There were moments in the Wednesday evening Republican presidential debate that seemed chaotic, with some of the more animated candidates talking over each other and throwing accusations, but overall the seven GOP candidates who qualified for the debate showed that the Republican Party has plenty of talent to take on Democrat Joe Biden.
Republicans are not afraid to brawl, and brawl they did on stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
Each showed how they would be a strong contender against Democrat Vice President Kamala Harris, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, or Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, possible replacements for the aging and mentally feeble President Biden.
But the question remains, can any of the seven get past former President Donald Trump, who did not attend the debate, but held a rally in Michigan instead. Trump is still the leading candidate in the polls, as far as Republican voters are concerned. He has over 60% of their support, according to more polls.
For the seven who did debate, it was more about leadership style and whether they can convince people they’ll follow through on promises; for the most part, they agreed on everything from the need to strengthen the border again to the importance of putting an end to child mutilation, commonly known now as “gender-affirming surgery.” They disagreed on approaches to Russian aggression and U.S. funding support for Ukraine.
As with the first debate, some of them took pot shots at Vivek Ramaswamy, the energetic entrepreneur who, unlike the others, has never held elected office.
“The Republicans showed it is the party of good ideas and at the end of the day, our bench is so much better than theirs,” said one Republican attending a debate party in Juneau.
A straw poll at that party, held at the Prospector/Ramada, showed that Republicans in the capital city thought Nikki Haley won the debate, followed by Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie.
Some of the interesting moments:
Vivek Ramaswamy called for the end of birthright citizenship for kids who were born in the US with parents who illegally entered the country:
“I favor ending birthright citizenship for the kids of illegal immigrants in this country. Now, the left will howl about the Constitution and the 14th Amendment. The difference between me and them is I’ve actually read the 14th Amendment. What it says is that all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the laws and jurisdiction thereof are citizens. So nobody believes that the kid of a Mexican diplomat in this country enjoys birthright citizenship.”
Chris Christie lashed out at Donald Trump for not attending the debate: “You’re not here tonight because you’re afraid to defend your record. You’re ducking. We’re going to call you Donald Duck.” The audience booed, just as the first debate brought out boos for Christie whenever he went after Trump, which he did repeatedly on Wednesday, serving as the stage’s primary attack dog on the presumed nominee.
Nikki Haley lashed out at Ramaswamy for being a TikTok user. TikTok is owned by communist Chinese, who can scrape users’ data.
“I have a radical idea for the Republican Party,” Ramaswamy responded. “We need to win elections, and part of how we win elections is reaching the next generation of young Americans where they are.”
Haley yelled, “This is infuriating. TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps that we could have,” She said that every time she hears Ramaswamy, she feels “dumber.”
Haley continued to harangue Ramaswamy with a diatribe that ended with, “We can’t trust you!”
Ramaswamy responded kindly, “I think we would be better served as a Republican Party if we’re not sitting here hurling personal insults and actually have a legitimate debate about policy.”
Ron DeSantis responded to a question from Univision’s Ilia Caldaron, who was repeating misinformation spread by Vice President Kamala Harris about changing the slavery history curriculum in Florida schools:
DeSantis said, “First of all, that is a hoax that was perpetrated by Kamala Harris. We are not going to be doing that. Second of all, that was written by descendents of slaves. These are great black history scholars, so we need to stop playing these games.Florida represents the revival of American education.
“We’re ranked No. 1 in the nation in education by U.S. News and World Report,” DeSantis said. “My wife and I, we have a 6-, 5-, and 3-year-old. This is personal to us. We didn’t just talk about universal school choice; we enacted universal school choice. We didn’t just talk about a parents’ bill of rights. We enacted the Parents’ Bill of Rights.”
“We eliminated critical race theory, and we now have American civics and the Constitution in our schools in a really big way, just like President Reagan asked for in his farewell address back in 1989,” DeSantis said. “Florida is showing how it’s done. We’re standing with parents, and our kids are benefiting.”
DeSantis also refused to participate in one question, which was when Dana Perino asked the candidates to write down the name of one candidate who should be “voted off the island.”
“It’s now obvious that if you all stay in the race, former President Donald Trump wins the nomination. None of you have indicated that you are dropping out. So, which one of you onstage tonight should be voted off the island?” Perino said. “Please use your marker to write your choice on the notepad in front of you, 15 seconds, starting now.”
DeSantis responded, “With all due respect, I mean, we’re here. We’re happy to debate, but I think that that’s disrespectful to my fellow competitors. Let’s talk about the future of the country.”
Christie did respond, however, as the hits on Trump continued: “I vote Donald Trump off the island right now. And the reason I vote him off the island … every person on this stage has shown the respect for Republican voters to come here, to express their views, honestly, candidly, and directly, and to take your questions. I have respect for every man and woman on this stage because they’ve done it.”
Christie said, “This guy [Trump] has not only divided our party, he’s divided families all over this country. He’s divided friends all over this country. He needs to be voted off the island, and he needs to be taken out of this process.”