DeSantis made a strong showing in the primary debate last night at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley. So did Nikki Haley. Even Doug Burgum had some great, memorable moments and solid ideas.
But does it matter?
Donald Trump Still Holds the Lead
Although post-debate polls that might reflect any changes in support for runner up candidates aren’t available yet, none of Trump’s competitors performed strong enough to overcome a 40 plus point deficit.
Donald Trump still has a stronghold on the Republican party. Most on the stage gave compelling reasons why he shouldn’t.
Christie Challenges Trump
Predictably, Chris Christie was the first to take an opportunity to condemn Donald Trump for skipping the debate.
Christie stared directly at the camera to deliver a message to the 45th president.
“I want to look at the camera right now and tell you – Donald, I know you’re watching. You can’t help yourself. I know you’re watching, okay? And you’re not here tonight not because of polls and not because of your indictments. You’re not here tonight because you’re afraid of being on this stage and defending your record. You’re ducking these things.”
This led Christie to give Trump a taste of his own medicine, coming up with a nickname for Trump.
“And let me tell you what’s going to happen. You keep doing that, no one up here is going to call you Donald Trump anymore. We’re going to call you Donald Duck.”
One has to wonder how long Christie has been waiting to debut that moniker.
The former New Jersey Governor’s boldness seemed to give other candidates some courage to speak up against Trump.
Candidates Join in Their Condemnation
DeSantis also blasted Trump for failing to show up and defend his position on abortion, as did Scott.
During a debt discussion, DeSantis questioned, “And where’s Joe Biden? He’s completely missing in action from leadership. And you know who else is missing in action? Donald Trump is missing in action.”
He claimed that Trump “should be on this stage tonight” telling voters that “he owes it to you to defend his record where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt” that, according to DeSantis, “set the stage for the inflation that we have now.”
Toward the end of the debate Christie furthered his rally against Trump. When asked to write who he would vote off the theoretical Republican primary island, Christie took the opportunity to voice his response.
“Donald Trump should be voted off the island.”
DeSantis, annoyed by the idiotic question, was the first to decline the invitation. “I’ll decline to do that, with all due respect. I mean, we’re here, we’re happy to debate. I think that’s disrespectful to my fellow competitors.”
In an attempt to get the moderators to do their job, he followed up with, “Let’s do some questions. Let’s talk about the future of the country.”
In a post-debate interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity, DeSantis repeated himself.
“You owe it to the voters to come and make the case,” he said about Trump. No one’s entitled to anything.”
Trump Strikes Back
Trump quickly retaliated claiming of the GOP debate participants, “they’re all job candidates.”
“They want to be in the … they want to … they’ll do anything. Secretary of something. They even say VP. I dunno. Does anybody see any VP in the group? I don’t think so,” he told a crowd gathered in from Detroit, where United Auto Workers members have taken to the picket lines to demand higher wages, better schedules, and better benefits.
Indeed, many people declared Trump the victor at last night’s debate despite his absence. In a post-debate poll conducted by J.L. Partners, 27% of Republican viewers said that Trump won the debate merely by staying away.
As of now, Trump’s avoidance strategy seems to work, but there’s still many months before the next debate and this race is anything but predictable.
Jennifer Galardi is the politics and culture editor and opinion writer for 19FortyFive.com. She has a Master’s in Public Policy from Pepperdine University and produces and hosts the podcast Connection with conversations that address health, culture, politics, and policy. In a previous life, she wrote for publications in the health, fitness, and nutrition space. In addition, her pieces have been published in the Epoch Times and Pepperdine Policy Review. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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