Vivek Ramaswamy takes center stage, along with other key moments from the first Republican debate
Eight Republican presidential candidates They met on the discussion platform to First time on Wednesday night. Former President Donald Trump did not participate, naturally. Given his large lead in opinion polls, he insisted that his presence would only help his less important rivals. Instead, Trump sat down for an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, which was broadcast online.
By not going, Trump sought to undermine the importance of the debate. But his absence also gave his opponents the opportunity to go wild as millions of voters watched. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s chief rival, may have had the most to gain — or lose. But many others were also in a position to benefit from the vigorous debate playing out on the national stage.
Here are our takeaways from an action-packed night:
Vivek steals the limelight
And at the center of the stage, at the center of the most heated debates, was a 38-year-old who no one expected would be there even a few months ago – a 38-year-old. Junior Candidate and Technology Entrepreneur His name is Vivek Ramaswamy.
Although he lags far behind Trump, Ramaswamy has crept up the recent polls, putting him next to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in pole position. He quickly showed why when he offered his ready-made video and letter curriculum, and talked about how his impoverished parents moved to the US and had the potential to start multi-billion dollar companies.
Then Ramaswamy tried to show that he is not an ordinary politician and started bowing. And at one point he declares “I’m the only person on stage who hasn’t been bought and paid for”. He criticized his rivals as “super PAC puppets” who use “ready-made slogans” to attack him.
He seemed to be betting that core voters would rather say something memorable than something done. And his rivals had none of it.
“Now is not the time for on-the-job training,” said former Vice President Mike Pence. “We don’t need to bring a newbie.”
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stormed out in one of Ramaswamy’s most brutal attacks. “I’m sick of the guy standing here who looks like ChatGPT,” Christie said, adding that Ramaswamy’s opening sentence about being a thin man with a hard-to-pronounce name reminded him of former President Barack Obama, not someone else. Courtesy The Republican Stage.
Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, attacked Ramaswamy’s argument that the United States should not support Ukraine in its defense against a Russian invasion. “Under your leadership, you’re going to make America less safe. You have no foreign policy experience and it shows,” Haley told him, standing directly to his left.
It took over an hour for the candidates to confront the elephant out of the room.
When they did, most of the participants raised their hands, saying they would support Trump even if he was convicted in a court of law. And that is even after moderators indicated that Trump faces more than 90 criminal charges in separate cases across four states.
Ramaswamy has vowed to pardon Trump if given the chance.
“Let’s just talk about the truth. I think President Trump has been the best president of the 21st century. It’s a fact,” Ramaswamy said.
Christie, a former US attorney, responded forcefully though she was drowned out at times by boos from the audience.
Even if people disagree with the criminal charges, Christie said, “the conduct is under the authority of the President of the United States.”
Pence also refused to say he would pardon Trump if he is eventually convicted. He said he would give the possibility “fair consideration”.
DeSantis was much more careful. He did not address Trump’s accusations or his behavior when given the chance, instead calling for an end to the “weaponization” of the Justice Department.
Without saying so directly, he suggested that the Republican Party needed to move beyond Trump’s burden.
“Republicans, we have to look forward,” DeSantis said.
Controversy over abortion after DOBBS
And Republicans on stage did not lessen their staunch opposition to abortion rights when given the chance. But there was a clear split among the candidates over whether to push for a federal ban on abortion.
Healy, the only woman on stage, called on her opponents to be honest with voters, saying a federal law banning abortion in all states would likely not pass a narrowly divided Congress. She said the case should be returned to the states. I also made a personal appeal.
“We need to stop demonizing this issue,” Healy said. “We will not put a woman in jail… if she has an abortion.”
On the other side: Pence, an evangelical Christian who has long campaigned against abortion rights. Both Pence and Scott have publicly supported a national ban on abortions at least at 15 weeks.
Pence said Haley’s call for consensus on the issue in the United States “is the opposite of leadership.”
“It’s not just an issue of states. It’s a matter of ethics,” he said.
As for DeSantis, who signed Florida’s 6-week abortion law just this spring, he didn’t take a position on the federal ban when asked directly.
He said he was “proud” to sign his state’s abortion ban, one of the strictest laws in the country.
It is likely that the Democrats were happy to debate. They are already planning to make abortion a central issue in the general elections due next fall.
This article originally appeared on apnews.com