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Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

Republican party primary debate review

The good, the bad, and the absent candidate
courtesy Win McNamee
The Republican presidential race intensifies as candidates Ramaswamy (left) and Haley (right) square off.

Four miles away from Shorewood stands the largest indoor stadium in Wisconsin, home to the Milwaukee Bucks, Marquette Eagles, and Drake concerts. But on the night of August 23, the Fiserv Forum hosted an event that would influence America’s constitutional future: The first Republican Party presidential debate of the 2024 primary elections. 


Grand Old Party of the Working Class

Throughout the night, a common message was clear, a sign of a continuing trend in American politics: the GOP is the party of the average American, and the Democratic Party is that of the wealthy.  The debate itself started off with a playing of the recent folk hit, “Rich Men North Of Richmond” by Oliver Anthony, a song that despite Anthony’s complaints has been picked up by right-wing media.  Anthony himself remarked in a video after the debate that the song’s usage by conservative media is  “aggravating”, and that, “It’s funny seeing [“Rich Men North Of Richmond”] at the Presidential Debate, cause it’s like, I wrote that song about those people!”  This sort of populist theme continued throughout the entire debate, with candidates’ openings focused on populist policies and slogans, such as DeSantis’ promise to “reverse American decline”, or Vivek Ramaswamy telling the crowd, “I’m not a politician.”  Ramaswamy in particular was adamant on establishing himself as the working-class candidate, accusing all others on the stage as having been “bought and paid for”.  In this coming election cycle, it will be interesting to see the effectiveness of the new Republican strategy of trying to win working class voters away from a Democratic Party that has been all but giving them away.  With the likely candidate for the Democrats being their fairly uninspiring incumbent in Joe Biden, it will be key for any Republican candidate to show their ability to draw in votes from the traditionally Democratic-leaning Rust Belt and its large, predominantly white working class.


The Absent Candidate

The simple reality is that the nomination has already been all but secured by the candidate who chose not to appear at the debate: Donald Trump. So who actually “won” the debate? Even in the wake of a debate full of fiery exchanges and attacks, a handful of which were directed at Trump, polls showed little movement in any direction. And, now that we’ve had a couple of weeks for the immediate effects of performance in the debate to wear off, according to data collected by FiveThirtyEight, Trump has actually improved in the polls since the debate.  Some supporters of either candidates below or the Democratic Party may be hoping for cases brought against Trump to hurt him, but that prospect is unlikely at best and laughable at worst.  If aforementioned cases are brought against Trump, he will rally his base by proclaiming himself the victim of authoritarian crackdowns from the deep state, and if he is not prosecuted, he will mock the weak Democrats who are unable to find anything to prosecute him over.  Donald Trump will need to be defeated in an election to be kept at bay.  Considering that Trump has risen 4 points in the polls since the debate, now at over 50%, it is unlikely that that election will be the 2024 Republican Primary. 


Vivek Ramaswamy, American Businessman 

Vivek Ramaswamy and his shiny white teeth dominated the stage throughout his obnoxious rants, many of which were aimed towards Pence and Christie. Although Ramaswamy is a young, Harvard-educated, self-made entrepreneur who differentiates himself from many of the classic old white male Republicans, he clearly attempts to attract the MAGA crowd by being Ken to Trump’s Barbie. When the moderator asked candidates to raise their hands if they support Trump as their party’s choice, Vivek’s hand shot up in the air immediately. In terms of eloquence and his public speaking skills, Ramaswamy was by far the best and most confident speaker on the stage. But don’t let that fool you. This message goes directly to the Facebook moms and their pre-teenage son scrolling on TikTok– just because you saw a 30-second highlight real of Vivek Ramaswamy saying “I didn’t grow up in money” (his mom was a psychiatrist and his dad was an engineer for General Electric) and mentioning the duty to supply the American dream does not mean that you will become a billionaire when you vote for him. 


Chris Christie, Former Governor of New Jersey

Overall, Governor Chris Christie stood his ground and was a solid contestant. Christie’s energy was surprisingly mediocre for his bold statements, although he had occasional humor and defended his position. He is a constitutional man who embodies the anti-Trump mentality, especially when arguing with Ramaswamy. When he mentioned Trump’s charges and his unlawfulness, the crowd continually booed until the moderators had to delay the discussion. Christie responded with “This is the great thing about this country. Booing is allowed, but it doesn’t change the truth.” Besides the crowd’s negativity, Christie did a great job of defending his position and utilized his constitutional values to assert his position.


Nikki Haley, Former Governor of South Carolina

“If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” Nikki Haley was a standout candidate throughout the entire debate; she was professional, well-spoken, and defended herself with ease. She showed little remorse when pouncing on Ramaswamy’s position on foreign policy, saying, “He wants to hand Ukraine to Russia, let China eat Taiwan… You don’t do that to friends.” Although Haley is a pro-life candidate, she had the least extreme takes on abortion policies compared to other candidates who want strict national bans. 


Doug Burgum, Governor of North Dakota

As an outsider to most of the main debate action, Doug Burgum fulfilled his role of effectively announcing his stance on many subjects. Compared to other candidates, he is decently normal, polite, and genuine– all traits that will not get you far in a presidential election. Burgum emphasizes his constitutional mindset through the support of small towns, the people’s liberty and freedom, and hopes to leave abortion to the states instead of implementing a federal ban. 


Asa Hutchinson, Former Governor of Arkansas

Asa Hutchinson opens by saying he is a pro-life man from a conservative state. Just like Burgham, Hutchinson was not a main player in the debate–he reminded us of Creed from the tv show “The Office.” As the former head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, he focused on the importance of addiction counseling, increasing fentanyl usage, and drug education. Other than another mention of addressing abortion on a national level, most of what he said was irrelevant compared to other candidates. 


Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida

It has certainly been an unfortunate set of months for Ron DeSantis, the previous frontrunner by a mile in this election.  Following a massive election victory in Florida during the 2022 midterms, DeSantis was almost tied with Trump up until March, with both candidates polling quite respectably at around 40%.  However, a prolonged slide followed, with DeSantis only polling at 15% the day of the debate.  He performed as expected in this debate, playing up the performance of the Florida GOP in the 2022 midterm elections, and making sure to hammer home his support of his adversary in Donald Trump whenever he had the opportunity.  Ultimately, his efforts did not win over many voters, and he has slid two more points in the polls since.


Tim Scott, Senator from South Carolina

Occasional lighthearted remarks and humor kept Tim Scott somewhat active during the debate, despite his minimal speaking time and monotonous presence. Tim Scott’s intensive preparation and unique background compared to most candidates did not result in his favor– according to a survey conducted by Washington Post/FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos, only 4% of Republicans believed he won the debate. He is the first Black Republican senator from the South who has a firm conservative stance on most issues. 


Mike Pence, Former Vice President

Mike Pence chose an interesting strategy throughout the debate.  Of course, he made sure to mention the defeat of Roe v. Wade early and often, with his pro-life activism being the most prominent part of his political career.  However, on the topic of the Trump administration, Pence was forced to toe an interesting line.  Naturally, he touted the accomplishments of the administration that he was a part of, but at the same time was critical of its leader, a somewhat hypocritical stance.  As with many other candidates here, the polls tell us most everything we need to know.  Pence was a popular choice for anti-Trump Republicans when the field was smaller, and as a result polled comparably well in early 2023.  However, a growing field has resulted in Pence’s support being halved, and he has not been able to turn it around.