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First 2024 GOP Presidential Primary Debate

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Held in Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum and hosted by Fox News on August 23, 2023, the first Republican primary debate was held in the lead-up to the 2024 presidential election. Moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum posed a range of questions to a large stage of eight candidates: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, and the non-politician entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Most notably missing from this group was former President Donald Trump, who, in the midst of indictments, appeared earlier that day in an interview with Tucker Carlson streamed on X (formerly Twitter). 

The first initial takeaway from the debate was that many of the candidates directed their comments at Ramaswamy, who held the target of jabs regarding a range of topics, especially his lack of political experience. At times, he was also accused of returning stock responses, especially by Christie, who described his answers as sounding like they came from ChatGPT, along with comparing Ramaswamy’s line about being “a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him” to something similar stated by former President Barack Obama. Despite this, Ramaswamy has been rising in polls recently, holding a solid third place for the GOP by at least five points.

On the other side of this however, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had, at least based on general expectations by political analysts, a rather lackluster debate. Being the current GOP runner-up, behind Trump, from recent polls, DeSantis was expected to take most of the heat from other candidates during the debate. Yet, DeSantis mainly stuck to his points, avoiding the back-and-forth seen between some of the other candidates, mainly Pence, Ramaswamy, and Christie. While not receiving the most airtime, DeSantis still managed to discuss his view that “our country is in decline,” along with the questions thrown at him regarding abortion, President Trump, the candidates’ history, and to some extent crime. 

Despite Donald Trump’s absence, there was still some discussion of the former President as the debate passed the hour-long mark. More particularly, many of Christie’s comments were about Trump, speaking from experience working with him. Especially mentioned were the events of January 6th, with Pence defending his own role in the events and Ramaswamy taking the side of Trump, although most of the other candidates appeared to agree with Pence. 

Outside of discussing Trump, the other main issues of the debate were abortion and Ukraine. Regarding the issue of abortion, there were a range of different opinions, including many who advocated for a fifteen-week abortion ban, and others who passed six-week bans as governors but didn’t mention the same for the presidency. The two with state six-week abortion bans, DeSantis and Burgum, had different opinions, with DeSantis unclear about his direction, and Burgum stating that he wouldn’t sign a national six-week ban. Haley was also on Burgum’s end of the spectrum, saying that she is pro-life, but also tried to present the idea to “be honest” about the chance of passing such a bill over the filibuster and with necessary votes. In terms of Ukraine however, there was little disagreement, as most candidates advocated for more support to the European nation’s war against Russia, although DeSantis emphasized encouraging other European nations to lend aid, while Ramasamy opposed further support entirely. 

In terms of the other candidates, comparatively, there wasn’t much said by Burgum, Scott, or Hutchinson. Scott primarily stuck out of the back-and-forth about major issues, although he did interject into a brief discussion about crime, stating that he would finish the border wall. Haley did have a few more things to say throughout the debate, presenting herself as more central than some of her opponents, adhering to a strategy of a logical political image. While she did do a significant amount of preparation for this debate, Haley also had a few different viewpoints, including the aforementioned statement about abortion, along with saying that climate change is real. In general, with such a packed stage, it was somewhat difficult for all of the candidates to get a word in, although this first debate may give voters a better idea as to what the trajectory of this election may be. 

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Jonathan Buscher, Editor in Chief, Webmaster
Jonathan Buscher is a senior and enjoys finding interesting and relevant news stories, both local and global, and crafting a story while writing his articles. Outside of Sword and Shield, he loves to run cross country and track, read, and generally spends time outdoors. He hopes to help provide a well organized and accessible website containing a wide range of articles and features.
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