Sunday 27 August 2023

Notable Figures Weigh In On Republican Candidate Debate Performances

 There was a broad spectrum of political takes over which Republican presidential candidate performed best during the first primary debate this week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The debate event featured strong moments from most of the candidates on stage, but polling, post-debate focus groups, and online reactions showed that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, pharmaceutical executive Vivek Ramaswamy, and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley generated the most interest from the debate.

Former Vice President Mike Pence drew mixed reviews, Sen. Tim Scott (S-SC) had a couple positive moments but was criticized for not really rising to the moment, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie leveled hard hits against Ramaswamy, but later seemed to turn off voters with his comments about former President Donald Trump.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum managed to tough his way through the two-hour event after suffering a leg injury beforehand that required a trip to the hospital, and the audience largely went silent or booed when former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson spoke.

Some of the top reactions on social media, radio, and television included:

DeSantis earned praise from some high-profile TV personalities, including Sean HannityAri FleischerHoward Kurtz, and Kayleigh McEnany, particularly for what he said about securing the border, using the military to take on the cartels, and removing woke prosecutors from office in Florida.

Radio and television host Mark Levin, who is an ardent Trump defender, said that he believes DeSantis came out on top because he was the only one on the stage who has actually “led a revolution.”

“Why did Ron DeSantis win that debate?” Levin asked on radio. “He was respectful. He was decent. He came across to me like an Ohioan. Like the blue collar gentleman he says he is, and how he was raised. But even more why? That’s not enough, right? Because the man has already led a revolution. He doesn’t talk about the revolution he’s going to lead.”

Without using his name, Levin said that Ramaswamy could only “talk about” his plans despite “not really [being] invested in grassroots efforts or anything like that.” DeSantis “will muscle his way through the system and he will beat the system.”

Ramaswamy got the most attention during the debate in large part due to several heated clashes with other candidates, including Haley, Pence, and Christie. He also delivered several lines over the course of the night that drew strong applause from the lively audience.

Reaction to his performance from pundits and politicos was largely split — many people felt he did well and had a lot of energy while others criticized some of the personal swipes he took at people. He received the most praise from the diehard Trump surrogates.

The 38-year-old received the most praise for bringing up the issue of fatherlessness in the U.S. and for his answer on education.

Haley saw the largest bump from the debate because she was largely viewed as having over-performed compared to what people expected from her.

Haley was praised for one moment where she went hard after Ramaswamy over his foreign policy views, and for what she said about men competing in women’s sports.

She also made headlines for her argument for Republicans to take a more practical approach on abortion, arguing that the current political landscape and power balance in Washington makes a hardline stance on the issue untenable and a more measured, compromise-minded approach would be more effective.

Pence, Scott, and Christie all earned mixed reviews.

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