The race for the GOP primary nomination has officially started as the slew of candidates who hope to run against the Democratic incumbent, Joe Biden, took the stage for the first debate. The elephant in the room, Donald Trump, was missing, as he had previously rejected the idea of slugging it out with people that he clearly does not consider to be “contenders”.
The question is, what is the purpose of the debates given that at least at this point in time, Donald Trump is leading by a mile? With Trump consistently polling at over 50% and the nearest rival, DeSantis at a mere 15%, there seems to be no contest.
Former Trump pollster, senior adviser and “eminence grise” during the Trump administration Kellyanne Conway, minced no words after it was over: “This is all the undercard right now,” she said on Fox News.
To think that the following day that same leading candidate, Trump, is expected to turn himself in at the Fulton County jail in Atlanta, where they will take another mug shot of him, indicted on charges that he staged a coup against the country that he led as President, is a scenario that is beyond belief.
But what seems to be getting swept under the rug by the Democrats is that Biden is a very weak candidate for their party and might in fact cause an upset not because Trump, the presumptive candidate, has too much legal baggage dragging him down, but because too many voters cannot imagine Biden as president going forward. The press—especially the conservative outlets—harp on Biden’s latest faux pas relentlessly as comments about his rapid aging —whether this is a valid point or not—appear on a daily basis.
Even though Trump too is looking more old and tired by the day, as he battles the many indictments and coming trials, the Democratic party strategists seem to have decided to ignore this instead of capitalizing on it.
So how did the “undercard” candidates perform in the debate?
For many pundits, Vivek Ramaswamy crushed it. “He absolutely dominated tonight’s debate,” Fox News host Steve Hilton said. The fact that the other candidates spent much of their energy against him seemed to suggest that he is the rising star among them, and they know it.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, an aggressive and charmless attack dog, said, “I’ve had enough already tonight of a guy who sounds like ChatGPT standing up here” alluding to Ramaswamy’s smooth Harvard palaver. Ramaswamy, an acknowledged Trump sympathizer, fought back saying that Christie is running a campaign “based on vengeance and grievance” against Trump. “I would pardon him,” Ramaswamy said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on July 30.
He added that the Justice Department investigation of Trump is “clearly a politicized prosecution.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence also focused on the youngest candidate on stage. “Now is not the time for on-the-job training,” he said, touting his own greater experience.
CNN stated that “Ramaswamy was the central figure for much of the night.”
Ron DeSantis did not break out. If anything, he further demonstrated that he was a flash in the pan before it mattered. He leaned heavily on his by-now too familiar canned responses and deflected or weaved and bobbed when pressed for answers to specific questions, clearly demonstrating that he has a shallow understanding of national issues and not enough backbone to defend those he does believe in.
Nikki Haley got in a few punches and widened the scope of the discussion by bringing in some national issues, addressing Ramaswamy’s inexperience with, “You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows.”
She was the first to criticize Trump by name, she praised Pence’s actions on January 6, 2021, and also called her former boss–Trump– the “most disliked politician in America,” adding, “We cannot win a general election that way”.
In the end, Fox News host Jesse Watters, provided at least one answer to the question of what was the purpose of the debate, “One of these candidates may wind up as VP.”
CNN concluded that “nothing that happened Wednesday night is likely to turn the race on its head”.
But one Yahoo user wrapped it all up for the average viewer: “They are more ununified and disorganized than ever. They have no plans other than ‘Biden bad’. They’re stuck under the shadow of Trump.”