The second Republican Party presidential debate is at hand. Yet again the party’s frontrunner, former President Donald J. Trump, has scurried away from standing before Republican voters and defending his record from the other candidates who are running for the GOP nomination in 2024.
While there are almost ten other candidates running for the GOP nomination besides Trump, the only real challenger to the forty-fifth president’s campaign is Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis. With Trump not participating in the debate, DeSantis is the clear frontrunner among the group that will be at the second GOP debate.
In the first debate, DeSantis’ campaign was at a particularly weak point. Having entered the fray over the summer with great fanfare, the Florida governor seemed to struggle. Just before that first debate, DeSantis purged a large group of his campaign staff, creating a cascade of unwanted headlines headed into that debate.
Fortunately for DeSantis (and unexpectedly so), the candidates running him opted to essentially ignore the Florida governor, focusing their ire on the biotech billionaire, the noted fabulist (and likely Trump Campaign plant), Vivek Ramaswamy instead.
This helped DeSantis. He lived to fight another day. Despite our current age’s ethos of “any press is good press” and to be ignored is worse than being accused of high crimes and misdemeanors (a.k.a. the Trump mentality), it worked well for DeSantis, who needed a break after the cavalcade of bad news.
However, DeSantis cannot expect to be granted the same luxury in the second debate—especially because his other competitors realized that DeSantis was able to coast through that first debate and continue making his case for why he should be the next Republican presidential nominee.
The Keebler Elves Will Draw Blood
In the second debate, I suspect, the Keebler Elves will seek to land a knock-out blow on the Sunshine State’s successful conservative governor. After all, DeSantis remains the most obvious alternative to former President Trump and his campaign is doing well in the key opening battleground state of Iowa.
If DeSantis can remain in the fight long enough, he will likely win the Hawkeye state’s caucus-goers and have the momentum he needs to sustain his serious challenge to Trump…leaving the other Keebler Elves in his dust.
DeSantis cannot be complacent. Governor DeSantis must become the terminator in this next debate, surgically targeting his opponents, and picking them off one-at-a-time—before they can pile on and destroy him.
Each one of these candidates has a critical weakness that can be summed up in a pithy soundbite.
DeSantis, too, has weaknesses and the Keebler Elves are likely to attempt to make DeSantis’ purported lack of personality and overall social awkwardness the key line of their attacks on him.
Here’s How DeSantis Wins in the First Half Hour of the Debate…
In a phrase, “Audacity! More audacity! Always audacity!”
This must be DeSantis’ motto not only for this next debate, but for the rest of his time as a candidate. He only has one shot at the White House. That’s not in 2028. Neither the donors nor voters will forgive him for daring to challenge the marmalade-tinged messiah.
There’s nothing that the governor can do to change his personality weaknesses. He should simply own them. DeSantis has a herculean (though very doable) set of objectives that he must meet in order to continue on.
First, he must isolate his opponent’s weakness, freeze that opponent, and move to the next.
Second, DeSantis must acknowledge his personality deficit—preferably preemptively, so as to control the conversation about it.
Perhaps the governor could make a self-effacing quip about not being good with people but being great for the people, as his policies in Florida prove.
Third, DeSantis must do all these things within the first 30 minutes of the debate.
But DeSantis must do that without sounding rushed or as though he were reciting his statements from a scripted list that he memorized the night before.
Nikki Haley is the Neocon Barbie. Remind Voters of This
As for his opponents’ weaknesses: Nikki Haley is basically a Neocon Barbie. She never met a foreign war she didn’t want to partake in. What’s more, it has widely been reported that Haley routinely undermined his old boss, the former president, whenever she disagreed with him while she was serving as the Trump Administration’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Bring up her lack of trustworthiness. Be sure to remind audiences of the massive amount of trade deals that she championed as South Carolina’s governor with the People’s Republic of China.
Her two claims to fame are her foreign policy credentials and her economic success as South Carolina’s governor. Turn these perceived strengths into weaknesses. It can be done. Quite easily. DeSantis must have the fortitude to do it in a way that doesn’t seem rushed or robotic.
Remember How to Say His Name: Vivek Ramasmarmy
Next up is the George Soros fellowship recipient and blatant corporatist, Vivek Ramaswamy. Everything about this guy smacks of smarminess. DeSantis should deploy a nice Trumpian nickname for the biotech billionaire: Ramasmarmy.
The governor should launch that funny moniker at Ramaswamy for his company’s years’ long support of risky research and development with Chinese biotech firms.
Bring up Ramasmarmy’s funding of controversial mRNA vaccine research. Remind audiences of Ramasmarmy’s hypocrisy: a dyed-in-the-wool Leftist who sought out a prestigious fellowship with George Soros, who then leveraged that fellowship to gain access to the globalist elites, with whom Ramasmarmy cavorted with for years—until they no longer served his ends (and he’d already made his money).
Tell the voters explicitly why Ramasmarmy doesn’t deserve to be a candidate for dogcatcher let alone a serious candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Pence Serves Only Himself
As for former Vice-President Mike Pence, pressure him in a big way: DeSantis should remind audiences about how obsequious Pence was to Trump…until Pence no longer believed Trump could serve his ambitions.
Then Pence suddenly found the constitution and now says Pence is a threat to our democracy. Pence has tried having it both ways.
Yet, he comes across as disloyal and shifty. At some point, in that first half-hour, DeSantis should ask the former vice-president if he believes in anything other than himself.
Take a Bite Out of Christie
If former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gives DeSantis any guff, DeSantis should easily brush Christie aside by reminding audiences of how Christie infamously called DeSantis with Trump on the line to try to pressure DeSantis into keeping Florida closed during the dark days of the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Ignore the Peanut Gallery and Press the Other Leading Candidates
The others, like Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), are inconsequential. DeSantis should hit the ignore button and constantly pivot to the other major players on stage whenever the Keebler Elves of the peanut gallery, like Scott, try to throw shade at Florida’s governor.
No More Silent Running. It’s Hit-and-Run Time, Governor!
DeSantis cannot rest on his laurels, and he cannot expect to simply squeak by unnoticed. The other candidates are going to try to knock him out early in this second debate.
Instead, DeSantis should come out swinging in that first half-hour (because that’s when the bulk of the audience will be watching) and be relentlessly ruthless. If not, DeSantis’ slow-and-steady schtick will fail him.
It’s put-up-or-shut-up time.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert occasionally serves as a Subject Matter Expert for various organizations, including the Department of Defense. He can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.