Key Point: Gov. Ron DeSantis, following weeks of stumbles, took the stage Wednesday night, along with seven other candidates, in the first Republican presidential debate. He did not do much to distinguish himself amid the crowded GOP field.
Ron DeSantis Missed the Moment?
The first Republican presidential debate took place Wednesday night on Fox News, sans Donald Trump, as eight GOP candidates challenging the former president took the stage at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
Following a byzantine process for qualification that considered both fundraising and polling, the eight candidates — Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former Gov. Chris Christie, former Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and Gov. Doug Burgum — sparred for two hours, including some contentious moments.
To break out of the rut his candidate had been in for months, DeSantis had to emerge as the star of the debate, or at least have some memorable moments. It appeared he did neither.
DeSantis was not the focal point of the debate; that was pretty clearly Ramaswamy, who sparred directly with several candidates, including Christie, Haley, and Pence.
There were also some strange moments for the Florida governor. He vowed to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, who retired nearly a year ago and is no longer working in government. He told a strange story about a woman who “survived multiple abortion attempts” and was “left discarded in a pan.”
DeSantis was also among the candidates who raised their hands when asked if they would support Donald Trump as the 2024 Republican presidential nominee, even if he was convicted of a crime before the election. When the candidates were asked about whether Pence did the right thing when he counted the electoral votes as scheduled on January 6, DeSantis said he had “no beef” with the former vice president’s actions.
But Ron DeSantis had no real memorable or breakthrough moments, among the major clips that were shown in the media coverage after the debate. He was not, by any measure, the story of the debate.
The first flash poll of the question of who won the debate, albeit a non-scientific one, appeared on the Drudge Report after the debate. Of the 55,278 votes as of just before midnight on Wednesday, Ramaswamy was first with 31.61 percent, followed by Christie (20.1 percent), Haley (17.33 percent), and DeSantis (17.33 percent). It was a huge drop-off to Pence with 3.94 percent, with Scott, Burgum, and Hutchinson bringing up the rear.
The most recent Morning Consult poll, released on Monday, had Trump still in first place with 58 percent support in the Republican contest, with DeSantis in second with 14 percent and Ramaswamy with 10 percent. Pence was at 6 percent, with Haley, Scott, and Christie all at 3 percent.
“Vivek Ramaswamy has 10% support — matching a previous tracking high — as he faces high expectations on a Trump-less debate stage, per our survey data. Our weekly tracking also shows that Ramaswamy’s net favorability rating has eclipsed DeSantis’ for the first time, with potential primary voters being 43 points more likely to hold positive views than negative views of the third-place candidate,” Morning Consult said in the release about the businessman and political neophyte’s rise in the polls.
An Emerson College poll released August 19, meanwhile, shows DeSantis and Ramaswamy tied for second place with each holding 10 percent support, compared with Trump’s 56 percent.
“Ramaswamy has improved among Republican voters with a postgraduate degree, a group that has previously been part of the DeSantis’ base,” Spencer Kimball, Executive Director of Emerson College Polling, said in the poll’s release. “In the June Emerson poll, 38% of postgraduates supported DeSantis in the primary, which has dropped to 14% this month. Instead, 17% support Ramaswamy and 32% Trump.”
Kimball added that Ramaswamy has gained support among younger voters.
Author Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.