Republican presidential candidates, Vivek Ramaswamy (L) and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley yell at each other during a debate.

Who Won the Republican Debate? Absolutely No One

What did I just watch?

The first Republican Presidential Debate happened on Fox News last night. The participants were Hutchinson, Haley, Pence, Scott, Burgum, Ramaswamy, Christie, and DeSantis. Absent was Donald Trump, who probably felt like he didn’t need to be there to still remain in first place. Or he is meditating in preparation for turning himself in at the Fulton County Jail. But don’t worry, the clownery was plentiful.

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The economy

Boring opening statements out of the way, the night started with a discussion of that terrible viral song about “rich men north of Richmond” as a way to approach the subject of economics. They are still gaslighting people into believing that Biden hasn’t actually done a fairly good job on the economy but none of them had specifics about what they would do better. Besides too much regulation, cutting taxes, opening up energy resources, and Biden = bad, I didn’t believe these candidates would have much substance on this complex issue.

One standout moment was when Haley took to criticizing some of her fellow Republicans like Pence and Scott for helping to raise inflation and supporting different spending measures. Haley, it appears, has developed something resembling a spine and she put it to use throughout the night.

Horrible people’s horrible takes on abortion

The abortion segment was one I knew I would hate listening to. I personally don’t like hearing men’s views on this issue whatsoever. And with seven of the eight candidates being men, well, it wasn’t great. Nikki Haley stood out as she seemed somewhat reasonable in comparison to the other people on stage, although she is still staunchly anti-choice so we’re not exactly going to shower her in praise. She said we shouldn’t demonize people on this issue and we shouldn’t want to see women in jails because they seek out abortions.

DeSantis gave an odd response. Of course he says he is anti-choice, but he talked about a woman he knows who “survived” multiple abortions and her grandmother found her in a pan. There is absolutely no way this story is true and it was a bizarre moment.

Pence took his usual sanctimonious route as the Best Christian Ever. He essentially wants the government to take more of a stand with a federal ban on abortion, which is simply a continuation of his life-long mission to eliminate abortion access in the U.S. and abroad.

Saying nothing about gun violence

The topic of gun violence was devoid of discussion about … guns. We know Republicans in office are generally scared of touching guns; their lobbyists have done a good job of keeping them in line. Christie and DeSantis went after prosecutors. (Christie also brought up Hunter Biden??) They peddled the narrative that the left is soft on crime and there are prosecutors all over big cities that are making crime worse. Vivek mentioned mental health and how much people are struggling, which I actually agree with but is far too often used as a scapegoat for gun violence when in reality, they are two separate issues. And it seems like a bad idea to only solve one part of this problem, don’t you think?

The elephant in the room

One of the biggest moments of the night was when the moderators finally brought up Donald Trump. Yes, the leading candidate right now in the field, who is facing over 90 felonies, was mentioned a little over 50 minutes in. The moderators asked the candidates to raise their hands if they would support Trump if he was the nominee even if he was convicted. To my eyes, six of the eight candidates raised their hands. Christie kind of raised something; I think he was wagging his finger though. Asa Hutchinson also didn’t raise his hand in support. What a disgrace to America. Even Nikki Haley, who most resembled a reasonable person, raised her hand. I was so disgusted by all of them. Deep down, they all know that Trump lost. They know that he did everything, legal and illegal, to try and thwart Democracy to protect his own small ego. But their hatred of Biden and Democrats seems more important than their love of country. 

Ramaswamy had no problem raising his hand to defend Trump. He stood there like Trump’s right-hand man for most of the night. (Makes you wonder what role he’s really auditioning for because there’s no way he actually thinks he’s going to be President.) He said that this was just the police going after their political opponents. The whole night, Ramaswamy showed that he isn’t really interested in logic or in being reasonable, just in being loud.

Chris Christie took it to Trump the harshest out of anyone, which was expected. He said that Trump’s conduct is beneath the presidency. He also went after Vivek for saying earlier that he was pro-law-and-order but giving Trump basically a free pass. Naturally, these perfectly reasonable statements got boos from the in-person audience, made up of Republican voters.

For some reason, I am always so disappointed at how pathetic Tim Scott appears. He talked about the weaponization of the Justice Department and said he would fire Merrick Garland and Christopher Wray. Ugh. Anyway, DeSantis showed he is a loser of a candidate by not attacking Trump in this segment. He said that we should focus on the future and not look back at the past. Yes DeSantis, let’s ignore the guy beating you and everyone else in your party in the polls. The guy who could be in prison by election time. Make it make sense!

They actually had to go around and say if Pence deserved credit for his actions on January 6th. What a time to be alive. We have to actively give credit (or not) for upholding the Constitution. Haley and Christie praised Pence for what he did. While I think Pence did do the right thing, he seemed like he was such a martyr for the cause. He talked about placing his hand on Reagan’s Bible and taking his oath. We get it guy, you’re a Christian and you did the bare minimum. We are glad he did, but you are not a hero.

The rest of the world exists

Eventually, the conversation turned to subjects of Ukraine, the southern U.S. border, and immigration, giving candidates a chance to show how clueless they are about the world.

With Ukraine, the group was divided with some trashing Putin and proclaiming that we should stand up for Ukraine and provide resources, while others were more reluctant to provide further aid. Haley and Pence were the strongest on Ukraine in my opinion, Haley in particular. She should have shined in this area as she is a former Ambassador to the United Nations. She called Putin a murderer and went after Vivek on his ludicrous anti-Ukraine stance, saying he supports a murderer instead of a friend of the U.S. DeSantis evaded making real-world points and diverted to talking about how we should spend resources here. Haley chimed in smartly saying “We can do both.” Overall, I just felt most of these people do not have the chops to keep up with Biden and his administration on such serious issues on a global stage. 

The discussion about the border was a hot mess, as I thought it would be. They all focused on manufactured narratives about Fentanyl and border crossings. DeSantis even said (again) that he would send troops to Mexico to take out cartels. He said to leave them “stone cold dead.” Yikes. The clown car on stage continued their playbook of panic about immigrants, falsely claiming they are criminals bringing drugs. All of these issues are way more complex than they make it seem. I just wish they were this fed up about gun violence.

The plan to kill education

They ended by discussing education. It was clear that these people have no idea what goes on in schools. Most of them said they would get rid of the Department of Education and give power to localities and parents. Are parents education experts? Do teachers even matter anymore? Apparently not. Tim Scott said that teachers’ unions were “breaking the backs” of students. Ok? The only thing uttered that I agreed with was when Haley propositioned that we should have more vocational opportunities in schools., although even that proposal comes with its own issues.

Takeaways from a terrible night

Overall, I think Haley had the best performance. She at least did the best imitation of a reasonable adult and managed not to sound as bonkers as most of the rest of the field—although we can not let that low bar distract us from her truly terrible beliefs. Interestingly, Governor DeSantis was virtually IGNORED. The punching bag of the night was Ramaswamy, not Ronnie. I wonder why? It seems like no one, and I mean no one, sees DeSantis as a threat. This is the guy second in most polls to Donald Trump. So I think the biggest loser of the night was DeSantis. Well, other than America if any of these people were to actually become President.

(featured image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)


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