On Wednesday night I watched the GOP debate and to be completely honest I thought it was a relatively unremarkable debate compared to ones I’ve watched in the past. However I think there were some clear winners and losers of this debate and I’m going to break down how I felt every candidate fared in the second debate.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
DeSantis ultimately had a very uneventful debate and that can be shown by him barely increasing in the polls, according to Project 538. I think it became more apparent how far he is behind former President Trump after the performance. Ultimately, he played it quite safe on Wednesday. His responses seemed very scripted and planned, which is not a bad thing.
He did take time to take jabs at President Trump, notably calling out his federalist approach to the abortion ban, leaving it up to the states. He seemed to vanish for stretches of time, until asked questions by moderators. Right now DeSantis is still in second place, with a steep climb to the top. An unmemorable second debate did him no favors but it didn’t hurt him by any means. He isn’t a winner or a loser.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
Haley is one of my big winners from the debate. After Ramaswamy’s phenomenal first debate, it seemed that Haley was going to fade into obscurity and that was far from the case. She was attacked multiple times by multiple candidates, even getting teamed up on by DeSantis, Ramaswamy and Scott simultaneously. However, she more than held her own. I like Haley as a slightly more moderate, less divisive candidate. I believe she is one of the two biggest winners from the debate and she should look to dethrone DeSantis for second place in the GOP’s third debate in Miami in a few weeks.
Former Vice President Mike Pence
Pence had the least memorable debate of all the candidates. He mentioned the success the country saw economically while he was Vice President which was a positive. He did, although, seem to contradict himself when he talked of cutting back on government jobs by 25% and then wanting to enforce federal bans on abortion and militarize the Mexican border. The one noteworthy comment was him telling Ramaswamy “let me say I’m glad Vivek pulled out of his business deal in 2018 in China. That must’ve been the time you decided to start voting in presidential elections.” Ultimately Pence is another candidate I don’t expect to see at the Miami debate in November.
Biotech Billionaire Vivek Ramaswamy
Ramaswamy followed up a great debate in Milwaukee in August with a dud in Simi Valley. Myself and most of America was intrigued by how he’d perform and unfortunately he came across as contradictory and not good at responding to jabs by other candidates. At one point he was challenged by Scott, and that devolved into a few minutes of indecipherable yelling. DeSantis took jabs at his business deals in China, Pence called out his lack of voting record and Haley called out his contradictions between hating China and social media while campaigning on TikTok. His strategy of calling everyone on stage “good people” was largely ineffective and overall he came across as what he is: a billionaire new to the political world and a self proclaimed “know it all”. He will be fighting for his place back in the upper echelon of the Republican candidates in Miami
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott
Tim Scott came in with a lot to prove and he did just that. The South Carolinian has always been the “nice guy” of this presidential election cycle and there were questions about if he could stand up to criticism. He proved that he can argue when it is needed and he stood his ground. He has the unique perspective of being an African American raised by a single mother who still strongly believes in the American dream. That seems to be his main platform which is huge for the party. He is a common sense Republican that people like. I liked when he clarified his view on the UAW strike and the border issue. Best of all was the credibility he brings with bills he has passed and committees he has been on in his 12 years in Congress. While he might not get the nomination, he has asserted himself as a legitimate candidate rather than a guy just scraping by. I hope to see him in a bigger role in Washington in the future
Former President Donald Trump
Trump was another big winner Wednesday after skipping the debate. He kept his sizable lead over DeSantis all while spending his day speaking to striking auto workers in Detroit. While he was not there to take the onslaught of attacks, particularly that of Chris Christie, his team was once again at the debate. Whether you like the former President or not, it is clear that it is his nomination to lose. I doubt we will see him in Miami in November unless something drastic happens but maybe he will make an appearance if the stage gets smaller.
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum
Going into this debate I didn’t know a lot about Doug Burgum and he really impressed me. Now I should preface with the fact that Burgum has absolutely no chance of winning the nomination, he only qualified for the debate a few days before. Right away he was interjecting and interrupting to the point one moderator told him they would mute his mic—a threat they would only deliver to a lesser candidate. While that isn’t a great look for many, it was necessary for him to make a name for himself
I really liked his business-first approach where he backed it up with some evidence of what he has done in North Dakota. North Dakota is a very small state however, so I would be curious to see his ideas with energy, border control and the budget work on a larger scale. Ultimately, I was really impressed with Burgum but he will more than likely be out of the race by November.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
You can’t talk about Christie’s debate without discussing his hatred for Donald Trump. Time and time again Christie diverted his questions towards his disdain for the former President. He called him a coward for not debating with them, criticized his spending habits as President, and even called him “Donald Duck.” Talk about pettiness.
Other than that, Christie’s debate was largely uneventful. Many Republicans thought he outright lost the debate and I don’t totally disagree. Christie came in with a confidence that no candidate polling less than 4% of the popular vote should have. Christie will likely be out before the next debate and I think that is for the better. Although, it is of note, he fared better this time around than he did in 2016.
Photo credit: CNN