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Highlights and standout candidates from first Republican primary debate

Gage Skidmore | Flikr

Vivek Ramaswamy, Mike Pence and Nikki Haley were Republican candidates who stood out the most during the GOP debate, with the former making waves on social media for Trump.

As the 2024 Presidential election is approaching, the first GOP debate was held on Aug. 23, where eight candidates engaged in a lively, and at times, even aggressive discussion, despite former President Donald Trump’s absence.

According to The New York Times poll, Trump was the lead nominee, yet he chose to miss the debate and instead be interviewed by Tucker Carlson on social media platform X.

Ramaswamy was positioned in the middle of the group and ironically, was also in the middle of each discussion throughout the night.

A newcomer to the political world, he stood out for being most aligned with Trump’s ideologies, promising to pardon the former president.

He captured the audience’s attention by claiming, “The climate change agenda is a hoax,” which upset many young viewers. Additionally, he was the only candidate to oppose additional funding toward the war in Ukraine.

Ramaswamy’s biggest weakness is his inexperience in politics. Though he is a 38-year-old successful businessman, he became the target of the most retaliations of this debate, with Pence saying, “now is not the time for on-the-job training. We don’t need to bring in a rookie.”

Additionally, in a question about international affairs, Haley shot back at Ramaswamy, claiming that he has “…no foreign policy experience and it shows.”

Still, post-debate polls show that Ramaswamy was able to make a leap from an unknown newcomer to the third most popular candidate.

Pence’s character and experience as a politician were prominent throughout the debate. Pence, who served as Trump’s Vice President, garnered attention for his behavior on Jan. 6, 2020, which was praised by other candidates.

When asked, almost every Republican candidate agreed that Pence did the right thing by certifying the results of the 2020 election. 

Moreover, Pence demonstrated loyalty to the United States and its people with his actions prior to and during the insurrection.

The American people deserve to know that the president asked me, in his request that I reject or return votes unilaterally — a power that no vice president in American history had ever exercised or taken — he asked me to put him over the Constitution. And I chose the Constitution and I always will,” Pence said.

Similarly to Pence, Haley is an experienced politician. She served two terms as South Carolina governor in 2010 and was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 2017.

Haley was able to stand out by proposing consensus policymaking, rather than blaming the opposing side for current national issues.

As the only female candidate, Haley was very outspoken on the topic of abortions. She rejected Pence’s push for a federal 15-week ban, stating that she does not believe that women should be punished for seeking abortions despite considering herself unapologetically pro-life.

She added that abortion is a topic deeply personal to each individual and therefore, the government should be left out of that decision. Haley then concluded her statement by calling for greater availability of affordable contraception access and sex education.

Unlike other candidates, Haley actively attempted to compromise on several major issues aside from abortion in order to appease the wide audience.

Meanwhile, Ron DeSantis held a lot of promise as a presidential candidate but failed to live up to expectations. 

For DeSantis, who is the second most popular candidate, the debate was meant to be the moment to prove himself to the voters and the party. However, he did not meet the expectations of either. 

The Governor of Florida’s answers were usually deflecting from the posed question and if he did give an answer, it was muddled and unclear.

When it was DeSantis’ turn to comment on the state of the economy, instead of sharing his policy ideas, DeSantis answer’s sounded judgmental, lacked facts and failed to address the posed question.

DeSantis responded, “Part of it and the major reason is how this government had handled COVID-19, by locking down this economy. It was a mistake; it should have never happened. You don’t take somebody like Fauci and coddle him. You bring Fauci in, you sit him down and you tell him ‘Anthony, you are fired!

Furthermore, DeSantis was not only rude to moderators when asked about potential climate change policies but also ignored the topic and started criticizing parties without offering a valid explanation.

The second debate is scheduled on Sept. 27 and candidates have to demonstrate a minimum of 3% support from two national polls to qualify, according to The New York Times.

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About the Contributor
Alina Sluzhyvenkova
Alina Sluzhyvenkova, Opinions Editor
Alina Sluzhyvenkova is the Opinions Editor for The Ticker.
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