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Taylor: The winners, losers and skippers of the first 2024 Republican presidential debate

Graphic by Raleigh Taylor
Eight Republican candidates presented their platforms and stances at the first GOP primary debate on Aug. 23.

As we draw closer to a turning point in the 2024 Republican presidential campaign, eight candidates battled it out late last month at this year’s first Republican primary debate. On Aug. 23, Fox News broadcasted the unhinged debate moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.

Months prior to the debate, former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dominated the race for the Republican nomination. However, their leverage did not show during the debate. Here are a few of my takeaways, along with where each candidate stands in the most current polls provided by FiveThirtyEight

Ron DeSantis 

DeSantis, commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” man, missed his opportunity to stand out against the other opponents during this debate. He managed to make the most noise on abortion. In April, DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban for the state. He titled this the “Heartbeat Bill,” yet he did not think of all the people who would lose a heartbeat due to forced pregnancy, complications or anything else that could go wrong in the span of nine months. When asked if he would sign a nationwide “Heartbeat Bill,” he said, “I’m going to stand on the side of life.” Even without any kind of commotion during the debate, Ron DeSantis placed second with approximately 15% voter support. 

Vivek Ramaswamy

While Ramaswamy is the youngest candidate competing for the nomination, he most certainly is not afraid to jump into the fire. He quickly threw punches by saying, “I am the only person on the stage who isn’t bought and paid for.” After this, he made an absurd claim: “The climate change agenda is a hoax.” The political newcomer did not provide any examples or cases in which this would be true. While Ramaswamy made big waves for his campaign a campaign very similar to Trump’s will it be enough to secure a larger percentage of voter support? He came in third place, just behind Trump and DeSantis. 

Nikki Haley 

Standing on the opposite side of Ramaswamy was Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador. She perched just under Ramaswamy with about 7% of the vote. Her views on abortion made her stand out a little more. She mentioned her husband was adopted, which explains why she wants to put a ban on what women can do with their bodies. While I do agree her agenda is not as strict as the other candidates’, a ban is still a ban. Haley has become more favored by Republicans, and she has the chance to pull in more voters at the next debate. 

Mike Pence

During the debate, the former vice president stood his ground when questioned about his actions on Jan. 6 and why he did not go against ethics to help Trump overturn the 2020 election. However, Pence’s status has not changed much; he placed fifth with about 5% of voter support. 

Chris Christie 

During his campaign, Christie turned out to be the loudest Trump opponent in his party. While I am not a fan of the orange man, Christie’s opposition seemed to make no sense. His entire strategy appeared to attack Trump and Ramaswamy. In my opinion, this was not the smartest strategy to win over voters who still support Trump and approve of what Ramaswamy said. In return, Christie has recently become more popular with Democratic voters, which he even mentioned in part of the debate. Christie walks a thin line between the two parties, which is not favorable in the eyes of a majority of Republicans.

Tim Scott

Scott is a U.S. senator also from South Carolina. Most Republicans view Scott in a favorable light, but he has yet to make his big break. Up until recently, DeSantis and Trump were the more noticeable candidates in the primary. Now because of DeSantis’ slip-up at the debate, there is a chance Scott’s chances could increase drastically from his seventh-place landing, with a voter percentage of approximately 2%. 

Asa Hutchinson

Hutchinson, the former Arkansas governor, made it very clear he would not support Trump as the GOP’s presidential candidate; Christie was the only other person to do this. That decision was the only instance which made him stand out from the other candidates, and it definitely did not help his chances. Hutchinson stands so low at the bottom, his place does not really hold significance. 

Doug Burgam

Burgam, the North Dakota governor, saw an increase in his chances, but it was not enough for the other candidates to consider him a threat. He never made any attempts to stand out from the other candidates, but he did get through the debate without anyone despising him, which is more than I can say for some of the others. 

Donald Trump

For those of you who do not remember, this is not Trump’s first time playing hooky with debates. In 2016, the reality television icon decided not to show up to the first 2020 Republican presidential debate, either. Instead of attending the debate this year, Trump opted for an interview with Tucker Carlson, a former Fox News host who was fired in April. The pre-recorded interview was posted the same night as the debate on the re-branded social media platform X. Despite his disappearing trick, Trump held first place with over 50% of voter support. Currently, Trump is facing a multitude of criminal charges: 91 felony counts are spread over four different criminal cases. These cases include him sharing classified documents with unauthorized individuals, his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the capitol and him paying a large amount of hush money to an adult actress. It is truly astonishing how many Republicans want him to sit in the Oval Office. 

As a reminder, if you are eligible to vote in the 2024 election, I strongly suggest you do your own research before choosing who you want to serve as President. I also urge all those eligible to vote; your vote matters! 

While this past debate was chaotic, to say the least, maybe these candidates can polish up their theatrics before the next GOP debate on Sept. 27 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. Maybe they cannot. 

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About the Contributor
Raleigh Taylor, Podcast Editor
Raleigh Taylor is a senior from Shubuta. They enjoy journalism because they can write about things that are important to them. Outside of journalism, they mainly focus on engineering. Their other hobbies include collecting rocks, learning songs on their guitar and reading historical fiction. Ray wants to become an environmental engineer.

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