence from the opening debates. Most of his main rivals, all of whom were men, competed for second place while donning dazzling red ties similar to the glossy red ties worn by prior presidents.

Together with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, 38-year-old entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy took the center stage and was the main attraction for the majority of the evening. Ramaswamy engaged in conversations with former vice president Mike Pence, former governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley, former governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, and others, drawing on his expertise, on a variety of topics, including foreign policy, concerns surrounding Trump, and many more.

Ramoswamy was occasionally used as a substitute for the former president on Wednesday night, who briefly left the stage due to his position as a Trump supporter. However, they will rescind it when they show up to the Fulton County Jail on Thursday. They are charged with rigging the elections in Georgia.

The discussion experienced being the underdog in a two-hour display of fireworks. Despite his legal issues, Trump has maintained a commanding lead in the polls, and whatever transpired on Wednesday night, it doesn’t appear that anything will change very soon.

The former President’s absence suggested that numerous candidates who had cast themselves as ardent opponents of the former President were denied the chance to directly debate him. Christie, about whom Ramaswamy observed that he was conducting a campaign against Trump on the basis of “revenge and complaint,” spent more time arguing with businesspeople than the previous president. Asa Hutchinson, a former governor of Arkansas, continued the discussion for a while without agreeing.

In the interim, Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota experienced a significant event. He was able to participate in a discussion on Wednesday, which was a huge accomplishment in and of itself. This was a really significant occasion. Burgum had suffered a severe injury on Tuesday, when his Achilles tendon had torn significantly, leaving him in excruciating pain. He was immediately rushed to a Milwaukee emergency room for critical medical care.

“I think I took it too literally when they said, ‘Go to Milwaukee and break a leg,’” he joked.

In Milwaukee’s “Fiserv Forum” event, a contentious discussion took place in front of a rowdy crowd of about 4,000 people. The Fox News moderators frequently became irate when the candidates attacked Trump because of the audience’s responses, which frequently included both laughter and mocking.

Following are seven lessons learned during the first Republican presidential debate in 2024:

Ramaswamy is targeted by candidates

Most of the debate participants had no target on which to focus their abilities because to Trump’s absence from Wednesday’s debate; neither did any candidate who has ever held an elected position or a dentist from South Carolina like Senator Tim Scott. Ramaswamy, a recent political entrant, was in this. Vivek, you previously mentioned that a president can’t accomplish everything, so Pence decided to take the opening shot at the Ohio businessman. Well, Vivek, I have some news for you. In Oval, I reside. I’m a West Wing resident. Every problem that affects the United States must be handled by the president.

This led to a sharp exchange of words and some light-hearted taunts between the two candidates. Later, during the first phase of the debate, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie compared Ramaswamy’s responses to something mentioned by ChatGPT. Following this, Christie humorously inquired about what a person with a funny name was doing on the debate stage, drawing a parallel to an old quip by Barack Obama where he had said, “A skinny kid with a funny name who believes.” Christie playfully suggested that there’s room for him in America.

On another note, Peans followed Ramaswamy as the entrepreneur stated, “We are amidst a national identity crisis.” The former Vice President replied, “Vivek, we don’t have any crisis of identity ahead of us. We’re not in search of a new national identity.

Surprisingly, Ramaswamy’s strike was rather shocking. He is a rookie in politics. Additionally, in contrast to other candidates who have been in electoral politics for decades, he has experienced a stunning growth in the most recent elections. This is comparable to Ramaswamy’s opponents completely stopping his progress.

DeSantis doesn’t stand out

Dissenters stated their desire for them to take center stage throughout the discussion on Wednesday. They had every quality except…

He didn’t exactly speak the most. Although DeSantis’ campaign implied that his Republican rivals would have their “knives out” for him, he didn’t face many assaults. And at a crucial point, when asked to show their support for Trump if he were found guilty in court, DeSantis first glanced around the stage to see how everyone else had responded before he halfheartedly raised his right palm.

DeSantis, who was given center stage, seemed satisfied to leave Milwaukee without jeopardizing his position as the front-runner in the polls. He also didn’t do much to change the polling-confirmed perception that he is in the middle of the pack rather than in Trump’s or his own tier.

DeSantis frequently relied on lines from his prepared remarks that had been used before in recent months. He began the discussion by stating, as he does on the campaign trail, that “Our country is in decline” and that “We need to send Joe Biden back to his basement.” He made a joke about Hunter Biden’s paintings, which he frequently does when he travels to early-voting states. He reiterated a vow he has been making for weeks: that anyone who enter the country illegally will die “stone cold dead” under a DeSantis administration.

Moderators occasionally tried to divert DeSantis from his prepared statements. Brett Baier of Fox chimed in to point out that crime was rising in Miami when DeSantis boasted that it was at a 50-year low in Florida. DeSantis was more specific: “Well, statewide.” DeSantis commented up his electoral success in Florida when asked if he would support a federal ban on abortions after six weeks. When forced to respond, he responded as he has for weeks by refusing to rule it out or support it.

By strongly addressing Americans at home, frequently pointing directly at the camera, and by sharing experiences from an abortion survivor and a mother whose son died from fentanyl intoxication, DeSantis attempted to shake off his reputation as a cold and stiff debater. In sharing his biography, he acknowledged that voters might not be familiar with him beyond the racial tensions and Covid-19 policies that have made him a Republican star. He mentioned his military service three times and spoke frequently about his young family.

Christie lacks a standout performance.

If there was one candidate who was predicted to have a knockout moment on Wednesday night, it was Christie. The Florida senator’s propensity of repeating statements caused the former governor to embarrass Marco Rubio during the final debate prior to the New Hampshire primary over eight years ago. Even while Rubio received more votes than Christie in the Granite State, where he finished fifth to Christie’s sixth, the senator found it difficult to shake the perception that he was robotic.

Christie appeared prepared to treat Ramaswamy similarly. While Christie’s “ChatGPT” comment was reminiscent of his last debate performance, the Ohio businessman seemed unaffected by it. Ramaswamy continued to berate him for criticizing Trump instead.

Asked if he would support the former president if he’s convicted of a crime, Christie said the party needs to stop “normalizing this conduct,” drawing boos from the crowd.

Your claim that Donald Trump is motivated by vengeance and grievance would be a lot more credible if your entire campaign were not based in vengeance and grievance against one man,” Ramaswamy said.

Prior to the debate, Christie campaign adviser Doug Mayer warned CNN that the former governor of New Jersey would transform anyone who supported Trump into Trump. Christie’s attempt to criticize the top supporter of the former president on stage, however, was met with even more hatred from the audience.

“You make me laugh,” Christie said before the sound of boos drowned him out. The optics didn’t help: Fox News showed a split screen of Christie standing silently as Ramaswamy grinned until the moderators asked the crowd to let him finish.

Candidates differentiate themselves on abortion

Some candidates supported a 15-week federal abortion ban. Some said they were against efforts to pass a nationwide ban. And no one clearly stated they would sign a six-week federal abortion ban – even if they’d approved such laws as governors.

More than a year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion policy is still a tricky issue for Republican candidates caught between the need to demonstrate their anti-abortion bona fides and address the realities of the political landscape, where voters have rejected stringent abortion restrictions and the candidates who backed them.

At one end of the spectrum stood Haley, who sparred with Pence over the possibility of passing a federal ban. Haley called on the other candidates to “be honest” with the American people about the low odds of getting 60 senators to overcome a filibuster and approve a federal abortion ban. She instead pushed for consensus on issues such as encouraging adoption and allowing doctors and nurses with moral objections to the procedure the right not to perform them.

“Consensus is the opposite of leadership,” Pence said in response. But even Pence wasn’t willing to go further than endorsing a 15-week federal abortion ban, the cutoff offered in a bill South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced last year.

“A 15-week ban is an idea whose time has come,” Pence said. Scott also backed the 15-week ban onstage.

Two candidates who have signed six-week abortion bans into law – DeSantis and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum – stopped short of saying they would do the same nationally. Burgum said his opposition to a national ban stems from his support for the 10th Amendment. DeSantis, asked if he would sign a federal six-week ban, simply said he would “stand on the side of life.”

“I understand Wisconsin will do it different than Texas,” DeSantis said. “But I will support the cause of life as governor and as president.”

After Pence presses him, DeSantis tries to avoid answering the question about January 6 but fails.

When moderators asked DeSantis whether Pence was right to reject Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the 2020 presidential election, the Florida governor attempted to dodge – ignoring what he’d been asked and complaining about the “weaponization” of the federal government.

But Pence dug in, putting DeSantis on the spot.

“The American people deserve to know whether everyone on this stage agrees that I kept my oath to the Constitution that day. There’s no more important duty, so answer the question,” he said.

“Mike did his duty. I’ve got no beef with him,” DeSantis said, attempting to quickly move on.

The moment illustrated how cautious the Florida governor is of alienating Trump’s base.

Christie, though, mocked DeSantis’ answer, calling it “a pre-canned speech.”

He said Pence “deserves not grudging credit; he deserves our thanks as Americans.”

Haley favors the presidential election.

Haley, the former South Carolina governor and US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, brought onto the stage Wednesday a message that was geared more directly for a general electorate than those of her rivals.

What’s less clear is whether she did enough to impress Republican voters to get there.

Haley balked at a federal abortion ban, saying the reality of the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to break the filibuster and the need for a House majority means “consensus” is necessary on the issue. She also said contraception should be available to all women.

She was one of the few candidates to acknowledge that climate change is real.

She was the first to criticize Trump by name, pointing to rising spending during his presidency. She praised Pence’s actions on January 6, 2021, despite Trump’s pressure on the former vice president to seek to overturn the 2020 election result. Haley also called her former boss the “most disliked politician in America.”

“We cannot win a general election that way,” she said.

And she hammered Ramaswamy during an exchange over Russia, as Haley defended the United States’ support for Ukraine.

“You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows,” she said during one of the night’s most animated exchanges.

Scott continues to act like Mr. Nice Guy

The plan for Scott going into the debate was to stick with his “kill ‘em with kindness” attitude. For the first part of the debate, he did that. The problem was that approach kept him out of most of the exchanges. While the other candidates were debating and skirmishing over abortion, Ukraine or whether Trump should be pardoned, Scott wasn’t really in it. He did try and insert himself with warnings about the “weaponization” of the federal government and crime in America. But all of his comments and arguments faded into the background as candidates piled on Ramaswamy or Christie praised Pence for his actions on January 6, 2021.

When Scott did get a chance to weigh in on the southern border, illegal immigration and fentanyl, he offered a long answer about how important and easy it would be to finish Trump’s border wall.

“As the next president of the United States, I will make that border wall complete,” Scott said, extending each word in that concluding sentence. He paused for applause. There was none.

Ahead of the debate, Republican strategists argued that this was the approach Scott wanted to take because it’s his authentic self. The question now is if the South Carolina senator will stick with it going forward.

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