Former President Donald Trump’s distant rivals for the Republican nomination are set to face off tonight. The former president opted to stay out of this debate just as he avoided the last one in August. Some observers remarked that Trump’s absence made the GOP debate look like a “kids’ table.”
Trump plans to speak in Detroit while his rivals debate.
His nearest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, trails Donald Trump by at least 40 points, according to the Real Clear Politics Average.
Tonight’s debate offers an alternative view to Trump and his cult of personality that has thus far proven to be total Teflon. He has become stronger due to his legal issues.
Democrats are taking notice and worry he could win.
Donald Trump: Did He Already Win the Debate?
Trump leads the pack with 56% approval. DeSantis is second with 14.4%. Haley is third with 5.8%. Ramaswamy is fourth with 5.1%.
Nothing thrown at Trump sticks politically. His base has bought into his posturing himself as a political martyr.
DeSantis Positions Himself as the Next Reagan
DeSantis attempted to sound Reaganesque in a discussion with Fox News host Laura Ingraham in which he said it was “a time for choosing,” echoing Ronald Reagan’s 1964 speech of the same name.
“We really are going to get a mulligan with the election,” DeSantis said. “We’ve had three election cycles in a row where Democrats have a playbook to beat Republicans. If we repeat that same playbook in ’24 we are gonna lose. We were supposed to have a big red wave in 2022 … Republicans should have capitalized on [the problems facing the country] by winning a huge red wave, and that did not happen.
DeSantis continued, “Voters chose Democrats over some of our candidates except in Florida. In Florida, we delivered a historic re-election victory, and that’s because we delivered on our promises.”
He gave a possible preview of the debate saying that the time to talk about issues is over and that getting down to business on solving issues is at hand. Things such as the border situation that is destabilizing major American cities and the out-of-control federal budget remain issues that need to be dealt with.
“These are things that Republicans have been talking about for decades and decades, and yet they still persist,” DeSantis said. “I am the only one running that can say everything that I promised my voters I would do I delivered on 100% of the promises.”
Reagan lost to President Gerald Ford in 1976 only to emerge four years later as a successful former governor who beat the incumbent president. Maybe 2024 is not DeSantis’s year, but the upcoming debate between him and California Gov. Gavin Newsom could preview what is to come in 2028.
Haley, Ramaswamy Top Challengers
DeSantis had a lackluster appearance during the last debate. Ramaswamy and Haley appeared to be the top players in that debate.
The former tech executive had his traditional Republican rivals on the ropes as he went on the offensive on issues such as Ukraine, in which the GOP electorate has become skeptical. Haley distinguished herself by avoiding canned answers and tackling the substance of the issue in the debate.
She has emerged as a strong contender for attention in the future, either as Donald Trump’s running mate or as a candidate in her own right in 2028. A St. Anselm College poll shows that she enjoys a 37-point net favorability rating.
New Hampshire Republican leader Jim Merrill who The Washington Examiner interviewed, found that Haley was “relatable.”
“She’s tough. She’s charming. But there’s a steel there too. I think people realize they’re not just dealing with someone who doesn’t have a backbone,” Merrill said.
Donald Trump: The Odds-On Winner
A growing media consensus is that Donald Trump is the odds-on winner for the GOP nomination and stands a strong chance of becoming the first ex-president to recapture the presidency since Grover Cleveland did it in 1892.
“Not only is Trump the top choice of a growing majority of Republican primary voters in national surveys, but Republicans overwhelmingly think he’s the candidate with the best chance of beating Biden next fall. And poll after poll suggests Biden and Trump are essentially tied with just over a year until the general election,” Politico reporter Stephen Shepard wrote. “That undermines many of the arguments Trump’s rivals made last month at the first debate. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called on Republicans not to focus on the 2020 election and instead to “look forward” and adopt “the message that can win in November of 2024.”
The race is Donald Trump’s to lose. His absence continues to reinforce the “kid’s table” narrative.
John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.
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