First GOP Primary Debate – A Detailed Summary of the Fiery Event
Milwaukee became, quite literally, the hot spot of the nation by hosting the first GOP Primary Debate of 2024. The high temperature seemed to heat up the candidates for an exciting kickoff to the presidential debate season.
Without the ‘elephant’ in the room, it allowed for a greater ability to focus on the lower-tier candidates in the GOP race (let’s be real, Donald J. Trump is so far ahead in the polls that the remaining candidates are really jockeying to be Trump’s contender at best). We’ve been following the GOP primary candidates for a while now, with a major glimpse of who they are and what they stand for by watching Blaze Media’s recent ‘The Summit’ hosted by Tucker Carlson (Ah, where was Tucker tonight? With his masterful, pointed questioning and a nothing-is-off-the-table dogged determination, he really knows how to yank out the truth or at least show authentic discomfort when trying to cover up lies. Oh, that’s right—he was interviewing the ‘white elephant’ on ‘X’!).
Well then, for those who watched the Tucker/Trump interview instead of the GOP Primary Debate, here is a short synopsis of what you missed and a grade we assigned to each of the candidates’ performance based on ability to answer questions truthfully and the use of skillful debate tactics.
Doug Bergum – C+
For those of you who may not know, Doug is the Governor of North Dakota. He’s also a billionaire software entrepreneur, who has personally financed his campaign with over $18 million. In a boot and crutches from a basketball pickup game injury, he managed to get in some worthy arguments and statements. After recently signing a near-total ban on abortion in North Dakota, Bergum renewed his opposition to a federal law outlawing abortion, as he believes the issue should be left to each state.
"We need to get back to freedom and liberty for the people," he said.
With a total of 7:50 minutes of speaking time, he didn’t exactly break through to the audience, and he may have gained a few votes from those who agree with his focus of securing the border and winning the cold war with China by growing our economy through innovation and deregulation.
Asa Hutchinson – D
Another dark horse, but one we knew about as we watched him struggle around the hot topic of gender affirming care for children (which Tucker pressed him on in the Blaze Summit). The former Arkansas governor didn’t really have a ‘moment’ at the debate. The candidate who had the least amount of talk time (7:24 minutes), he didn’t seem to have anything to say to set himself apart from the pack. In his closing statement his focus was on the need for new leadership.
“The solution is not four more years of Joseph Biden. The solution is not four more years of Donald Trump—the solution is new leadership that can bring bold ideas to America.”
We didn’t hear any “bold ideas” from Asa. Just some word salad about how he will bring out the best in American people.
Chris Christie- C-
Many people are scratching their heads to understand why Chris Christie has even entered this race. Once a former ally of Donald Trump, the ex-Governor of New Jersey (along with is BFF Christopher Wray) is clearly all about taking down Trump. So, it was no surprise that only he and Asa Hutchinson did not raise their hand to support Donald Trump if he is the GOP nominee and is convicted.
"Someone has got to stop normalizing this conduct," said Christie, the most vocal Trump critic among the field. "Whether or not you believe the criminal charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the office of the president of the United States."
Although, this is not Vivek Ramaswamy’s section of the article, his retort to this comment really pumped up the audience. Ramaswamy said,
“Let’s just speak the truth, OK? President Trump, I believe, was the best president of the 21st Century—it’s a fact…you’re claim that Donald Trump is motivated by vengeance and grievance would be a lot more credible if your entire campaign were not based on vengeance and grievance against one man. And if people at home want to see a bunch of people blindly bashing Donald Trump without an iota of vision for the country, they can just change the channel to MSNBC right now…. We cannot set a precedent where the party in power uses police force to indict its political opponents. It is wrong. We have to end the weaponization of justice in this country.”
As for Christie’s argument as to why he should become the GOP nominee, he points out:
“I’m the only one on this stage who’s ever beaten a Democratic incumbent in an election. I did it in a deep blue state being outspent three to one…I’m the one who can win this race, and if you give me the chance, I will restore our country by winning it.”
No new vision, no apparent solutions.
We’ll give him points for his clever zinger, telling Vivek Ramaswamy that he sounded like Chat GPT after he expounded on why climate change was a hoax!
Tim Scott – B-
We’re not sure why, but Tim Scott seemed to be invisible at this debate. Notwithstanding, the Senator of South Carolina didn’t necessarily have a bad night, he just never had a “moment”—good OR bad, to set him apart from the pack.
Scott has a great story and is living proof of someone with humble beginnings rising above poverty and beating the odds to become a successful politician. He is the embodiment the American dream and truly an inspiration for so many. The problem is a great background story is not quite enough to win enough votes to the White House.
We did like what we heard when he talked about the weaponization of the Department of Justice. Scott explained that when he’s president, the first thing he’ll do is fire Merrick Garland and secondly, fire Christopher Wray. "We keep seeing not only the weaponization of the Department of Justice against political opponents, but also at parents who show up at school board meetings—they’re called Domestic Terrorists,” he explained. “This DOJ uses their political powers and authorities against conservatives and conservative causes.”
In terms of his positions, he seemed pretty aligned with most of the candidates, but he fell a little short in convincing us how he would make a difference if elected president. In his closing statement, he reiterated his story of how he overcame obstacles in his life, and what he learned from his mother who had to work 16-hour days to put food on the table:
“She taught me that if you you’re able-bodied in America, you work. You take out a loan, you pay it back. You commit a violent crime; you go to jail. And if God made you a man, you play sports against men.”
We agree with Scott’s values and think he’s a great guy – he just needs more vision and strategy on how he’ll tackle the job of being president in these extreme times.
Mike Pence – C
Ok, we are unimpressed, but we will score Mr. Pence fairly. When we watched Tucker take him down at Blaze Media’s ‘The Summit’ on the persecution of religious rights for the people of Ukraine, we were a little surprised he had the grit to even show up tonight. Well, not only did the former Vice President show up, but he was the longest-winded candidate, piling up 12:26 min talking time (compare that to Asa Hutchinson, who had 7:24 min total talking time).
Well, Pence had a LOT to say—most of which were the accomplishments he made while riding on Donald Trump’s coattails. Which was quite ironic, since he was a major Trump basher at the same time. Hypocrite much?
Bestowing a “C” grade to him was difficult, but as stated earlier in the article, we would be fair, and like him or not, he did command attention by successfully using his debating skills. He was the first to target Vivek Ramaswamy, calling him a "rookie" who lacks experience to be president.
"I was the first person in this race to say that we've got to deal with the long-term national debt issues…Vivek, you recently said a president can't do everything. Well, I've got news for you, Vivek. I've been in the hallway. I've been in the West Wing. The president of the United States has to confront every crisis facing America."
We hear you, Mike. You’ve been in the West Wing so that qualifies you over anyone who hasn’t walked down that hallway!
Once you can get past his duplicitous and sometimes cringey posture, he does have some decent, thought-out strategies. All candidates are pro-life when it comes to abortion. The issues for the conservatives are around limits and whether the laws should be at a federal or state level. Mike is in favor of a federal ban after 15-weeks across the country (which he stated is at the time before a fetus can feel any pain), citing that 70% of Americans support this. This, of course, is a subject that has a long history of debate. Tim Scott agrees with a national approach, to then eliminate the unholy full-term abortions that can happen in New Jersey, California and three other states.
Pence also reminded the audience that after 2025, the Trump/Pence tax cuts go away if there is not a Republican president, house and senate. He said, “When I’m president of the United States, we’re actually going to cut taxes further, extend those tax cuts and we’re going to close the Federal Department of Education. Block grants all that funding back to the states with a growing economy and educational choice and law enforcement. We will bring our cities back.”
Nikki Haley – A-
As the only female candidate, the former UN Ambassador had an opportunity to either stand out and be noticed, or not get a word in edgewise. Nikki chose the first option, and had a very notable night, which should help move her up in the polls. She had a true ‘woman boss’ moment with quite possibly, the most memorable quip of the evening when she quoted Margaret Thatcher, “When you want something said, ask a man. When you want something done, ask a woman.” This was in response to a spat between Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy regarding climate change. This was Nikki’s moment!
Ms. Haley went on to provide excellent arguments and responses on all the subject matter thrown her way. “Unapologetically pro-life”,” she laid out the facts about how obtaining a federal abortion ban would require 60 senate votes and a majority of the house.
“No Republican president can ban abortions any more than a Democrat president can ban all those state laws,” Haley said. “Don’t make women feel like they have to decide on this issue when you know we don’t have 60 Senate votes.”
In reference to funding the Ukraine war, Haley noted that 3.5% of the U.S. defense budget has been given to Ukraine, which she called a "pro-America country that was invaded by a thug," Putin. She is for continued funding.
We believe Nikki was at the top of her game tonight. Not that we agree with her stance on everything, but her performance was very strong and unwavering. She commanded respect by being respectful, but don’t confuse that with being a wallflower!
Vivek Ramaswamy – A-
Anyone following the polls has seen this candidate pulling ahead. The young biotech entrepreneur has been making a name for himself with his proposed common-sense America-first policies. He is highly intelligent and articulate with his ideas and strategies; however, unproven in the political arena.
We had high expectations for this young maverick—and he did not disappoint. Did Vivek have a perfect performance? Of course not. However, he does not go along with the mob when being challenged. Agree with him or not, this man is principled, and they simply cannot compete with that. This was evident when the subject of climate change came up.
Ramaswamy had a viral moment when he declared: "I'm the only person on the stage who isn't bought and paid for, so I can say this: The climate change agenda is a hoax... The anti-carbon agenda is the wet blanket on our economy... More people are dying of bad climate change policies than they are of actual climate change."
This triggered major booing from the audience (think of all the PAC members there) AND Chris Christie, who stooped to the level of attacking his persona and making an insane comparison.
Christie said, “The last person in one of these debates who said, ‘What’s a skinny guy with an odd last name doing up here’ was Barack Obama; and I’m afraid we’re dealing with the same type of amateur standing on stage tonight.”
The candidates were split on funding the Ukraine war, with Ramaswamy and DeSantis saying they would cut off funding to Kyiv while others defended U.S. endless aid. Vivek stated his opinion, “I find it offensive that we have professional politicians who will make a pilgrimage to Kyiv, to their pope, Zelenskyy, without doing the same for the people in Maui or the south side of Chicago,” he said, referring to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.
Again, not a popular opinion with most of the candidates and audience, but Vivek owned it and did not back down.
His closing remarks included his ’10 Truths’
- God is real.
- There are two genders.
- Fossil fuels are a requirement for human prosperity.
- Reverse racism is racism.
- An open border is not a border.
- Parents determine the education of their children.
- Capitalism lifts us up from poverty.
- There are three branches of government, not four.
- The U.S. Constitution, it is the strongest guarantor of freedom in human history…that is what won the American Revolution, and that is what will win the revolution of 2024.
We don’t think any other candidate has developed a more concise and detailed summary of their principles and vision. Of course, he is not yet proven, but he is definitely guided by intelligence, moral convictions and truth. We think Vivek has nowhere to go but up!
Ron DeSantis – B+
Current Florida Governor and leading contender of this group, Ron DeSantis is a proven entity in the successes he has had in leading the Sunshine State. Ron is not the most charismatic guy, but he has shown he can get the job done. Lately, however, he has been declining in the race due to donor and campaign issues (he’s on his 3rd campaign manager), as well as a recent remark about Trump followers that has been taken out of context (the ‘listless vessels’ quip).
Unfortunately, DeSantis didn’t have a “moment” at this debate. That’s not to say he didn’t have some great responses. He was right in the center of the stage, and right in the middle with the time he spoke (10:01 min.) which seems to be part of the problem. When the candidates were asked if they would support Trump if he's the GOP nominee and gets convicted, Vivek was the first to raise his hand. After Haley, Scott, and Burgum also raised their hands, DeSantis looked around the stage and finally raised his hand. So there he was - right in the middle again.
We all agree that DeSantis has done an amazing job in the free state of Florida, and he took the opportunity to review some of his accomplishments. When asked about Bidenomics, he said, “Why are we in this mess? …a major reason is because of how this Federal Government handled Covid-19 by locking down this economy…in Florida, we kept our state free and open…and as your president, I will never let the deep state bureaucrats lock you down. You don’t take somebody like Fauci and coddle him. You bring Fauci in, you set him down and you say, ‘Anthony, you are fired!’ This was probably the most impassioned segment from Ron.
DeSantis also showed some emotion during the abortion discussion when he said he was proud to pass the Heartbeat Bill (6-week ban) and stands firm on this even though one of his financial backers suggested he needed to shift to get moderates, or he will lose.
He ended the night with this: “…in Florida, we showed it could be done. I made promises and I delivered on all of those promises. 2024 is make or break. We’re not getting a Mulligan—no excuses. I will get the job done and, as your president, I will not let you down.”
Whether or not Ron still has a shot is yet to be seen. We'll have to see how the next showdown goes in late September.
And that was the first GOP Primary Debate of 2024!